2505 S 80th St, Tacoma, WA     

Copyright The University of Tennessee

Veterinary social work is a specialization which focuses on attending to the human needs at the intersection of veterinary and social work practice. Utilizing a strengths perspective and evidence-based practices, it includes four key areas: animal-related grief and loss, compassion fatigue, animal-assisted interactions (therapy and service animals), and the link between human violence and animal abuse. Veterinary social work is a growing field, and social workers are being called upon to work in settings where animals and people are in relationship with one another and in need of supportive services. Our focus at Summit Veterinary Referral Center is supporting clients through the grief process (anticipatory and bereavement), being a liaison and advocate between clients and the veterinary team, assisting clients with difficult treatment decisions and end-of-life care, and helping doctors and staff with stress management, compassion fatigue.  

The Veterinary Social Work team understands that your animal is a beloved member of your family and that your relationship and experience is unique to you. We know how overwhelming and challenging it can be to face treatment decision-making and the end-of-life process. You are not alone - we are here for you. Our team is comprised of a licensed masters-level veterinary social worker and masters-level social work-counseling interns.

Our Team:

Rachel Wright, MSW, LSWAIC, CDP

Rachel is a clinical social worker, certified grief recovery specialist, and credentialed chemical dependency counselor. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and minor in Drug/Alcohol Studies from Washington State University, and her Master of Social Work from University of Washington. She has been a clinician since 1997, working with clients in a variety of settings including: community mental health, residential treatment, school-based, private practice, hospitals and hospice agencies. Since 2003, she has been a therapy animal team with multiple animals (dogs and rabbits!) and has incorporated animal assisted therapy as a powerful tool with clients in the counseling and therapy process. For six years, she also worked as the Director of Programs and Therapy Animal Program Manager for Pet Partners (Delta Society).

Rachel received her post-graduate training in veterinary social work from the University of Tennessee through the Colleges of Social Work and Veterinary Medicine. She was drawn to veterinary social work due to her personal experience of losing four of her beloved animals in two years – Mia, Rudy, Fred and Barley. Particularly difficult was the loss of her beloved Mia, a basset/labrador mix who courageously lived with lymphoma for nearly three years. During this time, Rachel worked collaboratively with an interdisciplinary veterinary team, and was a long-term client herself at Summit Veterinary Referral Center. She learned a great deal about veterinary medicine, the “roller-coaster” ride of anticipatory loss and caregiving, and how to

navigate her personal grief process. She has learned many powerful lessons and feels honored and grateful to pay these gifts forward to others in need.

In her free time, she enjoys photography, reading, being in nature, and spending time with her husband and furry family. Her furry menagerie consists of: Byron, a 15 year old flat-coated retriever who thinks he’s still a puppy; Chloe and Cali, two senior kitties aged 20 and 15; Coach and Bear, two silly basset hounds; and Moose, a 20 lb Flemish giant bunny. 

To contact Rachel, please email her at rwright@summitvets.com, or call 253-983-1114

Audrey Oliver, intern

Masters-level social work student, University of Washington

Amber Rush, intern

Masters-level social work student, University of Washington

Our team is focused on supporting you in a variety of ways, including:

  • Outreach calls
  • Grief counseling and therapy (individual, couples, family)
  • Facilitation of a free weekly drop-in Pet Loss Support Group for clients and the community, Thursdays 6:30 pm at Summit
  • Facilitation of Animal Caregiver Seminars
  • Help with making and processing difficult decisions (e.g., quality of life assessment, treatment decisions, end of life care)
  • Act as a liaison between clients and the veterinary team
  • Be present before, during, and after euthanasia
  • Provide referrals to community support services, as needed
  • Provide educational resources, ritual ideas, and facilitate pet memorial events

To access our free services, please call 253-983-1114 or email at: socialwork@summitvets.com. You may also talk with your veterinary team to refer you to our services.

For more information on the field of Veterinary Social Work, please visit: