Staci Baldwin

Resolution Manager at Veterinary Client Mediation Services (VCMS)

Staci qualified as an RVN in January 2015, having been in practice since 2010. She has experience in first-opinion practices and as a locum nurse in bigger hospitals, and has always been involved in client-facing activities, including reception and consultations.

Staci joined VCMS in July 2019. She’s a serial problem solver and the person to whom people turn for advice. She believes nurses sit between clients and vets, giving valuable insights into both, and that strong trusting relationships are key to high-quality care and customer service.


Following a euthanasia appointment that caused undue distress to a client, a practice was faced with a complaint which questioned the efficiency and sensitivity of its procedures.

While the incident, naturally, produced a range of heightened emotions, the client and practice were able to resolve the dispute by engaging with, and successfully completing, the mediation process.


After arriving for an appointment to have their dog euthanised, an owner was kept waiting with their pet on a bench outside the surgery for almost half an hour. Following this delay, the owner spent an additional 15 minutes in the treatment room, only for the vet to arrive without the paperwork and equipment necessary to complete the procedure.

After acquiring the equipment from another member of staff, the vet euthanised the dog in the presence of a nurse. All the formal checks for a heartbeat and pupil dilation were then carried out before the dog was officially pronounced dead. Following the completion of the euthanasia process, the owner took their dog to the crematorium.

‘The mediation process revealed the importance of managing complaints in a way that is people-centred’  

Upon arriving at the crematorium, however, the dog began to breathe when being lifted out of the vehicle, so the vet had to travel to the crematorium to carry out the procedure for a second time before the owner was able to put their pet to rest. In addition to the distress caused by this situation, an invoice was later sent to the client for the full cost of the euthanasia process.

Pet owner’s complaint

Naturally, this series of events had a profoundly upsetting effect on the owner. They were made to wait with a collapsed and compromised dog which was then incorrectly pronounced dead, so it’s not difficult to imagine why a dispute emerged.

When raising the complaint against the practice, the owner wanted to know why their dog was not weighed to ensure the correct dosage was administered, and how the vet had failed to satisfactorily perform the post-euthanasia checks. Understandably, the owner also found it insensitive to receive an invoice just days after the incident. 

Practice’s perspective

When responding to the owner’s complaint, the practice accepted that, while the prolonged wait was distressing, it was sadly unavoidable due to staff shortages. They also investigated the dosage and reported that the correct amount was administered, as per the recommendations of the Veterinary Defence Society (VDS). In regard to the weighing of the dog, they explained that, as the scales were in the waiting room, an estimate was used from the details acquired from a previous examination of the dog.

The investigation also revealed that the post euthanasia checks were performed correctly and that there was no known reason for the dog to begin breathing, only speculation as to what could have led to this happening. Finally, the practice apologised for the miscommunication between their internal team and the accounts department, which worked remotely and was therefore unaware of the complications involved in this process.  

Reaching a resolution

In order to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution, the practice waived the entire euthanasia bill. They agreed it was highly insensitive to have sent an invoice, and that this was entirely their fault for failing to communicate with their various departments.

The team also sent a letter that expressed genuine sympathy for the sadness caused by the entire process, and made assurances that procedures and processes were under review to avoid other pet owners having the same experience.

Specifically, they explained how new protocols were being established to ensure that vets would always have the correct paperwork and equipment to hand when arriving for a euthanasia appointment. Recognising how difficult this kind of appointment is for owners, the practice described how they would prioritise such appointments to reduce unnecessary waiting time.

Assurances were also made regarding the communication with the accounts department in the event of a complicated incident. Though far from comparable to the feelings of the owner, the practice also emphasised that the situation had had a lasting impact on the nurse and vet involved.

This element of the mediation ultimately helped illustrate that at the heart of this complication were people who truly wanted the best for the animal. The mediation process revealed the importance of learning lessons, as well as managing complaints in a people-centred way, recognising the emotions of all those involved in procedures concerning pets.