AHNA’s Commitment to Fear Free Care Draws Special New Hospital Director

Whether you and your pets are new to AHNA, or if you’ve been seeing us for years, you have probably noticed we do things a little differently here. Treats are offered generously, pets are examined on soft, cozy blankets instead of cold metal tables, and you’re welcome to accompany your pet nearly everywhere they go in the hospital. These are examples of our efforts to reduce any discomfort, fear, anxiety and stress that your pet may experience during their visit. Although AHNA has been thinking along these lines for many years, there’s now a world-wide initiative that offers Fear Free certification for veterinary professionals. To date nearly three dozen AHNA team members have completed the Fear Free certification program, with more underway. We are proud to be part of the Fear Free initiative and excited for this opportunity to elevate our commitment to improving the lives and wellbeing of our patients. For more information on Fear Free and resources you can take advantage of at home, please see the Fear Free Happy Homes website.  

In addition to all the benefits for our patients and their families, there was another unforeseen benefit to educating our team in the Fear Free approach: it brought us AHNA’s first Hospital Director, Kathryn Humphries. Kathryn is a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager who was in search of a practice that shared her passion for the Fear Free approach to veterinary medicine. Kathryn knew immediately after walking in the door how different AHNA is, and decided within 5 minutes that she was meant to be part of this wonderful team. Luckily our practice owners Dave and Betsy Thompson agreed, and soon Kathryn was relocating to Asheville to become AHNA’s first Hospital Director. For more information about Kathryn, please see her bio on our website. We are thrilled to welcome Kathryn to Asheville and to the AHNA family!


I applaud Animal Hospital of North Asheville's constant efforts to improve their services, including their Fear Free Care campaign. However, as a pet sitting service provider (as well as client), I would strongly urge AHNA’s first Hospital Director, Kathryn Humphries, to show boldness and genuine engagement with animals by pioneering the recruitment of veterinary nutritionists and allergists to AHNA's team: Obesity and allergies are huge and primary quality-of-life issues that continue to plague pet parents, yet vet clinics like AHNA treat these problems as secondary in importance, thus diminishing the impact and function they play in the lives of our animal companions.

We agree completely that allergies and nutrition are important factors for our patients, and we would like to assure our readers that AHNA’s advances in Fear Free to certainly doesn’t take away from our dedication to our patient’s physical health.  On the contrary, our Fear Free initiative is simply a way for us to reduce the stress, anxiety, and fear our patients feel surrounding their veterinary visit, thereby making it easier for us to prevent and address any physical medical concerns.  We agree that maintaining healthy weight in important for pet health; in addition to addressing obesity in the exam room as we would with any other health concern, we strive to increase awareness by covering topics like diet, obesity, weight management, ideas for increasing exercise, weight loss, and low calorie treats in our online blog.  We also participate in the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP)’s annual pet obesity study every year (which, coincidentally, is today!).   At this time there are not many veterinary nutritionists and the ones who do exist generally work in university settings , so we are not able to have one on staff here at AHNA.  However, we do consult with or refer our clients to the veterinary colleges of University of Tennessee or UC Davis when a nutritional consultation may benefit a patient. After undergraduate school, veterinary nutritionists attend four years of graduate school to obtain their veterinary degree, and then an  additional three years of internship and residency is required before they can take the exams to become Board Certified as a nutritionist.  Allergies are certainly another important health concern for many patients, and we are glad to offer testing for environmental allergies here at AHNA as well as several treatment approaches to provide allergy relief.  Our doctors also counsel clients on elimination diets when a food allergy is suspected.