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A Case Study of Veterinary Technology Students' Experience of a Continuing Human-Animal Bond

By Robert E. Gierka

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The purpose of this case study was to explore veterinary technology (vet tech) students’ perceptions of their special relationships with pets that died; and to better understand how these perceptions influenced their work in the vet tech program and their beliefs about their future work with pets and pet owners in veterinary practice. The following research questions were explored: 1) what are vet tech students’ perceptions of a special relationship with a pet that died; and 2) what beliefs do vet tech students hold about these
perceptions and their work in the vet tech program and their future work with pets and pet owners. A conceptual model based on the continuing bonds theory of bereavement served as a framework for the study.
Qualitative data were obtained from audio-recorded interviews with 16 vet tech students enrolled in a two-year vet tech program. The researcher asked open-ended questions to elicit detailed understandings and analyzed the data using open and theoretical coding to
identify patterns and themes in the data.
Four key findings emerged from the data: 1) participants experienced special relationships with their pets that died; 2) participants experienced continuing emotional bonds with their pets that died; 3) participants experienced supportive and unsupportive interpersonal interactions with regard to their pets; and 4) participants' love of animals and continuing bonds with their pets influenced their engagement in the vet tech program. Three key conclusions emerged from the findings. First, participants’ perceptions of their continuing bonds with their pets were socially influenced. Second, participants’  continuing bonds with their pets had a positive, generative influence on their desire to help pets and pet owners. Third, participants expressed a deeply felt calling to pursue careers in veterinary medicine. Study findings have relevance for research and practice. Findings suggest direction for future research on continuing human-animal bonds and the application of continuing bonds theory in veterinary education. Relative to education practice, this study has value for the development and delivery of pet bereavement education programs based upon continuing bonds theory. Veterinary students, practicing veterinary professionals, and practitioners who provide emotional support for bereaved pet owners, such as counselors, social workers and clergy, may benefit from training in continuing human-animal bonds.


Katie Carroll

Date 2014
Pages 210
Publisher NCSU Libraries
Department Adult & Community College Education
Degree Doctor of Education
Language English
University North Carolina State University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Adults
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Human-animal bond
  4. Schools
  5. students
  6. Universities and Colleges
  7. Veterinary education
  8. Veterinary medicine