Tammy Wynn, LISW, LCSW, LMFT, MHA, RVT, CHPT, is a leader in the field of social work and Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. Although pet hospice is a relatively new concept, Wynn is working to promote a model she terms, “true pet hospice” to include the essential elements integral to human hospice. Kind and compassionate care provided to the human pet parent by a veterinary professional is admirable, but it does not afford the human the level of support necessary for pet loss that can coexist with numerous co-morbidities, including but not limited to, depression, suicidal ideation, addiction, and personality disorders.
True pet hospice (versus geriatric pet care or home euthanasia) defines the patient “bigger” to include not just the terminally ill patient (pet in this case), but also the caregiving family and provides licensed professionals to cater to their special needs through the excruciating journey of losing their pet. Social workers play a central role in true pet hospice by conducting psychosocial assessments, and providing emotional support, crisis intervention, grief counseling, and pet loss support groups. Social workers are also natural advocates who can assist their clients as they navigate the veterinary system, helping them connect with helpful resources and other support systems.
Wynn founded Angel’s Paws® in 2010 as the first true pet hospice in the country that provides 24/7/365 in home pet hospice that mirrors the key criteria for human hospice. She has partnered with more than 90 veterinarians to extend these services to their clients, as well, making Cincinnati the only city in the world that has such a substantial offering of true pet hospice care.
Wynn serves as the President-Elect on the Board for the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC), an organization of 1100 members worldwide. She has served as Education Chair for the organization since 2014, and in 2015 was on a five-person task force that created the first ever Animal Hospice and Palliative Care Certification for Veterinarians and Registered Vet Techs that graduated the first class in 2017. One year later, Wynn led the creation of the first ever Social Work Certificate in Animal Hospice and Palliative Care and graduated the first class in 2018. (The 61-hour certification program is approved by NASW.) The IAAHPC is committed to the concept of the interdisciplinary teams and training social workers in this emerging field. As this model is embraced and adopted, there will be an increased demand for licensed social workers in pet hospice.
In addition to her vital work in the IAAHPC organization, in 2016 Wynn was invited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) to collaborate with other leaders in the field to create the AAHA/IAAHPC End-of-Life Care Guidelines for pets, where she was again a strong proponent of interdisciplinary teams—including licensed social workers—to care for the human family members.
Wynn has innovated numerous tools and processes to deliver care to pets and the people who love them as they go through the end of life journey with their pet. Because the number one question that pet parents asked Wynn was, “how will I know when it is time to send my pet to the Rainbow Bridge?” she created a quality of life assessment tool for pet parents that uses the acronym of RAINBOW to help them look more objectively at their pet’s health status. Feedback from pet parents is that this tool is an invaluable resource to understanding their pet’s quality of life. Providing complete end of life care for pets and their families employs the perfect complement of Wynn’s social work skills and professional leadership. She has innovated and maintained a one-of-a-kind business in the country that has helped 10,000 families to date.
Wynn’s career as a social worker has led her to many meaningful purposes in her life. After receiving her MSW, she opened a small private practice as a Marriage & Family Therapist in Madison, Indiana that she ran for 10 years as her first entrepreneurial endeavor. A leader in the field of Employee Assistance Programs, in 1984, she was the first therapist to contract with numerous manufacturing companies in Southern Indiana and Northern Kentucky.
Wynn worked as the Director of Social Service at The King’s Daughters Hospital in Madison, Indiana from 1987-1991, which sparked her interest in hospital leadership. After earning a MHA Degree, she obtained a position at the Southeast Georgia Regional Medical Center as Vice President of Administrative Services. She was responsible for several departments including Human Resources and Strategic Planning and assisted the hospital in achieving Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). She also served as the point person for the construction of The Camden Medical Center in St. Mary’s, Georgia. She was then recruited by Quorum Health Resources, a national hospital management firm, to become the Director of Strategic Quality Management in Oklahoma and was a multi-facility manager of 11 acute care human hospitals from 1994-1996. She was living in Oklahoma, training hospital workers during the Oklahoma City bombing. It was a compelling time to be a social worker and be of assistance to so many people through a national trauma.
Wynn moved back to the Midwest in 1996 to start her second entrepreneurial venture, Team Resources, a consulting firm specializing in process improvement. She worked with companies that, as she says, ‘are just larger dysfunctional families’, needing all of her social work therapy skills. She orchestrated those skills to help organizations pull together as a healthy team managing change, improving process flow and increasing sales. She also created a talk radio show called “Success Radio” that aired on 55KRC where she interviewed some of the foremost business thought leaders of the day.
Born in 1959 in Columbus, Ohio, Tammy Wynn is the youngest of three children. Her parents encouraged their children to pursue passions, take risks and be challenged. Her entrepreneurial father enjoyed a pastime of being a flight instructor. His belief was that if his children could fly a plane there would be little that would intimidate them in their futures. As a result, the news crews were there on Wynn’s 16th birthday to catch her solo flight for the six o’clock local news. She became the youngest licensed pilot in the country that year.
Wynn attended Hanover College where she majored in Psychology (BA, 1981), University of Louisville for her graduate program in Social Work (MSSW, 1983) and received her Master’s in Hospital and Health Administration from Xavier University (1992). While working for Hospice of Cincinnati as a social worker in preparation to open her true pet hospice business, she saw the key role that the nurse plays in human hospice and knew to do justice to the implementation of this idea she needed to become a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT). At the age of 50, she went back to school and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s RVT program and passed her boards in 2009.
Wynn lives just 10 minutes from her business where she stands by ready to jump in and help whenever needed. She shares her home with her significant other, John, who she refers to as a saint on this earth, her 26-year-old African Grey parrot, Simon, her 13-year-old cat Blossom, and her 12-year-old dog Carson. Aware of the importance of self-care, especially in a field of such compassion, they enjoy spending time on their houseboat at Lake Cumberland, Kentucky to recharge.
Significant Recognition and Awards
- First Registered Vet Tech (RVT) to hold designation of Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Technician (CHPT)
- Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (AHPC) Task Force and development of first certification for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, AHPC Faculty
- Led the development of the first Social Work Certificate for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, AHPC Faculty
- 2015—University of Cincinnati Blue Ash Distinguished Alumni Award
- 2015—Cincinnati Business Courier Second Act Award
- 2013, 2015—Angie’s List Super Service Award
- Wynn, Tammy and Shanan, Amir, (2017) ‘The Interdisciplinary Team’, in Shanan, Amir (ed.) Hospice and Palliative Care for Companion Animals: Principles and Practice, Wiley, p.15-26.
- Wynn, Tammy (as part of task force of experts convened by the American Animal Hospital Association), (2016), AAHA/IAAHPC End-of-Life Care Guidelines, AAHA.