The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has honored Dr. Dani McVety-Leinen, founder and CEO of Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, as the recipient of the 2022 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award.
Named for the late Dr. Leo K. Bustad, former president of the Delta Society and dean of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the award is one of veterinary medicine’s highest honors, recognizing the outstanding work of veterinarians in protecting and promoting the human-animal bond. It is one of three Animal Welfare and Human-Animal Bond Excellence Awards presented annually by the AVMA and supported through educational funding from Merck Animal Health.
“I’m beyond honored to be the recipient of the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award,” said Dr. McVety-Leinen. “Dr. Leo Bustad was a true pioneer in our field, who pushed through new concepts of honor and respect between animals and humans, ideas that still shape our profession today.
“The bond between our species has not only brought me into this career that I cherish, but has also been the cornerstone of my work as a clinician, my inspiration as a businesswoman, and the driving force behind my work with veterinary students. Just like Dr. Bustad, I feel that helping veterinary students understand this bond at the beginning of their career helps shape the kind of doctor they become. And through this work, I’ve learned that as a veterinarian it is not medicine that we sell; rather, our true product is the human-animal bond.”
Dr. McVety-Leinen founded Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice in Tampa, Florida, in 2009, just months after graduating from veterinary school. Since that time, she has grown the service from one veterinarian—herself—to a nationwide network of more than 250 doctors and a full-time interdisciplinary support staff dedicated to making the end-of-life experience for pets, and the people that love them, as dignified and peaceful as possible. Nearly 500,000 families have benefited from Dr. McVety-Leinen’s vision.
Over the past decade, Dr. McVety-Leinen and the Lap of Love team have revolutionized the care of geriatric pets, the end-stage management of terminal illnesses and the handling of euthanasia in the veterinary space. By perfecting the veterinary hospice concept and proactively bringing euthanasia into the home, they have transformed end-of-life care from a small component of practice into its own industry. As a pioneer in end-of-life care, Dr. McVety-Leinen has sought to actively educate and share Lap of Love’s resources and reserves of knowledge with other veterinary professionals and pre-professionals. This has substantially contributed to the growth of a new culture of veterinarians who are learning to treat death not as a failure of medicine, but as a natural progression of biology.
Additionally, Dr. McVety-Leinen recently created a new department at Lap of Love to better serve families grieving the loss of a pet. Lap of Love’s Pet Loss Support Team, established in 2021, offers a free pet loss support group to anyone who has experienced the death of a pet as well as personalized support sessions, children’s grief groups and a pet loss journey course. The support group provides a safe, compassionate and empathetic environment for those who want to listen, share and celebrate the life of their treasured pet with others who are suffering a similar loss.
Dr. McVety-Leinen’s commitment to community service includes allotting each of her team members one “gift appointment” each month to provide relief to a family in need of financial assistance. She also encourages her team of nearly 500 employees to extend this gift to any family they choose. In 2021, Lap of Love provided more than 1,500 charity appointments to families amounting to nearly $500,000 in free care.
In addition to her work with Lap of Love, Dr. McVety-Leinen frequently writes and speaks for professional and lay audiences on topics relating to body language for doctors, veterinary hospice, euthanasia, avoiding career burnout, compassion fatigue, assessing quality of life and how veterinarians will help change the face of human death. She has provided thousands of lectures, lunch and learns, seminars and webinars to attendees of all walks of life and has written or contributed to hundreds of publications to serve others. Dr. McVety-Leinen has been featured on numerous local, national and professional media outlets including ABC, The Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Huffington Post and many more.
A 2009 graduate of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. McVety-Leinen is the youngest recipient of the college’s Distinguished Young Alumni Award (2013) and the Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s President’s Award (2014). She has also been honored with the Tampa Bay Up and Comer’s 40 under 40 Hall of Fame award and the Pet Industry Woman of the Year in 2017.