Passionate Paws is now a Fear Free Certified Practice

Passionate Paws is located at the corner of Providence Rd and New Town Rd.

Share this:
(LtR) The staff at Passionate Paws includes: Stephen Bonilla, Dr. Susan Bonilla, Daniela, Brittany, and Erica.
Passionate Paws has a spa like feel throughout their waiting room and the rest of the office.
Erica gets down on the floor in order to connect with one of their patients.

Passionate Paws is now a Fear Free Certified® Practice!  While the veterinarians at Passionate Paws have all been individually certified as Fear Free Certified® Professionals, now the entire office is ready to make your animal’s next appointment Fear Free.  When Dr. Susan Bonilla and her husband, Stephen Bonilla, Hospital Administrator, opened Passionate Paws in 2016, they had unknowingly already started incorporating the Fear Free concept into the practice.  With soft colors and a spa like feel, there is a dedicated feline only room with a cat tree instead of an exam table as well as a canine only room.  But there are also many other ways to reduce stress in animals besides customizing the exam rooms.   “Practice Certification takes Fear Free implementation to the next level – from an individual to a joint effort that requires the entire practice team to work together to achieve certification. Fear Free Certified® Practices will have successfully implemented Fear Free into all aspects of their business: culture and leadership, client education, staff training, facility, and patient visits. To meet this level of commitment and implementation, practices must measure up to Fear Free standards and will receive an onsite visit from a Fear Free Practice Certification Veterinarian to review the achievement of standards.” (from

Stephen Bonilla explains that they keep two records for every pet.  One with medical information and one that is an emotional record that includes a scale for FAS; fear, anxiety, and stress. The Fear Free philosophy is to do things differently to reduce an animal’s FAS.  This can include using different treats, “all of the dogs seem to love Easy Cheese while the cats have a more finicky palate so we use different treats or catnip to reward them.”  They use natural pheromones in the practice.  “Adaptil” for dogs and “Feliway” for cats are diffused as needed to help calm down anxious animals.  Passionate Paws also sells these pheromones and encourage owners to use it on the blanket in the crate or on a bandana around the animal’s neck to help reduce tension on the way to the practice.  There is also music especially composed for animals featuring classical arrangements with added bio-acoustically tuning that can help calm the animals on frequencies that we can’t hear.     

Passionate Paws offers “Happy Visits” a visit in which the vet meets with the pet and pats, praises, and gives treats but does not do anything “exam-like” to the animal.  That way the animal can get to know the vet’s office as the place where people love them and give them treats, not the place where they are dragged into a room for poking and prodding.  Passionate Paws is also very transparent and loves to educate their clients about how they do business and how they can help your animal.  “Fear Free makes us all better.  It makes better practitioners and groomers and helps makes everyone more aware of the pet experience and cognizant of what is going on with the pet parents.  It pushes them to be better and always learning something new.  It’s important for people to understand, the experience here is not the same as other animal hospitals.  We are the only Fear Free Certified® Practice in the area.”

You can find out more information about the Fear Free Certification on or pet parents can visit to learn how reduce stress in their own homes.  Passionate Paws is located at 1526 Providence Rd S #110 in Waxhaw. Call them at 704-256-7576.

Share this:

Previous articleKaleidoscope Fest Success!
Next articleThe Ultimate Summer Home Maintenance Checklist
Tara Botero
A. Tara Botero was born and raised in the South but only recently moved to Waxhaw, NC in November 2014. She has a horse, Cooper, with whom she spends many hours on the trails. Tara has been in love with photography for over 20 years and joined Tri-W News as a photographer and reporter in August 2016.