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Bullying and belittling veterinarians . . . what has clients SO angry?

Orange and white cat sleeping on veterinary assistant's lap

There shouldn't be any doubt that veterinarians and their entire teams (veterinary technicians, assistants, pet care specialist, client service representatives, practice managers, etc.) are caring individuals. These folks work long hours, go above and beyond for their clients and patients, and truly have hearts of gold. So, why are we seeing stories across the country like this one from Washington D.C.:

In a nutshell, clients are cursing at veterinarians, trying to bully staff, and even resorting to threats of violence when asked to stay in their car or when told that an appointment isn't available. A friend from the Houston area reported to me that early during the initial stay at home orders, a gentleman tried to break down the door at her emergency hospital when she asked him to stay outside. Another practice manager in Southern Indiana says that an irate gentleman (?) threatened to bring his 12 gauge shotgun AND run his truck (complete with business decals) through the building...all over a question about flea and tick medicine. Then, this retired clinical psychologist in Baltimore thinks that carside service is "inappropriate and inhumane" for the pet. I am still waiting to see if the paper will publish my response to her!

I even personally had a client get upset because we couldn't guarantee that we would walk her pet EVERY 10 MINUTES while at the emergency hospital. Another gentleman (calling from Florida) was surprised when I told him that we had no appointments available for the 2 days he would be here in Indiana picking up his new puppy. (SPOILER...our amazing team was able to find a way to make sure he was traveling back to Florida with a healthy puppy!!)

Veterinary exam room
Veterinary exam room

Here's some facts you might not know....first, most veterinary offices are truly SMALL businesses. The entire team might consist of 5 -10 employees plus a veterinarian or two. Imagine if just one of that team tested positive for COVID-19...the clinic would likely need to close. Related...most veterinary offices are SMALL...period. They don't have large waiting areas and even the exam rooms get smaller because of the need to have the doctor, owner, and someone else (veterinary technician or assistant) to help control the patient! It's almost impossible to "social distance" while restraining that Rottweiler for a blood draw!

Even larger veterinary facilities with bigger teams have usually created cohorts in order to minimize the loss of the entire team when or if someone tests positive. But, even with cohorts, you run the risk of losing a good percentage of the team and quite possibly produce a need to reduce hours or services.

As I have discussed elsewhere, veterinary wait times are getting longer and it's more difficult to get an appointment for the routine or non-urgent issues. This is putting pressure on the animal emergency rooms, increasing wait times during emergencies and, obviously, generating frustration among pet owners. UPDATE: Just after posting this blog, a story was released via the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) about the uptick at emergency's a good read!

There are solutions and options though! Your veterinarian and his/her team DO want to help you and your pet, they are just overwhelmed right now. So, listen to see what kind of options they might offer you...can you leave your pet with them for the day instead of a scheduled appointment? Do some clinics offer walk in hours with no appointment needed? Be will WAIT at a walk in clinic...I have seen wait times increase to 2-3 hours because of the demand

Next, understand that your veterinarian's office may have some very good reasons for continuing carside services, limiting people in their building, or even requiring masks. This is absolutely THEIR right to do business as the deem fit for their needs. If you as a client don't want to wear a mask or wait in the car, that's your right, but you don't have the right to impose your preferences on the veterinary office.

Finally, and this has been discussed before, look at telemedicine options, like AirVet. These services could help save you some time and find help for your furry friend in a more expedient manner. Ask your veterinary team what telemedicine options they are using right now.

Sign describing good energy

You are responsible for the energy you bring into any situation...let's #BringGoodEnergy when it comes to taking care of your pet. Or, as my friend in Southern Indiana says, #BringGoodEnergyNotYourShotgun

What are you seeing when it comes to your veterinary visits recently?


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