No. You’d better not. Highly visible signs are in place in every exam room announcing our policy: “Thou Shalt Not Hold Thy Own Pet For Examination”. And it’s not just our own little peccadillo. It happens to be the law — sort of.

Should your pet bite you within the confines of any animal hospital the facility is liable for your injuries. And workman’s comp won’t help. The expensive property insurance will have to do (with all its astronomical premium increases after the plastic surgeon’s all done with you).

That’s the principal (if legalistic) reason why vets don’t usually let you hold your pet. The other reason’s quite simple: You’re not likely to do a good enough job of it. Restraining an animal safely is a lot harder than it looks. And I can’t take the chance that your pet will bite [or otherwise maim] me.

Even if it looks like you know what you’re doing. Even if you’ve worked as a tech for ten years in your past. Even if you demand to restrain your own pet. I will not let you hold your pet if I don’t feel safe.

Given that hard-line introduction, I will now relax my stance enough to inform you that there are always exceptions. If I know you and your pet well enough to take a personal risk — well … that’s another story. If it turns out badly it’s my liability, after all.

Certain pets combined with certain owners (depending on the necessary procedure) make for a perfectly acceptable alternative to experienced tech assistance. Others are worthy of a disastrous segment for an exam room reality show. In fact, some owners are better off outside the exam room where they can’t get in the way of even the simplest procedures. (It’s truly amazing how useless some people can be.)

Some owners challenge even the most liberal notions of idiocy with their ability to put everyone in harm’s way at exactly the wrong time. After you’ve had to tell them (for the third time) to step away from the exam table and leave the restraining to the experts, they still manage to put their face up to the dog’s muzzled muzzle (as a reassuring gesture, I suppose) just as the needle goes into their dog’s backside.

What is wrong with these people?

“My pet would never bite me” is the most common rejoinder in such instances.

“Well, I assume you don’t inflict pain on your pet in quite the same way we do!” is my frequent answer.

Do they not realize their pet is perhaps experiencing the most frightening moment of his entire life? Couple that with pain and a bunch of weird people holding onto his leg and now is the exact moment to offer consolation up close and personally?

That’s how it happens. Next thing you know and the owner’s holding half of her lip in a gauze sponge as she heads off to the emergency room.

It’s visions like these that help me keep my cool when clients get demanding. “You will not talk me into this. Muzzle or no muzzle.” (They might not be able to maul you with a muzzle but they can sure as hell pinch enough skin off your face to leave you disfigured.)

Then there’s the whole issue of “My dog does not bite!” (usually offered as a terse statement dripping with indignant undertones).

Yeah — right. There’s nothing that makes me whip out a muzzle faster than a decisive statement like that. It’s practically a declaration of war. So I should risk my skin to make you feel better (or enable your denial) as I bravely handle your little land shark? I think not. But that’s another story altogether…and I think I already submitted at least one post on the topic of “aggression denial.”

So next time your vet requests you hand over the carrier or leash and let him or her do their work, consider their position. If we have to do this all day, every day, we can’t take the chance on every pet we meet—no matter what you may say. After all, we have to comply with our policies. And more importantly — we have to trust our instincts.

I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest — again.