What to do when doggy day care turns deadly
When bad things happen at the vet’s, the groomer’s, doggy day care, etc., most of the time the establishment gets blamed for its lax protocols. That’s my take, anyway.
No, I’m not just referring to things that happen at our place. It’s also my experience that animals arriving with wounds from altercations (with both animate and inanimate objects) are attached to owners who blame the facility where they were sustained.
It’s common, I guess, playing the blame game, whether it’s warranted or not. Such was the case in Tampa recently when a Welsh terrier was attacked (and ultimately killed)—by two Labrador retrievers at a doggy day care on the premises of a veterinary hospital.
The hospital immediately realized its role in bringing the dogs together and quickly transported the gravely injured smaller dog to a specialty facility for intensive care—on its dime, of course.
Despite the hospital’s responsible actions, the owners contacted the news media to publicly blame the veterinary hospital for its lax oversight.
Meanwhile, it was reported that a day care employee was a mere few feet from the event and was bitten during the melée—trying to rescue the attacked dog. The hospital explained that it’s changing its protocols so as to better separate the big guys from the smaller ones. And its management has apologized profusely.
I’ve long wondered how day care services and boarding facilities manage to keep dogs from maiming one another. It seems like a tough thing to do. Sure, keeping the big ones from the littler ones is important, but where do you draw the line?
After all, would any dog survive a serious attack from two dogs its own size? Not likely, depending on the breeds involved, of course. (Can you imagine my Frenchies killing anything when even a chicken neck presents a distinct challenge?) And dog behavior can be unpredictable, no matter how much temperament testing you invest in.
Last month I reported on a potentially serious biting incident in our hospital’s waiting room. The attacked dog was relatively easily dislodged from the biter’s maw but the owner received a glancing blow in the process. Luckily, major disaster was averted. But not before the attackee’s owner had her say: “You need to keep this hospital safer for smaller dogs like mine.”
And I couldn’t disagree. Not really. The staff members were busy and hadn’t noticed that the aggressor was on a @#$% Flexi-leash. I know it wasn’t the leash’s fault—it was just another case of Flexi misuse by an owner seriously lacking in the common sense department. But we should be policing the waiting room more carefully, it’s true, so we’ve added some signage to help with that, among other simple measures.
The point of this anecdote? Every place where animals come together there’s the potential for adverse interaction. Dogs will be dogs. And cats should stay in crates. But there’s always something we can do to make things safer.
Legally speaking, the facility in which any given altercation occurs is always responsible for the outcome (though pet owners may in some cases prove partially liable in a court of law). It is the role of the establishment to keep the pets safe and the humans equally secure.
Nonetheless, creatures will be creatures just as humans are only human. Technicians will be bitten. Fights will occur. The vet will get ringworm. Some degree of risk will always remain in this business, despite our precautions. As with the adverse anesthetic events discussed earlier his week, instituting precautionary protocols is every bit as important as how we handle the events that occur.
The hospital in the Tampa news this week is only the latest example. And it seems to me (albeit from afar, with incomplete information at my disposal) that it’s doing a fine job handling the aftermath—admitting its mistakes, revising its policies, paying for the high level of care required and, most of all, apologizing profusely for its role. What more could anyone ask?