Q: My veterinarian sent me a letter saying that she would not see my pet anymore. Is this legal?
A: As long as she’s not withholding your pet’s medical records, “divorce” is perfectly legal in medicine, whether in human healthcare or veterinary medicine. But let’s be clear: In a veterinary context divorce is never about the pet. It’s always about the human.
When clients add stress to our lives above and beyond what we consider fair, veterinarians sometimes initiate divorce proceedings. This message typically arrives in the guise of a nice letter explaining that we’re sorry to see your pet go.
Though it may seem harsh, you can bet that if you’re receiving that kind of notice you’ve done something to deserve it. After all, we feel for your pet. And we don’t reject paying customers for no good reason. Here are a few reasons why you might’ve been cut off:
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▪ Behavior problems. Sometimes a pet’s misbehavior leads us to part ways. In my experience, however, it’s usually because of the owner’s approach to the pet’s unruliness. This is especially true if the owner’s permissiveness and denial of the problem lead to safety issues.
▪ Financial issues. Some owners will dispute their bills after they’ve agreed to them. Though we typically try to work it out, it’s not always doable.
▪ Unfair demands. Chances are you’ve met people who can be demanding about their pets. We respect that they care so much for their pets, but when their demands repeatedly interfere with the normal course of our work, we sometimes have to part ways.
▪ Unrealistic expectations. Sometimes owners expect their pet to be healed … immediately. Though we work hard to manage expectations, some owners remain convinced that a cure should occur instantaneously and can even become irate should we fail to meet these lofty goals.
▪ Shady behavior. Every once in a while we’ll be confronted with pet people who will ask us to engage in fraudulent behavior on their behalf (on an insurance form or in a government document, for example). These clients are often terminated.
▪ Verbal abuse. If you’re having a bad day I can put up with a lot. But make my receptionist cry and you’re getting one of those letters. As to why you received one I cannot say, but if you’re unsure, I’m sure your veterinarian will be happy to explain.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com.
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