The Jeffery family were the owners of a much loved, Four-year-old toy poodle named Bertie. He was a very healthy and active dog and had never shown any signs of being unwell, until late one evening when he started scratching himself uncontrollably. The following morning, the family did what most pet owners would do and took Bertie to their vets to get him checked over.
On arrival, they checked Bertie in with the vet’s receptionist, where they simply had to confirm Bertie’s name and their address. They were called through very quickly by one of the veterinary surgeons and after a brief overview from the Jeffery’s about Bertie’s symptoms, and a quick check over from the vet, it was decided to keep Bertie in for the day to closely monitor him.
Over the course of the next four days Bertie was backwards and forwards to the vets but he wasn’t picking up as quickly as they hoped, and the family had a phone call from their vet strongly suggesting a referral to a specialist centre for further tests.
They were told that the centre they were being referred to was an advanced veterinary centre with recognised specialists and equipment, so of course there was no hesitation in immediately making the 40-minute journey to put Bertie into the centre’s care.
After meeting with the specialist at the referral centre, the Jeffery’s signed a form acknowledging various procedural and treatment disclaimers, which, along with the verbal information about the tests was the full extent of the information they were given.
At 6:40am the next morning, they received an unexpected phone call from the vet centre; “Mr Jeffery, I am sorry to tell you this but we took Bertie outside for a wee this morning, the vet has slipped and let go of Bertie’s lead and he has run off, please can you come down and help us find him”.
The Jeffery family immediately made their way to the vet centre to help in the search for Bertie, and it was sadly them who found poor Bertie a few hours later. Unfortunately, their beloved dog had been run over so many times that they could only identify him by the blue lead that was next to him on the side of the dual carriageway.
“We simply couldn’t believe what had happened; how could our dog have gone into specialist care and end up being able to run away, and get hit by multiple vehicles and killed?”
The specialist centre where Bertie was being treated did have a secure area to take dogs out, so the death of Bertie was assumed to be due to poor procedural standards. After investigating the matter further, the Jeffery family found that lots of veterinary practices don’t have secure outdoor areas for dogs. Some vet centres are even forced to cross roads to get to an area where dogs can urinate. This is something that owners are simply not made aware of.
Dan Jeffery said, “How can this be right? Surely, we should at least be informed of this practice and even given the option of declining our dogs being taken out? Why are we not made to sign a disclaimer to say that there is a risk of escape/accident/death because they take our dogs out into unsecured areas?
“Why aren’t we asked more questions about our dog’s behavioural quirks and characteristics? For example, how are they on the lead? Is there a verbal command to use when they are expected to urinate? Is there a command or whistle they recall to? Furthermore, should our dogs really be taken outside if there is no secure area? If there is a need for them to be taken out, then should they be double leaded and have two people with them at all times?”
The veterinary standards governing body, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), do have a ‘Practice Standards’ scheme which quality assures practices and their facilities, however this scheme is voluntary with only half of all UK practices deciding to gain accreditation. This leaves yet more questions about the attention and seriousness given to this aspect of veterinary practices.
Dan added; “We have been left devastated by the loss of Bertie and the void that he has left in our home and our hearts. We want to do everything we can to ensure that this type of event cannot happen again. We are committed to focusing our efforts on creating awareness, trying to influence change to improve standards and making sure that veterinary practices review their thinking relating to this very real risk”.
The Jeffery family’s local vets and the specialist centre have been very receptive to the ideas and recommendations that they have put forward so far, and both have worked with them to implement a ‘Pet Profile’ form. This has now been added to their document management system and is now something that pet owners need to fill out, as well as the standard consent form when admitting their pets to these centres.
“Making these changes and creating the awareness will not give us back what was so tragically taken away, but it will go some way to creating a legacy for Bertie, which means his short life counted for something, and most importantly should prevent another incident like this happening again.”