Thursday, February 17, 2011

Washington Post Article vs Client Privacy

This past Monday, in what I can only assume was a slow news day, a column in The Washington Post seemed to question Friendship's handling of a request for a patient's vaccination information.  Click here to read the full article.

A woman who was not the owner of the dog called Friendship to request the information after she had been bitten.  The bite occurred while the dog was being walked by the pet sitter.  Friendship refused to release the dog's vaccine status without the consent of the owner but did offer to contact the owner, which she declined.  The Post's article indicates that she did call the police but also declined their offer to help her.  Had she reported the bite to the authorities, as the law dictates, they could have easily obtained the dog’s vaccine status. She apparently chose not to do so and, instead, contacted the Washington Post.

When I spoke to columnist John Kelly last week he told me the woman "didn't want to get the dog in trouble" and that was why she decided not to report the bite.  Informing animal control about a dog bite, especially in this situation, is essential.  If the dog really just walked up and bit her as the woman described then there needs to be a record of this.  What if this happens again?  What if it is a child's face next time?

I am in no way saying that this dog is vicious, in fact I don't think I have ever met a mean Greyhound.  This was most likely an isolated incident, but if a pattern of aggressive behavior develops there should be a record of it.

In addition, a dog owner needs to be aware if his or her dog is involved in a bite incident, be it with a person, wildlife or another dog.  When I questioned Mr. Kelly how it was that both the woman who was bitten and the pet sitter were unable to get in touch with the owner to discuss the event he was only able to say that "the owner was out of town".  In the age of smart phones, email and Facebook surely they could have contacted the owner.  If one of my dogs were to bite someone while I was away I would want to be notified immediately.

My discussion above is really immaterial, here is the bottom line: at Friendship, we value the trust our clients instill in us and part of that trust requires us to keep all client/patient information confidential.  It has been and always will be our policy to not disclose information unless specifically asked to do so by the owner of a patient, another veterinary hospital or other law enforcement organization.  

Apart from my position as a veterinarian, as a dog owner I support Friendship's policy and I would think the majority of our clients do too.  Please feel free to post respectful comments below.

No comments:

Post a Comment