Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, FACHE, Diplomate American College of Healthcare Executives
The first week in May is National Pet Week. One year's theme was "Happiness is a Healthy Pet" and each year, the AVMA Auxiliary selects a great theme, all promoting some aspect of the human-animal bond. Happiness is also peace of mind when it comes to the pet's security, and chances of being returned if lost. We have all heard of "Operation Identification" where local police organizations and schools team together to have children photographed and fingerprinted to help locate them if they become lost or missing. Have you ever heard of "Operation Pet ID?"
As a component of your hospital's integrated business and marketing plans, the public awareness benefit of an "Operation Pet ID" could be phenomenal. With the increased media attention to animal humane issues, the AVMA Auxiliary's efforts in May, and the acceptance of the human-companion animal bond as a way of life, clients have become sensitized to the need for their pet's security and have become more concerned about the safety and protection of their pet.
Public Relations Serving Practice Promotion
Your hospital can perform a valuable public outreach program while simultaneously strengthening your client's bond to the hospital. Consider the following components for your hospital's "Operation Pet ID" program:
Designate each Tuesday evening during the month of May as "Operation Pet ID" nights in conjunction with the annual National Pet Week campaign emphasizing pet wellness.
Publish the dates and times in your hospital's newsletter and send press releases to the local newspapers and radio stations.
Set up displays that inform pet owners of tattooing pets for identification, the availability, and that this is a more permanent ID than tags. If ID implants are utilized in your area of the country, inform the owners of their availability also.
Take a photograph of the pet (with the owner, if possible) using an instant camera and affix it to your hospital's "Pet Identification Sheet" (Figure 1).
Record for the owner the vital information which is necessary for an accurate identification of the animal. This would include information like breed, weight, hair coat, color tag numbers, and location of tattoo numbers.
If the owner is a current client, make a photocopy of the sheet for the medical record. If they're not a client, recommend that they provide a photocopy to their veterinarian for future reference.
Encourage the owner to review the information at least annually, and update the information and the pet's picture at that time.
Include on the reverse of the "Pet Identification Sheet" some tips for pet safety and what to do if their pet is lost. Some examples can be obtained from the AVMA's Marketing & Practice Strategies for the Companion Animal Practice program text.
Remember to put your hospital's name, address, and phone number.
Provide the owners with window decals (Figure 2) to notify firemen and emergency personnel of how many animals are inside and what to do with them. Distribute wallet sized emergency cards (Figure 3) designed to alert authorities of the need to care for pets at home in the event of a personal accident or illness away from home.
Reassure the owner that the hospital team will be there to care for the pets when necessary.
Empower Your Staff
Assign a staff member as the Program Director, or designate a team to oversee the program's organization. Make sure they know what the outcome is to be so that they can direct the proper output. Be enthusiastic. More than likely this is a first in the community, and your hospital is now a community leader. Empower the team to research specifics for your area and develop an implementation plan to maximize your hospital's public relations image.
Jointly establish a timeline for accomplishments. The Program Director should provide updates on a regular basis and the entire staff should celebrate the individual accomplishments as they occur.
Be ready to address the ancillary components of the program. When the client elects to have their pet tattooed, and the hospital's representative explains the procedure and risks associated with the anesthesia of an overweight dog, he should be ready to discuss the alternatives to restore the pet to the proper weight (or at least refer them to the in-house nutritional consultant). When the owner says "I have to get this done because Phydeaux runs away a lot," be prepared to discuss the availability of behavior management aids and counseling.
When you utilize the caring personalities of your staff, this is a "win/win" program: win for the client and pet, and win for your hospital's reputation.
Two Cats, One Dog, and Two Tanks of Fish Live in this Home.
Please Rescue in Case of Fire
Keep Your Pet Safe!
Make sure your pet always wears a collar with complete identification tag. Include your pet's name, your name and address. We will be glad to help you obtain an identification tag if your pet needs one. Tattoos are more permanent and can be placed in very inconspicuous places.
Always use a leash to take your pet outside.
When riding with your pet in the car, always keep the windows rolled up high enough to prevent him or her from jumping out. But never leave them in a closed car!
During busy times, such as holidays and parties, be extra careful. Strange people and activity in the house can cause your pet to become over-excited and bolt through an open door.
If Your Pet is Lost
Check the neighborhood first. Ask your neighbors if they have seen your pet. Show them the picture on the front.
Let everyone know your pet is missing--neighborhood children, newspaper delivery person, mail carrier, neighbors, joggers, etc. The more people who are aware that your pet is missing, the more chance you will have of finding him or her.
Visit the local animal shelter or humane association to see if your pet has been brought there.
Animal Control Phone #_____________
Humane Society Phone #_____________
Photocopy the attached flyer with your pet's picture and information. Place the flyers in high traffic areas, such as supermarkets and other area merchants.
HELP! MY PET IS LOST!
Tell us, since often we will get a call based on the rabies tag or our close relations with the animal control teams in our part of the community.
ABC Veterinary Hospital
234 Main Street
Your Town, USA 12345-6789