As a general rule, BYK does not involve itself in political issues. We avoid them like the plague. Our customers come from all walks of life; all political affiliations; all income levels. Anytime politics are brought into such a relationship, feelings can be hurt; customers or employees can be alienated or offended. Nevertheless, this issue affects ALL of you, regardless with which end of the political spectrum you identify. In this particular instance, BYK Management cannot and will not sit idly by and watch while some anonymous "Board of Directors" sits in a room making decisions that will force BYK's loyal customers and friends to spend large amounts of money, unnecessarily.
DOPL, Utah's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, polices certain professions, such as the Practice of Veterinary Medicine; Practice of Nursing Medicine; Pharmacy Practice; Contractors; Realtors; etc. Recently, I was informed by a DOPL investigator that the Board of Veterinary Medicine is considering making it illegal for any Boarding Facility to give your pets ANY medications, whether prescribed by a veterinarian, purchased over-the-counter, or otherwise -- even if you bring in a prescription bottle with instructions from your vet. DOPL believes that to allow a Boarding facility to give your dogs pills or insulin, or any substance other than food, constitutes the "practice of veterinary medicine," regardless of the fact that you do it at home, every day. This means if your dog is on Rimadyl twice per day, or insulin, or even if your cat or dog takes an over-the-counter antihistamine for allegies, this new legislation could potentially require that your pets be boarded with a veterinarian for no other reason than to ensure medications are monitored by a doctor or her staff. This means you would pay, on average, an extra $10 or more per day, for the privilege of the vet's staff putting a pill in your dog's mouth. This potential legislation may also prevent any animal owner from stopping by the Target, Smith's, or Walmart pharmacies to purchase over-the-counter vaccines for your pets!! Farmers and Ranchers -- this concerns you, too -- they would like to prevent you from going to IFA Country Store and buying vaccinations for your livestock, even though those vaccinations are over-the-counter and available by retail to the general public.
Pets are medicated by their owners every single day. When an owner cannot be present to care for their pet, they should be able to bring their pet to a boarding facility who can act on the owner's behalf. That is what you pay us for -- to act as a substitute pet owner. We don't claim to be a medical facility. We don't keep "medical records" in the same way your veterinarian does. We don't do physcial exams. We don't recommend any particular course of treatment, beyond simply keeping an eye on your pet, or consulting a veterinarian. In fact, our contracts, our facilities policies and procedures -- they all state that we are NOT a medical facility, and if your pet needs close monitoring or is of delicate health, we recommend that you board your pet at a veterinary hospital. Often, even when a pet is elderly and/or in ill health, customers still choose to leave their animals with us for a variety of reasons, including because their pets know and trust us, and/or because we know the pets and owners well enough to know what steps they want us to take in an emergency, or because they know that we love their pets like family, and in the twilight of their pet's life, they would prefer the pet be with "family," than with a doctor.
Understand that BYK does employ trained, educated staff -- people who have attended and/or graduated from Veterinary Assisting and Veterinary Technology programs. These staff, however, do not and cannot hold licenses issued by the State of Utah because they do not work for a veterinarian. Nonetheless, this does not discount their education and experience. Do they practice veterinary medicine? Of course not. If, heaven forbid, an animal becomes ill or is injured, BYK takes the animal to the veterinary hospital next door for evaluation and treatment.
That said, BYK provides to your pet the same level of care that you provide at home, regardless of what that entails. In doing so, we cannot help but use our experience as pet care providers, and yes, sometimes even our education when we ask ourselves "what would this animal's owner do [in whatever situation] if they were here to care for this animal"? Does it help that we have educated, trained staff? Yes. Absolutely. But to hear DOPL tell it, if I allow my staff to use their education and training when caring for the animals, they will be practicing veterinary medicine without a license -- even if all they do is put "styptic powder" to stop the bleeding on a toenail cut a bit too short. So, the question is, when my staff injects a dog with insulin -- in the amount and frequency prescribed by the veterinarian and the animal's owner -- are we "overstepping"? I think not. If you left your dog with a neighbor, your neighbor would be doing the same thing, but without education, and maybe without experience. Your neighbor is acting as your "agent" for the purpose of caring for your dog -- she is simply doing what you asked her to do -- care for your dog in accordance with your instructions and wishes. Just because we have educated, trained staff, does that make a difference in how these tasks should be characterized? Who knows? DOPL says "Yes." But, IF it truly makes a difference, I can't help but believe it is for the better.
In the past, BYK's kennel techs have used their education and training to recognize problems even before the owner recognized it. I can recall witnessing behavior in a cat that had just been brought in -- I'd seen the identical behavior in a cat of my own, in the past. It was not typical behavior, and when the parents came to pick the cat up, we informed them we believed their cat may be ill, and should be seen by a veterinarian. Were they angry that we saw something they had not? Are you kidding? They were grateful we'd caught it when we did -- they saw the same behaviors, but had no idea they could be a sign of a serious condition. Should we have kept our mouths shut, because our techs are not "licensed" or because we are afraid we might accidentally be accused of "practicing veterinary medicine without a license."? If DOPL knew of this incident when it occurred, they would probably scold us for it. Certainly, BYK's kennel techs cannot and never do "diagnose," "prescribe," "treat" or run tests, or anything of that nature, but they can observe as well or better than "the next guy." Is that a problem? Shouldn't be. After all, it is not as if they can "unlearn" how to properly care for an animal; "unlearn" how to look at the color of dog poop and the potential ramifications of that color or texture; "unlearn" the difference between vomitted bile and vomitted food or vomited water; or "unlearn" anything else they learned in school -- anymore than you could "unlearn" how to read or write. Would BYK prefer to keep veterinarians on staff so we don't have to address issues such as these? Absolutely. However, the reality is that it is close-to-impossible to find a veterinarian willing to do spend a few hours each week simply walking through a kennel, looking for general or specific illness or injury in an animal, and even if we could, it would most certainly be expensive for you, the owner. Were this the actual statutory requirement (and to be clear, it currently is not), BYK would have no choice but to raise boarding rates to properly compensate the veterinarian. Were that the case, the owner might just as well board their pet with a veterinarian -- except veterinarians are not generally open on Sundays; nor do they provide day care for any sustained period, so dogs could not run free or relax for long hours in the fresh air.
When an amimal falls ill or is injured, BYK contacts the animal's owner and obtains guidance regarding whether to take the animal to the vet for evaluation, whether the owners want us to wait and keep them updated, or whether the owner wants us to do nothing. After all, every owner's situation is different. Vet bills can be very costly, and each owner should be given the opportunity whenever possible to make those decisions themselves, because when we take an animal to the vet, the pet owner is responsible for those vet bills. BYK does not wish to spend our customer's money "willy nilly," or without permission. Certainly there are situations where we are unable to contact an owner or their emergency contact. When this happens, we are left to our own reasonable judgment regarding whether there is a situation rising to the level of a "medical emergency" such that we see no alternative but to take the animal to a veterinary hospital, pay for it ourselves, and seek reimbursement from the customer when they pay their final invoice and retrieve their pet. That's our job.
As it stands, among the many exemptions from Utah's law prohibiting "the practice of veterinary medicine," is the pet owner exemption -- it allows pet owners, their employees, and their "agents" to care for their own animals. It also currently allows prescription medications to be given by these exempted people if a veterinarian prescribes the meds by way of a veterinarian-client relationship. THAT is what allows BYK to give prescription and other medications to your pets during their stay. But if the Board of Veterinary Medicine has its druthers . . . it will not be allowed much longer. (Currently, non-prescription medications are not prohibited by law, and thus do not need to be "exempted" under the statute, but I am told this may be addressed by new legislation, as well. Note that BYK is also exempt from much of this statute because we "provide appropriate training for animals," which is another category of persons exempted by the statute.)
Here's what it boils down to: Your pets. Your choice. You have a say in what happens, here, folks. If this means as much to you as we believe it does, we encourage you to submit sworn affidavits to Investigator, Ron Larsen, at Utah's Division of Professional Licensing, as well as to the Utah Board of Veterinary Medicine -- give them your opinion of the legislation they are looking to draft. Let them know the impact such a law would have on you, on your pocket book, on your relationship with your pet, and maybe even on the relationship you currently share with your veterinarian. Would you resent the higher fees you would be forced by the Board of Veterinary Medicine to pay? Would you simply stop going to the added expense? Would you simply tell your boarding facility not to medicate your pet during its stay, so you don't have to pay for a veterinarian? How much of this potential legislation is driven by a Board of Veterinary Medicine looking for new avenues of revenue generation? There are many issues that might arise if pet parents are forcibly placed in such a position. We are individuals. We will all react differently. Some reactions may be extreme; some only minor. But it is crucial that the "powers that be" understand how you, as concerned pet owners, feel about this.
Please . . . get involved. Don't let this decision be made in a vaccum. These Boards go largely unmonitored. Few, if any, attend their meetings, or even know when they will be held. You can find the current statutes and rules, meeting agenda, meeting minutes, and even the audio recordings of past meetings online, at http://www.dopl.utah.gov/licensing/veterinary.html.
It is crucial that every one of us helps to ensure that whatever the ultimate decision, it is one arrived at after careful consideration, and after hearing opinions and concerns from as many segments of our society, as possible. Please give me your thoughts on this.
Margie Wakeham, Esq.
Owner/General Manager, Brickyard Kennel