Handling clients who are under the influence

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What to do about intoxicated clients.

Q If I think a client is intoxicated, what should I do?

Hospitals that are open weekends or 24 hours are more likely to see clients who are under the influence, says Dr. Charlotte Lacroix, veterinary attorney and CEO of Veterinary Business Advisors Inc., in Flemington, N.J. "That's because these pet owners probably weren't expecting to make a veterinary visit but had an emergency," Dr. Lacroix says.

Dr. Charlotte Lacroix, JD

If you suspect a client is inebriated, approach him or her and say, "You seem to not be feeling well. Is there someone I can call for you?" Or you could stall to make the examination go longer in hopes the client sobers up. You could also call the authorities. "If you call the police, act as nothing's wrong in front of clients," Dr. Lacroix says. "Don't tell the client you've called the cops, but do tell your manager."

Here's what Dr. Lacroix suggests saying to the long arm of the law: "I have someone in my waiting room who just doesn't seem right. She may be intoxicated or on drugs, and I'm concerned about her welfare." When possible, provide the dispatcher with the make, model, and license plate number of the client's car, in case he or she attempts to leave before the police arrive.

What not to do: Be brave and try to take away the client's keys. "You don't want to go into the position of enforcing the law," Dr. Lacroix says. "But if you do, you better hope the police come soon. The client may come over the counter at you."

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