Providing boarding and grooming sends the wrong message to clients about your professional services.
One thing that just irritates the heck out of me: veterinary clinics offering boarding and grooming. There is a notion that to be successful and bond your clients you have to do some tricks—cartwheels, backflips, and so on. Does your orthopedic surgeon do this for you? These services are just distracting from veterinarians' professional image.
I should know the downsides of boarding. I provided this service for 25 years, because the practice at which I first worked out of school did. And I've finally eliminated it—from 12 kennels to none—Dec. 1, 2006.
Good medicine, good management, and good staff will bond your clients to the practice. I promise, your clients refer others because you're a great practitioner, not because you board their pets and offer doggy daycare.
OK, so let's say you do offer boarding. You would never want this service to detract from your medical care, right? So, are you doing a full exam, taking a history, and providing any appropriate treatment before boarding an animal? Or do you just require immunizations? Of course, immunizations alone won't protect the immune-deficient pet from the dog next door that came from the shelter three days ago and is about to break with distemper.
You must require immunizations at least seven days prior to boarding—and only if the pet really needs them. If you board, don't mislead your clients into thinking you're doing them a favor by updating their pet's immunizations.
And here's another issue: If you don't staff your practice overnight, you're leaving yourself open to litigation in case of accident or death. Check your liability insurance to see whether boarding without 24-hour staffing is mentioned or covered. Even if it is, chances are most of your boarding clients think there's someone present overnight to take care of Fifi.
And what about the pets? They're in a small cage, they're stressed (sometimes to the point of diarrhea), and they don't get as much exercise as at home. The staff? They're stressed by the work—who wants to clean cat and dog enclosures eight to 10 hours a day? And finally, think about your clients: They expect to be able to pick up pets anytime day or night, and if there's a problem with the pet, it's always your fault.
It's no better for grooming. If my son's pediatrician recommended we admit our son to the hospital she practices at for daycare or haircuts, I'd think she was a quack. Grooming is a headache. What happens when groomers don't show up on a day when there are eight groomings scheduled, or when the clients don't like the grooming? Clients take their grooming and veterinary business elsewhere.
If we were cooperative and smart, the veterinarians in an area would pool their knowledge and resources and build a community boarding and grooming facility. Why spend unbelievable amounts of money building and maintaining boarding and grooming facilities in a hospital setting when you could do it as a team more efficiently and at lower cost? Think of just the cost to heat and cool these large, low-net areas. Without this drag on your team and your other resources, you can charge appropriate fees for professional services.
Practice the best medicine. Hire strong employees and manage them well. And provide the professional services a professional should provide.
James R. Jorgensen, DVM
Dr. James R. Jorgensen is owner of Heritage Plaza Animal Hospital in Midwest City, Okla. Send questions or comments to email@example.com.