Who stole the day's take?!


A veterinary practice owner's trust leads to an embarrassing and costly theft. Are you making the same mistake right now?

You won't be able to blame the butler when cash walks out of your practice. (Shutterstock.com)Pet Vet Care Clinic is a success story. Dr. Cord opened his practice 19 years ago in a growing suburban community, and it's been growing ever since.

At first, he personally handled his banking, hiring, regulatory compliance and other business demands of the practice. However, as the years went on, those demands started to outstrip his capabilities. He added administrative staff and used outside advisors to meet his growing financial and HR needs.

It was very important to Dr. Cord that his practice not lose the personal one-on-one relationships with his clients as it got larger. He had seen how large practices had gone to computerized phone responses, rigid practice policies and slow response times.

That was unacceptable to Dr. Cord, because his personalized approach was the secret to his growth. Informality and flexibility was his recipe for success. If a client wanted one heartworm preventive pill instead of six, he made it happen. If a senior client couldn't get to the clinic, he arranged transportation. When staff members needed flexible schedules or extended time off for legitimate reasons, he approved.

It never occurred to her to lock the money up when she went to the restroom.

One morning, his administrator came to him and told him the bank deposit envelope she'd placed on her desk that morning had disappeared. The administrator went to the bank twice a week. She kept the house money in a locked file cabinet whenever she left. But when she was working with deposits and kept cash at her desk, it never occurred to her to lock things up when she went to the restroom.

There were no surveillance cameras or strict security protocols. Why? The staff was trustworthy, and most had been with the practice for quite some time.

Needless to say, Dr. Cord was devastated. He called the police and then his insurance agent. The police made a report and commented on the clinic's lax security protocols. The detective said that with no surveillance cameras, no safe and no burglar alarm, a theft of this nature was inevitable. His insurance agent assured him that he was covered, but a claim of this amount would lead to higher premiums for the next five years. He recommended that Dr. Cord not claim the loss.

They never did find the thief. This was a crime of opportunity most likely committed by an otherwise honest employee who couldn't resist unguarded money in plain sight. Now Pet Vet Care Clinic has camera surveillance, a secure safe and strict money handling protocols. Dr. Cord blamed himself. His staff had grown and grown, and he still treated them all like trusted family. His conclusion was, "Shame on me!"

Do you think Dr. Cord was an enabler or a victim? Let us know at dvm360@ubm.com.

Rosenberg's response

Small, intimate practices can grow into large, less intimate workplaces in just a few short years. Dr. Cord was quick to retain accountants, administrators and consultants as larger practice challenges got beyond his level of expertise. He neglected to add a security advisor to the list because he didn't see this as a day-to-day need in his workplace.

I can assure you that theft happens at some level in just about every veterinary practice. It may be as minor as a pet treat or some medication for the family dog, or it may be thousands of dollars, as it was in Dr. Cord's case.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I guess a better but cornier phrase in this case would be, "Better (a secure) safe than sorry."

Marc Rosenberg, VMD, is director of the Voorhees Veterinary Center in Voorhees, New Jersey. In his private time, he enjoys playing basketball and swing dancing with his wife. Although many of his scenarios in "The Dilemma" are based on real-life events, the veterinary practices, doctors and employees described are fictional.

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