Veterinarians are trusting souls — some perhaps too trusting for their own good, according to an expert on practice-safety
When it comes to protecting themselves and their business from crime, "some veterinarians seem to have a rose-colored view
of the world," says Phillip J. Seibert Jr., CVT, owner-operator of Safety Vet, a consulting firm in Calhoun, Tenn., that advises
practitioners nationwide on safety and regulatory-compliance issues.
"Injuries from violence" ranked No. 5 on Seibert's list of what he considers the top five workplace hazards for DVMs and their
staffs, published in the July issue of DVM Newsmagazine.
Workplace violence most often involves assaults by friends and relatives of staff members, such as angry boyfriends or estranged
spouses, Seibert says, but practices also are vulnerable to crime committed by strangers. Jus how vulnerable are DVMs to
that, and how often does it occur?
Practices increasingly are targets for robbers who may injure or even kill in the process, Seibert believes, based on his
observation and conversations with practitioners nationwide.
But some veterinarians seem to think it can't happen to them — they're far too trusting, he says.
"I know of some vets, even in New York City, who won't lock their doors after dark so as not to inconvenience evening clients,
even though they realize — as do criminals — that there are drugs and money around. That kind of rose-colored view can result
not only in robbery, but injury or even death."
A lax attitude toward simple precautions such as locking doors — especially unseen rear or side doors where employees may
come and go — is too prevalent both in large cities and in rural areas, Seibert believes.
In the late 1970s, a study performed by Florida's attorney-general came up with five leading factors linked to a high incidence
of robberies at a major convenience-store chain. The same factors applied to drug stores and liquor stores, too, Seibert recalls.
Here are the five key reasons those businesses were prime robbery targets:
- Late hours.
- Robbers found enough potential value to make a holdup worth the risk.
- Few clerks usually on duty, especially at night.
- Robbers often cased the stores first, posing as customers to see how attentive clerks were. If clerks tended to ignore them
(and thus be unlikely to ID them), that store became a target.
- Physical conditions, including: windows plastered with ads, hiding the interior from view; geographic isolation; a rear or
side door usually left unlocked; or a location near a freeway to allow quick getaways.
The convenience-store chain, and many drug and liquor stores, corrected most of those deficiencies. The result? "You don't
hear about holdups at those types of establishments as often today," Seibert says.
What does that mean to veterinarians?
"Many of them, even today, test positive for some of the same risk factors — late hours with few people on duty, something
of value on hand and things like unlocked doors or something that hides or isolates the building enough to make it attractive
to criminals," Seibert says.
Eliminating or reducing these risks is one of the lessons he tries to teach as he lectures, works with state veterinary associations
and offers staff-training advice.
"I don't have statistics, but it's surprising how many vets told me they were robbed or knew of someone who was," Seibert
"Other industries are doing well in tightening up security. More veterinarians need to do the same."