Southern California veterinary practices targeted in new thefts

Nov 01, 2011

IRVINE, CALIF. — Veterinary practices have been targeted in a string of veterinary drug and product thefts over the last few months, according to the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association (SCVMA).

SCVMA Executive Director Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, says the association issued an alert to its members due to recent break-ins involving drugs and narcotics and flea-and-tick products.

One incident involved a small gang posing as pet owners. They entered the hospital near closing time with an emergency case and stole controlled drugs.

"Veterinarians are target enough with everything that's going on out there, and we don't need to be a target for small gangs," Weinstein says.

Other practices have had to deal with theft of popular flea products. In fact, a practice here recently lost $5,000 worth of flea product inventory in one heist.

Dr. David Driscoll, owner of Irvine Boulevard Animal Hospital, says thieves shattered the center window of his clinic's front door with a brick and cleaned out his supply of Frontline and Comfortis. The hospital's alarm system was activated, but the perpetrators were in the building just long enough to get what they wanted and were out before police arrived.

"It seems like they knew what they were doing," Driscoll says. "There were lots of other things they could have gone for and didn't."

The products stolen from the clinic were kept on display behind the reception desk, which is visible from the hospital's front window, he adds. The pharmacy is about five feet away, but there was no evidence the thieves even tried to access the drugs kept there. Driscoll believes the thieves were looking specifically for the flea products, which can be sold quickly for a large profit.

Since the theft, Driscoll says he only leaves empty boxes on display now, and locks up his flea products every night in the pharmacy. Irvine police are not hopeful they will find the culprits, but his drug representative told him they sometimes go online looking to buy stolen products and would keep Driscoll informed if his inventory showed up.

In addition to the product loss, which was covered by insurance, Driscoll says the thieves caused about $500 in damage to the clinic—which was not covered by his insurance or his landlord.

He is considering adding video surveillance to the clinic, but says he doesn't think he would have been targeted if product displays were not so visible to passersby.

Weinstein recommends that practitioners in Southern California review their security protocols and consider additional measures such as installing brighter outdoor lighting, security cameras at all exterior doors and panic buttons to specific areas in the hospital.