Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pets in the Dental Office?

I don’t know if this has happened to you yet. If it hasn’t, it surely will. Patients have brought pets into my office.

I have to admit that, the first few times, I didn’t even notice. Not being a pet person, I didn’t realize that my patients had dogs in those bags. The dogs were so quiet that I never even knew they were there. Then I heard the staff comment on how cute the doggie was. “What dog?” I asked. I was thus introduced to the world of pets in a dental office.

I started doing some research. I could not find a single law that prohibits me from performing dentistry in the presence of an animal. I found nothing that says an animal can’t watch me do my dentistry. Here, in California, it is illegal for me to perform dentistry on an animal unless I also have a veterinary medicine degree. Animal dentistry is considered a specialty within veterinary medicine in my state. But, as far as I know, not even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-Care Settings prohibit me from practicing with an animal in my operatory. If I am wrong on this, please correct me.

Of course, I understand the need for service dogs. However, as humans, if you give us an inch, we will take a mile. Now people claim service animals for all kinds of disabilities. This is important since, although you may wish to keep some animals out of your office, the American With Disabilities Act limits your options. If someone claims to have a disability, you would be hard pressed to keep that animal, no matter what it is, out of your office.

This is precisely the reason Fido gets to ride first class in an airplane. Airlines now allow “emotional support” animals to sit with their owners. And, if you claim—and provide documentation—that you need to have an “emotional support” dog when you fly, what can the airlines do? We all understand that the fear of flying is real. People ARE afraid to fly. To some, Fluffy provides emotional comfort.

Can you think of another setting in which people feel anxiety? 

Yes, YOUR office. Patients need emotional therapy in the dental chair. Thus, you may end up with a pet, I mean, service animal in your office.

This brings up a couple of issues. Will non-pet people view your office as “dirty,” because they just saw Kitty prance through your waiting room? Or, will pet lovers now view your office as “pet-friendly” even if that is not your intent?

What are your thoughts? I’d like to know.

Andy Alas, DDS


The Dental Warrior said...

Interesting. I have not had this situation in my office... YET. It's only a matter of time. Word on the street is that the designation of "service animal" is so liberal and broad, that nearly anyone can qualify their PET... so they can take them anywhere and threaten lawsuits if they meet resistance.

Here's a question... if your assistant is allergic to dogs, then whose "rights" get the priority? Where do you stand legally in that case?

Andy Alas, D.D.S. said...

First, off I am a big fan of your Blog. I am humbled that you would read my musings. Thank you.

As to your question. I am not a lawyer, I only pretend to be one in my office. Just as OSHA rules are not there to protect the practice owner (only the employees) the American with Disabilities Act is there to protect your clients and not your practice.

As one of my mentors once told me, "On matters such as these always assume the dentist loses. You'll be less disappointed that way"

Michael, thanks for reading!


B said...

From what I have read there is a difference between service animal and therapy animal. A service animal is there to work for the person, whereas a therapy dog is described as a pet. The information I obtained stated provisions for a therapy dog need not be made where no dogs allowed is enforced. However a service dog needs to be accommodated. A service dog provides the handler with a service, such as, a seeing eye dog, seizure dog, hear impaired aide, etc. A therapy dog does not provide a service. Not sure if this applies to all states though.

Unknown said...

I am almost certain it has to be against your state's applicable health code! I love animals, but think that there are places where pups and cats (and pet rodents and reptiles!) just should not be. I think that dental offices falls into that realm, in my view.

The Kitchener Dentist

Unknown said...

Hi dude,

Dear admin, this is the post that i am looking for and you are just post it, thats great.The many classify pets as members of one's family and some even consider their pet's as their children. In light of this, out of all the members of one's family, the chances are it will not be difficult to guess who has the worst dental hygiene: the pets.See more at Classifieds Pets

Thanks & welcome.
Juanita Ella

Unknown said...

As a veteran with PTSD who utilizes the assistance of a service dog for recognition and comfort during anxiety attacks, let me assure you that my dog is just as necessary as dogs for the other disabilities you have listed here. Therapy dogs provide therapy to people other than their handler in situations that are stressful to the general population such as travel or hospital stays. Just because a person does not have a visible disability goes not negate their need for a service animal.


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