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