Monday, March 10, 2008

International Health Certificates

Every couple of months I get an update on my malpractice insurance. The update comes with a summery of "closed cases", basically examples of cases gone wrong where someone has sued, or threatened to sue. It's always a fun read. Usually the cases fall into one of two categorizes: 1) "I waited 6 weeks to get my cat treated and now he's dead, someone has to pay", or 2) The veterinarian left some cow on the table to fix lunch and the cow died, now someone has to pay". I read them as a reminder to make sure I answer all peoples questions. (Something like 85% of all malpractice lawsuits result from miscommunication)

However, this month's capsule was different. We all write health certificates for pets traveling to different states and there is a HUGE gap between what the certificate says and what most clients believe the certificate says. Here in Tennessee the certificate states, "the animal is free of communicable disease". Notice, it does not say that the pet is "healthy". Theoretically, I could write a certificate for travel to a dog with a broken leg, but not to a dog with fleas. Veterinarians who misunderstand what these certificates mean get sued all the time. I know of one lawsuit where a veterinarian wrote a health certificate for a dog with skin problems only to have the family receiving the dog come down with ring worm. Not good.

Back to the capsules: there were 4 different lawsuits filed over dogs that were brought to different countries with incorrect health certificates. This is clearly the veterinarians fault, but since a lawsuit does nothing to get your pet out of 6 months( that's right, 6 months!) of quarantine, I'm posting the link to the US Governments website to help guide you.

I would also strongly recommend that you check with the country you plan to travel to, in order to make sure you have the most recent information.

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