I, like all veterinarians, must carry professional liability insurance in order to practice. My insurance provider sends periodic newsletters that report on veterinary liability lawsuits and insurance claims. Below is an excerpt from the most recent newsletter.
Hunting Pups Left Standing with Short Tails After Miscommunication
Dr. A was presented a litter of ten pups for tail docking. The owner discussed the docking with the technician and asked if the tail dock was going to be one-third. Then, the owner made a hand gesture of space of about one inch. The technician left to confirm with Dr. A that yes, the docking would be “one-third” and then the technician relayed this information to the owner. Dr. A cropped the tails leaving one-third on each pup, which is the show or conformation standard for this breed; however, the owner only intended for one-third of the tail to be removed, which is the field trial standard. The difference of leaving a third of the tail versus only removing a third of the tail was the point of miscommunication. The owner alleged the pups decreased in value from $1200 to $300 each. The owner demanded more than $20,000 for the value of the pups, stud fees, and breeding expenses. Dr. A consented to settle the case and Dr. A’s insurance carrier is working to negotiate a settlement. (Source: AVMA Professional Liability Insurance Trust newsletter, fall 2008)
Tail docking per se wasn’t the cause of Dr. A’s problems in this case. Communication problems were the root source of the lawsuit. Nonetheless, I wonder if Dr. A has ever thought to himself that he could have avoided the misery of this lawsuit if only he didn’t dock tails.
About the photo: “9”, from Connecticut, will meet neither field trial nor show standards. I think he looks good.