It may come as a surprise to pet owners, but more than 85 percent of all veterinary hospitals and clinics for companion animals in the United States and Canada are not accredited by an independent outside agency as hospitals for humans are.
We were reminded of that last week when we hosted a visit by Wanda Ross, practice consultant for the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) who came through to evaluate our hospital and review its accreditation using about 900 standards of best practices. Established in 1933 and based in Lakewood, Colo., AAHA is the only veterinary association exclusive to pets that does accreditations.
It takes significant time, money and diligence to obtain an AAHA accreditation and remain in good standing -- but it is worth every bit of the effort. We are proud to say that we are one of only eight veterinary hospitals and clinics for pets accredited by the AAHA within a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids.
To become AAHA accredited, veterinary practices first have to undergo rigorous evaluations from medical, surgical, and emotional perspectives on how they dispense care for pets and their owners. Those standards address cleanliness of the facility, how anesthesia is administered, how emergency services are dispensed, dentistry procedures, medical recordkeeping, and more.
After they are AAHA accredited, the practices have follow-up evaluations every three years to make sure standards are up to date and are followed. In our case, Dr. Greg Paplawsky and Licensed Veterinary Technician Stephanie Clifford helped Wanda perform her evaluations by escorting her throughout the facility and providing any information she requested.
The AAHA reports that nearly 60 percent of all pet owners assume their veterinary hospitals are accredited, but in reality only about 3,700 practice teams are AAHA accredited throughout the U.S. and Canada -- less than 15 percent of all such veterinary practices. The AAHA provides a handy search tool to find accredited hospitals within a certain geography: Hospital Locator.
“Any organization that serves the public in the medical field will benefit from an honest review of its practices by an independent and knowledgeable association,” Greg said. “These reviews take a lot of effort, but we truly welcome them because they become an opportunity for us to learn and improve too. It’s not often when we can spend quality time with someone like Wanda, who shares new and best practices that she observes at other veterinary hospitals across the country.”