HAZARD — A local veterinary office has become part of an elite group of animal health care providers.
Town and Country Animal Clinic began the process of becoming American Animal Hospital Association certified, and while all veterinary offices must meet certain standards, AAHA has a different, much stricter set of standards that ensure its members are offering the highest possible quality of care.
Of the thousands of animal hospitals in the United States and Canada, only 15 percent are currently AAHA certified. This voluntary certification required thousands of pages of documentation and many hours of continued training.
Veterinarian Chet Ayers said he is very proud of the staff of Town and Country for putting in all of the work to get this certification. “It is a team effort,” said Dr. Ayers. “If I wanted to do it and the whole staff wasn’t on board, there is no way you could do it.”
While Ayers was adamant is saying this does not mean other veterinary practices without the certification are not good practices, the certification does ensure quality of care. That is done through intense record keeping that is evaluated by AAHA, continued education, and re-certification.
“It is a voluntary program, but basically you have to meet over 900 standards of veterinary care,” said Ayers. “It goes from preventive health care protocols, anesthesia in surgery, hospitalized patient pet care, medical record keeping, employee and staff protocols, safety.”
The stringent standards make it difficult for many hospitals to comply. Up-to-date computer systems and 24-hour veterinary care are both mandatory for the certification. It is these tough standards that exclude many practices making Town and Country the only AAHA accredited clinic in the area. “We are the only clinic in all of southeastern Kentucky,” said Ayers.
AAHA continues their evaluations so that clinics stay compliant with changes made to the standards.
“The first time you are accredited they wait two years, and then they come back into your clinic and basically do the same thing,” said Ayers. “After your second evaluation it is every three years. It is not once you are accredited, that is because the standards change.”
Ayers said that in the short time they have been accredited, they have already received notification of changes in standards. A lengthy check list of standards is on the AAHA veterinary website so that clinics can stay compliant.
Despite the difficulty in becoming compliant, Ayers said that he feels that it is worth it. “If you go to an AAHA practice it is some of the clinics that are in the top 15 percent of practices in the country,” he said.