(CBS) — Could pet owners be using their animals as a way to score drugs?
In recent years, veterinarians have had to train themselves to look for clues in pet owners, who may be drug addicts, who are intentionally hurting their pet to gain access to medication.
“We would never think of people using or abusing these drugs,” Dr. Duffy Jones, owner of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, told CBS News. “We typically believe what people tell us and we don’t want a pet in pain, but now we’re taking a bit more of a critical look at exactly what the client is like and what the dog is like — does it fit?”
The training begins in veterinarian school, Jones said, but has expanded to animal hospitals nationwide with the larger report in incidents. Years ago, vets were told to closely examine pets and to look for recurring wounds, and then grill the owners. Now, vets are told to closely look at the owners.
“We’re really looking for things that don’t match up,” Jones said. “As we start to question the owner, we look at the owner’s response.”
A red flag? New clients – those typically tend to be people who try to score drugs, Jones said.
“The ones being abused aren’t seeing us regularly; they’re moving from vet to vet,” he said.
Jones said things the trigger vets include: pet owners refusing to allow a hospital to get a hold of previous records, pet owners who actively look for drugs, especially Tramadol.
In those cases, vets are then advised to look for a drug-free, safe alternative to treat the injured animal.
Pet owners attempting to score Tramadol, an oral medication with opiate-like effects, have been an issue nationwide.
Dr. John Gicking, a veterinarian at Blue Pearl in Tampa, Florida, told CBS affiliate WTSP he also looks for red flags in owners whenever he prescribes the drug.
“Prescriptions are being used up faster or they have been reported to being spilled multiple times,” Gicking said.
In Kentucky, police say, a dog owner named Heather Pereira, 23, cut her dog with razor blades just so she could take the dog’s pain medication in 2014. She was sentenced to four years in prison, WSB-TV reports.
Then in Oregon last year, a raid led to 100,000 Tramadol pills and a rescue of over a dozen dogs, WTSP reports.
“It’s just as bad because if a dog’s in pain, they really need them,” Jones said.