Military Working Dog, Rico, retired after nine years of dedicated service and is now living the good life as a civilian with his former handler.

As 1 of only 10 accredited military veterinary hospitals in the US, Dover Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility cares for some of the armed forces’ most important animals, including decorated military dogs.

Still, Capt. Amanda Jeffries, DVM, says military veterinary facilities often get a bad rap.

“Many outside veterinary facilities admitted to having perceived us as ‘just a vaccine clinic,’” she said. “During my past two years as the Officer-in-Charge of the Dover Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility, I have made every effort to change the image of our clinic to the surrounding veterinary community.”

At AAHA, we like to say our accredited hospitals are “Champions for Excellent Care,” and we urge them to publicize their accreditation using both the tools we’ve developed (aaha.org/publicity) and creative ideas of their own.

Thanks in part to Dover’s recent accreditation, Jeffries said that view is beginning to change.

“Now that we are accredited, we can further change that perception from being ‘just a full-service small animal hospital’ to a hospital practicing the highest standards of care.”

Trends: Dover Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility became an AAHA-accredited hospital in 2016. What motivated you to pursue accreditation?

Capt. Amanda Jeffries: Our hospital was actually designated by our chain of command to take on the AAHA accreditation process. Every year, our processes are internally evaluated to ensure we are providing the highest quality veterinary care; AAHA accreditation provided an opportunity to take that to another level by allowing a nonbiased entity to evaluate us.

Trends: The US Army Veterinary Corps also celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016. Besides supporting service members’ pets, what roles do veterinary professionals fill in the Army?

AJ: Veterinarians play many different roles in the U.S. Army, and supporting service members’ pets is just a very small part of it. First and foremost, we care for Military Working Dogs (MWDs), as well as other Government-Owned Animals (GOAs), including Secret Service canines, Transportation Security Administration canines, Department of Homeland Security canines, and Customs and Border Protection canines, just to name a few. We also provide care for other types of GOAs, such as the US Military Academy’s mule mascots and the caisson horses who work at Arlington National Cemetery. In addition, Army veterinarians offer humanitarian assistance abroad by providing education in animal husbandry.

But our job doesn’t stop at the animals—we also provide food inspection and defense. Every day, veterinarians around the world perform food production facility audits to ensure the food purchased by the Department of Defense is safe. You can also find Veterinary Service Soldiers inside the commissary inspecting fresh fruits and vegetables, verifying food temperatures, and ensuring proper sanitation practices are performed. This role is vital to protecting the force.

Last but not least, at our core, we are soldiers. We train, teach, and mentor the animal care and food inspection specialists who serve alongside us every day and help us accomplish our mission.

Trends: Would you recommend AAHA accreditation to other military facilities? Why?

AJ: Absolutely, and I already have. I encourage my colleagues to take on this challenge as an opportunity to become more aware of both their weaknesses and strengths. It’s an opportunity to improve, and we should always be trying to better ourselves and our practices. And who doesn’t love a good challenge?

Trends: What creative or fun ideas have you come up with to promote your accreditation, both online and within the hospital?

AJ: We don’t have a large online presence at this time, but we proudly display our AAHA accreditation throughout the hospital. In fact, our accreditation certificate is hung next to photos of our most distinguished patients, our MWDs! Additionally, we have AAHA table mats in every exam room that help to reduce anxiety in our patients while on the examination table, and we keep the "We Are Champions for Excellent Care: We Are AAHA Accredited" brochures stocked in our lobby. All of these items are conversation starters for us to talk with our clients about what accreditation is and how we achieved it.

Trends: What one new thing do you plan on doing in your practice in the next year to improve how you promote your accreditation?

AJ: As we grow our online presence over the next year, I would like to educate our followers on what accreditation means to us—and what it should mean to them, which is the highest standards of care for their pets. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, DOD, or the US Government.

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