June 12, 2008
Steven Hansen, DVM
Senior Vice President
Vice President, Knowledge Management
Animal Poison Control Center
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
1717 South Philo Road
Urbana, IL 61802
I have just gotten off the phone with your emergency animal poison control center. I am utterly incensed. I am appalled at the level of service provided. Most significantly, I am grateful that my situation wasn’t actually a dire emergency.
In the unfortunate event that you come home to find your dog has chewed up ant bait, the thing you’d want most is immediate access to a helpful, reassuring, and reliable source. In a frantic and scared state, you would want to have your call picked up within a reasonable amount of time. You would want to speak to a qualified, intelligent human—if not a veterinarian. You would certainly want to know as soon as possible how to help your ailing dog.
Both my local vet’s office and the local animal hospital advised your call center over speaking to a vet. So it’s unfortunate—and almost unfathomable—that the only national call center of this kind has the worst customer service in the history of help lines.
What you get, instead, by calling your control center is a 10-minute wait on a static-filled phoneline, while you listen to disco-themed hold music. When an operator finally picks up the phone, you will have to answer a battery of personal questions read from a script before you can explain your emergency. If you don’t know the name of the poison your dog has chewed (possibly because the dog has chewed it), you cannot be advised in any way as to the symptoms to watch for—or any possible side effects of poison. But you can speak to a vet—provided you have an easily-accessible credit card and $60 to spare.
If you hang up and scramble around looking for the box that the poison came in—or go to the store to find out what it was—you have the opportunity to go through the call center experience again. And it doesn’t matter if you have the EPA code, the active poison, and the serial number of the product; you’re not getting any help without that credit card and a charge of $60.
If your mission is the prevention of cruelty to animals, your poison control center is failing abominably. With a budget of over $4 million a year, I would hope that the center could do a little better. I almost regret having donated to the ASPCA.