Facing a security wake-up call at our veterinary hospital

Facing a security wake-up call at our veterinary hospital

We learned an alarming lesson the night a burglar broke into our veterinary hospital—we weren't well prepared.
Dec 01, 2013

It was a somewhat typical Thursday night when I got the call. I had worked the morning shift so I could make the 30-minute drive back home to get my few remaining hairs cut. Afterward, I stopped at home, checked a few chores off my list and returned to the office before my associate's shift ended. This particular day ended with a shareholders meeting regarding my emergency clinic, so you can be sure I was very happy to get undressed and climb into bed that evening. Oh, that bed felt so very good—until the phone rang.

A call for help

The caller ID indicated that my office manager, Rox, was on the other end. My first thought was that something might be amiss and she wouldn't be able to work the next day. Like me, my manager is typically an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of person. In a sleepy voice Rox told me that the security company had called her about our veterinary clinic. We'd experienced false alarms maybe twice a year, so I wasn't overly concerned. However, this time would be turn out to be different.

"Doc," she said in a weary voice. "Someone threw a rock through a window and they want me down there right now."

She only lived 5 minutes away from the clinic and told me to wait for her call. "Curse those teenagers!" I thought. We'd faced problems with minor vandalism to the front of the hospital before.

With a sense of dread starting to build, I got dressed and got back into bed to wait for the next call, which came about 15 minutes later. The news wasn't good. There had been a break-in. Sheriff's deputies were on the scene at the hospital en masse, with guns drawn, combing the building and surrounding property. I jumped into the car and headed for the veterinary hospital.

Setting the scene

The scene was so bizarre and surreal when I arrived. The entry to the parking lot was blocked and there must have been eight or nine police cars on site. Deputies were congregating in groups. I could see activity inside the hospital. I was advised that at least one perpetrator had been caught hiding outside the building. My manager and an officer were reviewing security camera footage but they couldn't see much.

I didn't need to review the tape to see that the perp had broken through one of the large double-pane solid glass windows in our surgery suite. Neighbors had heard the racket and alerted the sheriff's department that foul play was afoot in the vicinity. The force of the glass breaking had sent shards large and small throughout our surgery suite, which is large enough to easily accommodate two exam tables. Broken glass littered the windowsill and sidewalk behind the clinic.

The officers eventually wrapped up their work and we started securing the building. Rox was in sandals, so I swept up the surgery room while I waited for a repairman to arrive—he showed up around 1 a.m. Due to the lateness of the hour, I agreed to secure the window temporarily with a hurricane-grade shutter that had been installed at my request during construction. Come to find out that the shutter brackets had been set inappropriately and the screws we had to secure the shutters were too short. (Good thing a hurricane wasn't actually approaching!) Thankfully the repairman had the proper screws with him to secure the shutters. By 1:50 a.m., I returned to my car and headed for home.