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Drug addicts using pets to try to get their hands on pain pills

SEATTLE -- You've probably heard about the opioid crisis. But drug addicts are now using their pets to try to get their hands on pain pills.

The most recent suspected case was reported by a clinic out of the Vancouver, Washington, area several weeks ago, according to the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association (WSVMA).

Like any person who works in a veterinary hospital, Monique Feyrecilde never wants to see a pet in pain. Especially her 9-week-old border collie.

"Why do you work at the vet? Because you love animals and you want to relieve animal suffering. We don’t want to see animals that are painful. We don’t want to see them hurting. If we can relieve their suffering in any fashion, we’ll always do our best to do so," said Feyrecilde, a licensed veterinary technician at the Mercer Island Veterinary Clinic.

It saddens her to know that some drug addicts are now using their pets to try to get their hands on pain pills. Cases that involve pet owners claiming their pet is ill or in pain to try to get a veterinarian to write a prescription that they then use for themselves.

The WSVMA has seen a handful of cases since 2009, when several Seattle-area clinics reported a woman posing as a client to get Tramadol. Feyrecilde said the woman even impersonated her to call in medications for her own animals.

"The pharmacy… good for them. They called us to verify because they had gotten multiple prescriptions that would have run out before the expiration date," Feyrecilde said. "And so they called us to verify ‘Oh, this seems like it’s an error. It doesn’t make sense.’ And we said, ‘Well, we don’t call in prescriptions for that. We always use a written prescription because it’s a controlled medication.' And so that’s what set off an alert for us."

To help detect the practice, Feyrecilde said every Tramadol pill that’s prescribed is now required to be logged.

The WSVMA even sends alerts to clinics each time a suspected drug seeker is reported.

"I find it horrifying that it happens. It makes me really sad. Really sad. But addiction is a crazy thing," Feyrecilde said.

Luckily, Feyrecilde hasn’t seen any local cases of addicts intentionally harming their pets to get their hands on pills. She hopes it never gets to that point.

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