Veterinarian Clifton Hashimoto expects deeper bonds between pets and their owners will be good for a variety of businesses.

Animal doctor thinks
pet insurance is a good idea

Clifton Hashimoto

>> Board post: President of the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association
>> Day job: Veterinarian at Family Veterinary Clinic
>> Other veterinary association officers: President Elect Alan Miyahara; Vice President Rebecca Rhoades; Secretary Laurel Rhodes; Treasurer Manuel Himenes; American Veterinary Medical Association delegate Cordell Chang; Maui delegate Roger Kehler; Hawaii delegate Aaron Lorshbough; Oahu delegates Peter Herman, Leianne Leeloy and Herbert Rebhan; Executive Vice President Eric Ako
>> Number of members: 250

What is the mission of the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association?

To provide several things. It's an organization by which veterinarians can gather and get to know each other as colleagues. It also provides continuing education for vets. It works to maintain good standards of medicine. And it provides a public outlet for complaints, a means to self-regulate the profession.

National statistics on pet care reflect a trend toward greater spending on pets. Have you seen that in Hawaii?

Yes, that's pretty much true nationwide, even in Hawaii.

People seem willing to spend more on things like better quality food even in tough economic times like these. Why do you think that is?

Pets are becoming part of the family. The dog used to be the dog, living in the yard. Now the dog is like their second kid, or even their only companion. Pets mean more, so pet owners are willing to spend more.

Wal-Mart has made huge inroads into pet care sales nationwide. But while Wal-Mart is here, we also seem to have a fair number of mom-and-pop pet stores that do well. How do they compete?

As pet ownership seems to have a lot more meaning for a lot more people, we're going to see more pet-related businesses pop up. The veterinary field is certainly getting people to spend more on pets. I expect all these businesses are doing pretty well.

How do veterinary offices like yours distinguish themselves from the competition in what looks like a pretty crowded marketplace?

Quality of pet care. There are individual services that certain veterinary clinics establish themselves as being good at. A lot of it is location as well. A lot of people don't want to drive all over the island with an 80 pound Great Dane in the car. They want someplace close. Although we do have people who drive a long way to see their doctor, and I'm sure other clinics do as well.

Do you think pet health insurance is a good choice for the average pet owner?

I do. If you have a healthy pet, it may cost you more money. It depends on the clinic. Some clinics have very low fees, some have very high fees. But the majority of things that happen to your pet, you don't expect. Everything is fine with your 2-year-old dog and then he gets hit by a car. Or you cat is developing cancer right under your nose . Years later you're facing chemotherapy and other expensive treatments. Pet owners wind up having to make very emotional decisions based on cost. We feel bad in those situations, but we have to make a living. So, as a vet, it makes my job easier if cost is not such a factor in treatment decisions.

How do you think the new quarantine rules will affect Hawaii's pet population?

We're going to see a lot more people who wanted to move to Hawaii move to Hawaii and bring their pets. There are worries that some diseases we don't have here might come in. Not so much rabies, which was the focus of the quarantine program, but others that may have been kept out inadvertently, flea- and tick-born diseases that we don't have here. On the other hand, I always worried about the older pets, especially the ones with health problems, that had to go through that separation from their families. And it will certainly have to improve the genetic pool for our breeders, if they chose to take advantage of that.

Inside Hawaii Inc. is a conversation with a member of the Hawaii business community who has changed jobs, been elected to a board or been recognized for accomplishments. Send questions and comments to:


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