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Megan Croce – Banfield Pet Hospital

In-house lawyer is a company’s best friend

Recently, Megan Croce took her rescue dog Sadie, an Australian shepherd and beagle mix, to a local Banfield Pet Hospital for routine dental work. Later that night, after the hospital had closed, Croce received a call from a veterinarian who wanted to discuss Sadie’s health.

Megan Croce – Banfield Pet Hospital

Megan Croce | General Counsel | Banfield Pet Hospital

Little did the vet know that Croce was the general counsel for the Banfield company.

“She had no idea who I was or my title or that I’m on the executive management team,” Croce tells Vanguard from her home in a suburb of Vancouver, Washington. “This is how she treats all her clients, and it’s one of the many reasons I’m proud to work at Banfield.”

Croce—and the company’s more than 19,000 associates at over 1,000 clinics in 42 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico—work toward the same goal: to ensure pets get the high-quality, compassionate veterinary care they need. For 30 years that’s been the company’s focus, and now, when people are spending more time at home—and with their pets—Banfield’s services are more important than ever, Croce notes.

Pandemic pet care

“In the beginning, we tracked executive orders that were coming quickly from federal, state and local levels,” Croce says about her four-person legal department dealing with COVID-19. “We helped the company review and translate these often-confusing orders into easy-to-understand guidance for our hospital’s teams, so they could continue to focus on providing quality care to pets while keeping everyone safe.”

Megan Croce – Banfield Pet Hospital

Early in the pandemic, the company created curbside drop-off for pets, and provided personal protective equipment and cleaning and disinfecting guidelines across its hospitals.

While state, city and federal orders were changing almost daily, Banfield, with the guidance of the legal team, opted for the highest safety measures for all locations.

“It’s not often that the legal department is seen as an enabler, but we were helping to keep the Banfield doors open,” Croce says. “It showed the real value a legal team can bring, and I’m so proud of my team for tackling these really tricky situations while keeping our associates, clients and pets top of mind.”

Being part of the business

In addition to helping Banfield navigate the pandemic, Croce says she and her team are business enablers.

“I’m a firm believer in legal having a seat at the executive table,” Croce says. “If you were to join an executive meeting at Banfield, you wouldn’t know who was representing which functional team as we all put on our enterprise hats.”

In 2019, for instance, the legal team helped launch Banfield’s telehealth offering, Vet Chat, which allows Banfield’s Optimum Wellness Plan clients to connect with a veterinarian 24/7.

Megan Croce – Banfield Pet Hospital

When it comes to veterinary telehealth services, Croce says laws and regulations vary by state—specifically the veterinarian-client-patient relationship—so Banfield teams rely heavily on the legal team to ensure the offering is compliant and beneficial to both hospital teams and pet owners.

“Banfield saw more than a 150 percent increase in Vet Chat activity during the height of the pandemic,” Croce says. “This spike demonstrates this innovative tool is helping our clients get the support and answers they need at home.”

As the veterinary industry continues to grapple with the pandemic—and with the rise in pet ownership—Croce notes that Banfield must leverage its size to find new and innovative ways to be there for hospital teams, pets and clients.

Litigation in the veterinary industry

Croce says it’s rare that Banfield has faced general liability litigation. She gives credit for this to the work of hospital teams and Banfield’s client advocacy group, both of which are dedicated to working directly with pet owners to address individual concerns. They do a great job when having challenging conversations, she adds.

Litigation in the veterinary industry might happen in the labor and employment space, but considering Banfield’s size, its volume is low, Croce says.

Megan Croce – Banfield Pet Hospital

“At Banfield, we’re committed to building a culture that puts our people first, and we’re proud of our benefits package that touches on various dimensions of health and well-being, including student debt repayment programs, continuing education support, paid parental leave and so much more,” she explains. “It’s a pretty generous package and is an offering that is unique in our industry.”

Wanting to make an impact

While studying at the University of Denver, Croce had a mentor—the school’s vice president of human resources—who was an employment lawyer by trade and suggested that she try law school. Croce attended the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, California, and tried her hand at legal disciplines including discrimination, harassment and retaliations.

Croce started her career as a labor and employment attorney. She enjoyed the work, but wanted to be more involved in the business, too.

Megan Croce – Banfield Pet Hospital

She took human resources roles at Kelsey National Corporation and Deloitte in Los Angeles, before becoming the general counsel and vice president of human resources for InterDent Service Corporation, also known as Gentle Dental.

In 2017, Croce took the position of senior legal counsel and senior director for Banfield. She was elevated to her current position in January 2019.

Her team at Banfield includes three “rockstar attorneys and a paralegal,” she notes, adding that they’re an amazing, small but mighty team that has embraced the philosophy and culture Banfield continues to build.

“Everything comes back to our mission: ‘A Better World For Pets,’” Croce says.

And she can say that from experience, too.

Published on: January 18, 2021

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