Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pennsylvania veterinarian cited for cruelty

According to a local newspaper,

[a] veterinarian to some of the county's largest breeding kennels has been charged with animal cruelty for allegedly mutilating a puppy's tail....

...A police affidavit states that an undercover humane police officer watched Stevenson treat the puppy's already-mutilated and bleeding tail by "soaking it in scalding water and cutting it with a pair of tin snips (shears) without sedation or prior numbing of the tail.

Read more in this LancasterOnline article by writer Susan E. Lindt.

Two news items about veterinary misconduct in a week. Sad sad sad. Although I will take this opportunity to say - again - that I have nothing against veterinarians and most really do care about the animals in their care.

But - also again - I handle a lot of veterinary malpractice cases. To the best of my knowledge, I've been handling more vet malpractice, on a more regular basis, than anyone else in Illinois, possibly the entire Midwest, and by all accounts apparently as often as anyone else in the country, for the better part of a decade now. Not to mention those occasional instances where the vet's conduct falls so outside the pale of veterinary medicine that the vet skips right over the potential malpractice liability and into the realm of an animal cruelty charge.

I had one veterinary defendant once who told his clients that he was going to perform a particular, patented procedure on their dog but performed his own procedure instead. Things went sour and he ended up performing three surgeries on one leg and six on the other - with the six-surgeried leg becoming so gimped that, about a year later, when the clients moved out of state and took their dog to a different surgeon, he said there was nothing left to do but amputate. Or the dog that had twelve bladderstones and the vet removed three. Then there was a woman whose vet left a hole in the skin over her dog's abdomen following surgery and the dog's insides were kinda falling out. Really. I saw the photos. No one should ever have to look at such photos, never mind live through them. I had a case once where I brought (civil) cruelty charges against an entire veterinary school on behalf of a greyhound who went in for an undiagnosed condition and died about two weeks later of severe internal hemmoraghing... because while he was there he apparently needed to be "subdued" by the staff... which turned out to involve about six vet techs jumping on top of this ill greyhound, cracking its ribs, and then not telling the owners who could not figure out why their dog was taking such a turn for the worse.

Some of these cases I settled. Some the client gave up along the way. Many times, aggrieved animal owners don't even try to pursue claims against veterinarians, due to the time and expense involved in veterinary malpractice lawsuits and the fact that veterinary insurance carriers generally will spend any sum of money needed to defend a claim rather than pay a penny to settle - even without any admission of liability.

Which is precisely why it is soooooo important for states, like Pennsylvania (above) and Georgia (see post from a few days ago) to take administrative disciplinary complaints and criminal cruelty charges against vets seriously. Owners can't prosecute these matters personally. States need to be the voice for the owners, and, of course, the animals.


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Ana said...

Thanks for the post. I appreciate hearing from your first-hand perspective.

I keep telling people that the vet industry is becoming more and more like the human health care industry, but not in a good way. It's becoming more corporate, with an accompanying drive for profit and objectification of the patient. But I didn't know about the malpractice.

Stefani said...

Amy, Thank you.

Unfortunately, as you know, State Veterinary Board actions are woefully inadequate as any kind of deterrant. They fail to revoke licenses of obvious repeat malpractitioners and even abusers, and in my view, are responsible for the subsequent injuries and deaths that ensue. I have been requesting State Vet Board documents for years now and feature them on my blog, The Bad Vet Daily ( I have to be careful of my language for obvious reasons but this stuff is based on public record, read between the lines. Also, notice the measely excuses for disciplinary action taken by the Boards.

My own cat was given an massive insulin overdose at his vets, nearly killing him and leaving him severely and permanently brain damaged. The state board fined the vet $250.

"Pocket's Story from New Hampshire" said...

Amy, Thank you for the post. Unfortunately as you know, many state veterinary boards hide & coverup the worst of animal cruelty. And limited budgets all but dismiss, prosecute, or even investigate anything to do with animals.

I should know, I witnessed veterinary animal cruelty first-hand in my own state of NH, with my own beloved companion dog, only to find that all government resources shut the door. Why? Because the very nature of the fraud benefited my own state-sponsored educational institution!

I'll never forget the incident, nor allow any intimidation to silence me.

Thank you, Barbara A. Albright
Chester, NH

Katerina said...

Asproolee’s Story

Katerina said...

Ms. Breyer, THANK YOU for your post.

I am a grieving guardian who lost my companion to veterinarians’ negligence/malpractice. The veterinary boards of medical examiners dismiss 90 percent of the complaints, as I have personally experienced. In my opinion, the boards do not protect or represent the public, but the veterinarians. Furthermore, the release of disciplined veterinarian records or ANY board proceedings is prohibited by my state’s law. The current law considers our companions “mere property” and the veterinary services consumers who lose companion animals to veterinarians’ intentional/unintentional wrong-doing have no established legal remedy to pursue justice.

Because of lack of state protection, animal status, and limited or unavailability of animal law attorneys, and/or unwilling attorneys to represent animal law cases, cruelty and vet mal will prevail! I was fortunate to find and retain an attorney to pursue my case in a court of law, but it is progressing extremely slow! However until the current animal law changes and the status of companion animals is elevated to a “special property or sentient property,” there will be no veterinarian accountability for harming companion animals intentionally/unintentionally.

Read more about the board on Asproolee’s Story

Benny said...

My yellow lab underwent surgery for a bowel obstruction and following the surgery, a vet tech attempted to place a urinary catheter. She consulted the vet and together they perforated his urethra, prostate, and according to the contrast xrays "the lower urinary system". His abdomen quickly filled with 2 liters of urine causing abdominal organs to adhere to one another. His "chemical peritonitis" from the urine caused a massive loss of protein/albumin from the intravascular space. We transported our baby to another facility to try to repair the urethra and he arrested on the table. We subsequently took him to Texas A & M for critical care, but we are not at all happy with the care he received there. Our "Patton" died of a uroabdomen from vet malpractice. My husband, who just took the bar exam, is going to take pro bono cases of vet malpractice in the near future. We are advocates of our furry children and want to help. With me as an Advanced Practice Nurse and he an attorney, we hope to lobby, advocate, and represent pet owners against cruel veterinarians. If enough of us act and work together, we may be able to actually change laws that state animals are just property that depreciate in value. Our loss has turned into a campaign against pet violence, neglect, and malpractice. Let's fight together for the welfare of our companions and best friends, our animals.