Did infamous Tennesee veterinarian William Baber have an evil twin practising in North Dakota? An evil twin who has now moved to ply his trade in Minnesota? Interesting how these bad vets get disciplined in one state and then move to another, isn't it -- just like yesterday's bad vet.
Readers should remember the story of Tennessee vet William Baber, who is facing 12 criminal counts including four counts of cruelty to animals, based on his illegal use of "intracardiac injections" as a method of euthanizing -- no, we must say, killing -- shelter animals. These animals were NOT unconscious -- they had been given no drugs for sedation or pain -- prior to Baber shoving the needle into their heart. Reportedly, many dogs struggled and howled and cried as this was done to them.
In the following Veterinary Practice News Article, one vet said: "A decent veterinarian wouldn’t want to perform intracardiac euthanasias unless the animal was in a comatose or anesthetized state."
So it came as a surprise to me to read about Edward Foeltz in North Dakota -- and the harrowing story of how he used "intracardiac injection" -- also called a "heart punch" -- to kill a client's cat. Moreover, it is entirely shocking to me that the outcome of this Board complaint was merely one year of probation, and the order to provie the Board with a "written protocol for in-room euthanasia with the owner present . . . " as though the ONLY thing wrong with how he euthanized the cat was the fact that the owner was present.
In North Dakota, when disciplinary action is taken, both the complaint and the vets response become public record. Below, I excerpt from the owner's complaint, and from the vet's response.
[Cautionary note: The owners complaint should be understood to consist of allegations, which are at the time of the compaint unproven. The vet's response likewise is a defensive claim filled with information that may not be proven or provable. There are, however, many facts in this case about which both the owner and the vet, Foeltz', agree. I will point these out.]
In her complaint, the owner recounted the day that she took her beloved 16 year-old Tuxedo cat, Toby, to Dr. Foeltz at Knife River Veterinary Clinic in Beulah, North Dakota, to be euthanized.
In her complaint she said:
"Dr. Foeltz and his assistant proceed to hold Toby down . . . [I] noticed that Dr. Foeltz was feeling around for his heart. I put my face on Toby's cheek and closed my eyes that's when Dr. Foeltz must have inserted the needle because Toby meowed in pain . . . After several minutes Toby meowed again so I looked up and to my horror I saw the syringe was still in his chest moving freely about! Dr. Foeltz was still feeling around for Toby's heart. I said "I didn't know it was done this way, I thought you went in his leg." Dr. Foetz said, 'Veins are so hard to find and they move around. ' So I just closed my eyes again and kept rubbing and talking to Toby. Toby meowed again when Dr. Foelt was still feeling around for his hear. It was when Toby meowed for hte third time that I no loger could stand hearing him cry out in pain and not be able to do anything about it, so I told them I had to leave. I knew that if I stayed I'd end up stopping the procedure and that would be a mistake to let Toby suffer even more."
"The lobby offered me no comfort as I heart Toby meow two more times. Each meow sounded worse. It was one of the saddest days of my life.
"Dr. Foeltz's assistant finally came out and told me I could come back in. Toby was lying on the table with his eyes clsoed, breathing very heavy. I asked if I could hold him, she said "Yes" and left me with him." Yet, she said, at no time did he use a stethoscope to verify that his heart had stopped.
The owner then recounts that Foeltz came back in and reassured her that Toby was dead. So she took Toby out to the car, and drove home to get her checkbook to pay the vet, as they had told her they didn't take credit cards.
When she arrived home, she said, her husband looked into the truck and Toby, and saw that he was still breathing. So she had to take him back to the clinic -- and ore than a half hour after the original horrifying procedure, another vet -- named Woodruff -- told her that Toby was "in a deep, deep, sleep." This vet administered additional doses to Toby (she does not say how they were administered).
The owner claims that although Woodruff apologized to her for what had happened she also "chuckled."
The owner said that she subsequently consulted with other veterinarians who told her that using a heart shot should ONLY be a last resort, and that it should be done only after sedative is given. This is consitent, by the way, with remarks made about the Baber case.
The vet's response to this complaint was written in one long page and a half with no paragraph breaks. In his response, Foeltz claimed that Toby was "unresponsive" when he went to euthanize him. He said: "Toby was the fourth cat I had to euthanise in the three months of practice I had at the time." [WHAT????? THEY ARE STILL TEACHING THIS BARBARIC TECHNIQE IN VET SCHOOL???]
Explaining why he gave Toby an injection into his heart, he said: "Toby was very unresponsive so I felt the quickest, least painful, and most companionate way to euthanize him was to put 1 cc of euthanasia solution directly into his heart. This was because of his physicial state I didn't feel that using a leg vein would be possible, but that is the way I prefer to euthanise animals."
He said, affirming some of the complainants account: "I did insert the needle and he did meow, but he didn't move and he was only being restrained minimally."
Gee whiz dude, when you are so sick you can't move, what if the nursing home staff restrain you "minimally" when they stick a needle in your heart while you are fully conscious and sort of ignore your cries. How would that be for you?
Foeltz does not address the client's claims that he repeatedly searched around for the heart with this needle. He says:
"I drew back on the syringe and got a flash of blood back into the syringe and then injected the euthanasia solutioin. He did meow again when the solution went into the heart, but at no point during the procedure did he move."
WELL DUH!!! PEOPLE -- AND ANIMALS -- WHO CAN'T MOVE CAN STILL FEEL PAIN, AND YOU AND YOUR ASSISTANT WERE HOLDING HIM, A-HOLE!!!
Foeltz claims that he returned to the room and used a stethoscope to listen for a heartbeat. This version of events is contradicted by the client. He claims he didn't hear a heart beat.
He acknowledges that Toby was taken from the practice and then later returned still alive, in a "deep sleep" at which time "2 more cc's of solution was administered to Toby, through two 1 cc injections to finally make his heart stop."
Foeltz continued to stand by heart shots as an acceptable method of euthanasia for "highly unresponsive cats." Several things are disturbing about this statement. First of all, when a being is VERY ill, they can be unresponsive but still feel pain. The inability to move does not correlate with the inability to feel pain. Second, MEOWING IS A RESPONSE. A cat that meows with pain is not unresponsive. Third, he says "cats." What -- does he have some particular loathing for cats that he reserves this special method of killing only for them? What a peach of a guy he is!
More insight into this man's psyche is evident in his comments about the client. Describing a conversation he had with her in which says he apologized to her "for her loss and for what she experienced" [get that? Not apologizing for what he DID. Apologizing for her LOSS], he said that "She was les then [sic] receptive to the apology and just wanted to vent her anger."
Foeltz also said: "I also have been at the clinic long enough that I can chose [sic] if I want an owner present during the euthanasia. In this case I wouldn't have allowed Miss [x] to be in the room during the procedure due to her state of mind."
BLAMING THE VICTIM!!!! OVER AND OVER that's what this narcissistic freaks do -- no responsibility for their behavior. The problem is NOT how he killed her cat, but rather her "state of mind" and the fact that he ALLOWED her to be present during her beloved 16-year old pets euthanasia.
He goes on to say: "I admit that in this case I made a bad assumption that 1 cc of euthanasia solution would be enough to euthanise Toby, but I should have made Miss [x] put him on the exam table so I could listen to his heart better, no matter how much [she] refused." Keep in mind dear reader, that the client's account of what happened DOES NOT include her refusal to put Toby on an exam table. He adds: "Since Toby I have unfortunately had to euthanise many of peoples beloved pets and haven't had the problems I had with Miss [X] [the owner of Toby]".
Get a load of this freak! He had problems with Miss [x], the owner of Toby -- she's a problem client, rather than him being incompetent and cruel! What a psycho!
Foeltz does say that he will in the future use xylazine as a sedative before giving heart shots in the future "if I feel the best way to euthanize a cat is by injection into their heart." As though it's HIS choice. He also speaks of CHOOSING himself whether or not to ALLOW owers to be with their pets. I guess he figures there will be no one to witness his cruelty. And why are cats repeatedly singled out for this treatment?
In her letter to the Board, the owner said: "I still find myself crying, not just because Toby is gone, but at the HORRER of his last hour of life. He was SUCH a WONDERFUL companion ad friend. I can't stress enough how much love, laughter, & companionship he brought to my familly and me . . . There is not enough paper in the world or words in any language that could ever express how much he is loved and the terrible sadness that still lingers in our hearts."
She closed her letter with a plea to the veterinary board:
" . . . going directly into the heart without sedation is EXTREMELY CRUEL! PLEASE!!!!! DO NOT let another animal be subjected to the torture our Toby endured."
Well, dear lady, sadly, nothing the vet board did in this case will prevent this from happening again. With their emphasis on Foeltz having to come up with "a written protocol for in-room euthanasia with the owner present that meets the minimum standards of practice," they imply that the only thing wrong with what he did to Toby is that he let you witness it. And, they also imply that minimum standards of practice apply only when there is someone there to witness the veterinarian's actions.
Foeltz has said he will continue his heart punch method when he sees fit, and it seems to be specially reserved for kitties. Although he now says he will sedate them first -- with xylazine.
About that xylazine, is it another sadistic plan?
According to this: http://www.ccac.ca/en/CCAC_Programs/ETCC/Module10/xylazine.html cats and dogs may vomit soon after the administration of xylazine. The vets I know now use telazol which does not do this. Moreover the following article says that the use of xylazine alone as a pre-euthanasia sedative leaves the animals "seemingly conscious and aware of pain."
One poster in response to this article added: "I work in an animal shelter and xylazine does NOT offer a humane way of putting animals to sleep. Many cats go into seizures . . . "
So, Foeltz plan for preventing horror scenes like the one that occurred with Toby is that prior to injecting them in the heart, he's going to give them a shot that makes them puke, gives them seizures, and leaves them conscious and aware of pain?
Is he a freakin SADIST?
This article -- sadly from my state of Maryland, describes the horrific scenes that are ensuing now at Maryland shelters as xylazine is being used in place of ketamine. http://www.hometownannapolis.com/cgi-bin/readne/2008/02_03-24/TOP "The xlayzine leaves animals woozy and desensitized, but "clearly you can tell the animal still knows what's going on . . . we don't know if we can prevent convulsions in the animal "
As for the overall practice of intracardiac injections, the Humane Society of the United States has said in its guidelines on shelter medicine:
"Intracardiac (IC) injections (into one of the four chambers of the heart) are acceptable only for animals who have been verified as unconscious. An injection into a conscious animal’s chest is stressful and extremely painful and therefore considered to be cruel."
Also, NIH guidelines for euthanasia of lab animals also state that intra-cardiac injections are "acceptable only when performed on heavily sedated, anesthetized, or comatose animals."
Which, Toby clearly was not.
The Vermont Department of Agriculture states that: "At no time shall intracardiac injections be used on conscious animals."
Similar explicit restrictions are in place at universities nationwide.
Furthermore, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) euthanasia guidelines state:
"Intracardiac injection is acceptable only when performed on heavily sedated, anesthetized, or comatose animals. It is not considered acceptable in awake animals, owing to the difficulty and unpredictability of performing the injection accurately."
In the State of North Dakota, Veterinarians are "immune from liability" under animal cruelty laws. So even though Foeltz' actions were -- by definitions of many accepted guidelines -- inhumane, and at first blush, it may seem that Toby's humans would have a good basis for animal cruelty charges -- in the State of North Dakota, like about half of the states in the U.S. -- veterinarians are "immune to prosecution" under animal cruelty statutes.
ALERT: As of July 2007, Foeltz had been issued a "conditional license" to practice in Minnesota. Minnesota Pet Parents, BEWARE!