Thursday, April 10, 2008

Louisiana Veterinarian Michael Williams Kills Client's Dog During Katrina

Some tragedies are caused by natural disasters; they are heartbreaking, but they were not caused deliberately by a person.

Other tragedies are man-made: immoral, intentional acts. Some of these immoral, intentional acts causing great heartache occurred during Katrina. And one of them was perpetrated by veterinarian Michael Williams, DVM.

In a Consent Order signed by Williams, the Louisiana Veterinary Board's Findings of Fact make clear the sequence of events that led to this horrible outcome.

Dr. Williams was a practising vet in New Orleans in August, 2005. You may remember -- it was at the end of that month that Hurricane Katrina hit down.

On August 24, 2005, a regular client of Dr. Williams brought her dog, Nietzsche, in to his clinic for boarding. Nietzsche's owner needed to go to Florida to deal with family issues. Nietzsche's owner planned to be back to pick Nietzsche up on August 27th.

Just the day before she boarded Nietzsche, what later became Hurricane Katrina was only a tropical depression over the Bahamas.

But Hurricane Katrina hit Florida on August 25th. The storm continued back out over the Gulf of Mexico and ultimately made a second landfall on August 29th in Louisiana.

According to the Board's document:

"[Nietzshe's owner] was unable to timely return to New Orleans due to contra flow of traffic exiting the city based on the mandatory evacuation and cancellation of air flight."

They go on to say:

"At no time did the owner consent to euthanasia which is not disputed by [Williams] . . . Euthanasia was performed on Nietzsche by [Williams] sometime subsequent to Hurricane Katrina's landfall without the owners consent."

Just pause for a minute. Consider this: This is that dog's trusted vet. His owner entrusted his care to his vet. There was nothing wrong with him and no reason for him to be killed.

But while other veterinarians were joining forces with humanitarians to plan to save lives, Williams chose a different path.

According to the Board:

"[Williams] asserts that it was a humane and ethical act to perform facing the devastation from a major hurricane . . . However, [Williams] conduct in performing euthanasia on a health animal without the owners prior written consent is a violation of the LA Veterinary Practice Act and the rules promulgated by the Board."

The Board fined Williams $1,000 and placed him on probation for "his unprofessional conduct . . . " They also made him pay the Board back the $1,500 in costs for investigating the case.

Do you think that is enough?

When a vet will not merely abandon your animal -- but kill it -- rather than rescue him during an emergency -- is that the kind of person who you should ever trust with your pets.

It has been alleged that doctors "euthanized" critically ill hospital patients during the Katrina crisis. That too, is horrific.

But in Nietzsche's case, he wasn't sick, he was healthy. Nietszche wasn't homeless or in a shelter - he had a loving owner trying to get back to him. A loving owner who would likely be snuggling with him today if it were not for the actions of a vet who did not merit the trust placed in him.

This story just breaks my heart.