Saturday, July 26, 2008

Harold Hill and Alpine Veterinary Hospital in Alpine CA: Inspections show "serious health threat to animal patients, their owners, and staff"

Shockingly, in spite of a history of prior violations, and several inspections which showed shocking and dangerous conditions, this story ends with the California Veterinary Board re-instating the suspended operating license of Alpine Veterinary Hospital, and then "staying" a revocation of that license, allowing the business to keep operating, albeit "on probation." I think that the history of this place should give serious pause to any one who lives in the area, uses this business, or ever even has thought of doing so.


First of all, at the time of these violations, Harold Hill had been the managing veterinarian at Alpine Hill since April, 2004. He already had a history of violations.

In 2002, he was cited for "violation Business and Professions Code sections [which relate to] fraud, deception, negligence or incompetence in the practice of veterinary medicine" and "failure to properly register a place of practice." He was fined only $300. In 2004 he was cited for violation regulations pertaining to both record-keeping AND ANESTHESIA. In keeping with the veterinary boards' often baffling history of punishing subsequent violations even more lightly than the one before, he was fined only $250 for that latter violation.

Then came the inspections.

In September 2005 a complaint was filed with the Veterinary Board stating that Alpine Veterinary Hospital was very unsanitary.

The Vet Board sent an inspector, who found that:

". . . the facility was far below the minimum standards and a serious health threat to animal patients, their owners, and the staff that worked there. The condition wa2so poor that it could not be remedied without substantial work and renovation."

Moreover, at the time of the inspection, there was NO veterinarian on the premises, and the inspector observed a unlicensed staff member performing veterinary medicine without a license.

As a result of this inspection, on November 16th of that year, an "interim suspension" was issued to both Harold Hill, DVM, and Alpine Animal Hospital itself.

The inspector went back for a recheck on November 25th, finding that "the condition of the facility was still below the minimum standards and a serious health threat to animal patients, their owners, and the staff . . ." Hill was again not present at the facility, and it is noted that he had not been there for months, and no one knew how to reach him.

What were the details of the dangerous and unsanitary conditions? Here are some excerpts:

"The surgical room was extremely unsanitary . . ."

"The floors, tables and counters in the surgical room were unsanitary. Paint was peeling off the walls and there were holes and leaks in the ceilings, dust on everything, and clutter everywhere . . . "

"The reception room was unsanitary and the lighting was too dim . . . "

"Non-surgery related items were left in the surgical room and there was no proper place for surgery . . . "

"There was no emergency light in the surgical room . . . "

"Oxygen equipment . . . was not properly maintained."

"The exposure and developing techniques for x-rays were unnacceptable . . . "

"There was no centrifuge for adequate blood preparation to ensure qulaity readings, there were also no other available basic and/or emergency lab tests on site, therefore, the laboratory services were unnacceptable . . . "

"Exercise runs . . . have wood floors . . . "

"Emergency drugs were not properly maintained . . . need to replace expired drugs . . . "

"Resuscitation bags were not properly maintained . .. Need to buy ambu-bag."

"Failed to post sign indicating 'no staff on premises overnight' . . . "

"Improper x-ray identification . . . "

"Improper hazardous waste disposal . . . "

"Inadequate anesthetic monitoring . . . "

"Failure to follow proper sanitary surgical procedures . . . "

". . . the consultant observed employee Dawn McKinney practising veterinary medicine without a license. The consultant observed Ms. McKinney perform an examination, provide treatment, and prescribe medication for the dog. The consultant confirmed that Ms. McKinney is not licensed by the California Veterinary Medical Board to practice veterinary medicine, nor is she certified as a Registered Veterinary Technician . . . "

There is more . . . but do you need more?

It seems odd to me that anyone walking into this place wouldn't have had a huge feeling of danger and walked right out with their pet. However, some people are very trusting, or may have had the kind of relationship with this place that caused them not to realize what was happening over time. And surely, no one who took their pets there knew the dirty little secrets of the surgical suite.

This story ended with Harold Hill surrendering his license, but Alpine Hospital is still in business.

Would you EVER go there? I sure woudln't!

California Vet Board Newsletter Announcing Disciplinary Action

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

VCA Vet Marjorie Field Wraps Dogs Throat and Head Too Tightly; Dog Dies of Suffocation (Michigan)

This is one of those rare cases that actually made it to court.

Here is an excerpt from the opinion of the court:

"Plaintiff [John Koester] left his dog at defendant VCA's kennel for a weekend. Plaintiff left explicit instructions not to use a collar on the dog because of a salivary gland problem for which VCA had previously treated the pet. Upon returning for the dog, plaintiff noticed that the dog's neck area was swollen. Within a few days, when the dog continued to exhibit swelling in the neck area, plaintiff returned to defendant VCA. Defendant [Marjorie] Field, a veterinarian, treated the dog by draining its enlarged gland and bandaging its neck and head. When plaintiff returned to pick up his dog after the procedure, he noticed that the dog appeared to have trouble breathing and asked defendant Field whether the bandages were too tight. Field responded that the dog would be fine once it calmed down. Later that same day, plaintiff left the dog alone for ten to fifteen minutes to run an errand. When plaintiff returned home, he discovered the dog laying motionless on the floor, having apparently choked to death. An autopsy determined that the dog suffocated to death because the bandages were wrapped too tightly."

Unfortunately, the Court did not award Koester the damages he sought for emotional distress. However, the facts of the case are there for all to see.

What kind of emotional distress do you think he suffered, contemplating his dog suffocating to death? Strangled to death by bandages wrapped too tight? What kind of emotional distress would YOU suffer?

So, here is another question: Did vet Marjorie Field move to Ohio after this case, and did she continue to practice NEGLIGENTLY?

A web search of "Marjorie Field, DVM" brings up 2003 minutes from the Ohio Veterinary Board, discussing investigation into a complaint against "Marjorie Field, DVM."


Case Details, Koester vs. VCA Animal Hospital

Citation among list of animal law cases

Actual Case Document

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Maryland Vet Jayne Tung Recommends Euthanasia Base on her Wrong Diagnosis

In April of 2007, 11-year old Irish Setter "Maire" was brought to see Dr. Jayne Tung.

The Maryland Vet Board states that "Dr. Tung misread a radiograph of "Maire" on April 13, 2007 . . . [and] as a result of her improper reading of the radiograph, Dr. Tung incorrectly diagnosed "Maire" as having cancer, and . . . Dr. Tung recommended that "Maire" be euthanized and did not discuss alternative treatment options with "Maire's" owner . . . Dr. Tung . . . [did not conform] to the minimal standards of care and treatment which are customary among veterinarians in this State."

Like so many Maryland Vet Board findings, this document leaves the reader with many questions.

Was Maire euthanized by her owners based on this misdiagnosis and the resultant recommendations of Dr. Tung?

Was she therefore euthanized unnecessarily?

The board refers to alternative treatment options . . . for what????? The cancer that Maire didn't have?

I am sure that if Maire didn't have cancer, her owner(s) would certainly have wanted to explore alternatives other than DEATH.

The Maryland Board fined Dr. Tung $600. Although they suspended her license for 2 weeks they "stayed" the entire suspension -- meaning that it was not enforced and she would not have missed a day of work. They placed her on probation for only 6 months.

A web search today on Dr. Tung didn't turn up an veterinary hospital affiliation on the first couple pages of results.

It did, however, turn up an association with our illustrious FDA. (Office of Surveillance and Compliance, to be exact.) Ah, the famously competent protectors of our pets' food supply, and our own. I bet they run out and hire every vet prone to misdiagnosis. Seems Tung isn't so good at surveilling -- at least not surveilling patient ex-rays; and not so good at complying -- with standard of care that is.

No wonder the fabulous FDA wanted her.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Alabama Vet Jerry Handley Fakes Burglary, Sets His Clinic on Fire Killing 2 Dogs and 5 Cats in the Ruse

This is a story that epitomizes how vets can lie -- lies so bald-faced, so immoral, that one is left to ask: "Is this man a sociopath?" Lies in which the vet is the hero or martyr, whose heart bleeds for animals, when the truth is -- he is a killer of animals.

This is also a story of how eager the veterinary community, and the press and community at large are, to buy into this false heroic image of veterinarians.

On April 24th, Alabama veterinarian Jerry Handley reportedly called his wife, saying he'd been shot by an intruder to his animal clinic, Handley Animal Clinic. The wife called 9-11, and when officers arrived, the building was ablaze.

The account of events was told in the publication "DVM 360," and the hero-making characterization of the approach is evident, as they paint the portrait of Handley:

DVM 360 wrote:

"Dr. Jerry Handley grabbed the gun from his truck before entering his rural Alabama practice by way of the back door, already ajar. . . . he never expected to encounter a man 6 feet tall and weighing at least 230 pounds. The intruder smelled of grease, like a mechanic, with dark hair and a tribal tattoo on his right bicep, Handley says. 'I was shocked. I didn't know anyone was there, to be honest. I just walked in,' Handley recalls of the April 24 attack that reduced his practice to ashes and nearly killed him. "Just when I realized something was wrong, someone from behind hit me in the back of the head." The blow from a second intruder stunned 51-year-old Handley, giving the assailant time to snatch the veterinarian's gun and shoot him in the arm and leg."

Painting himself as an animal-loving victim, in this article, Handley is quoted as saying: "I thought I was going to die," Handley says. "I kept blacking out. Fire was all around me. I could hear my cats crying, I just couldn't get to them." Eight animals — seven owned by Handley— died in the blaze."

Except . . . Handley's account of what happened was a fiction.

Handley later admitted that he had staged the whole thing. There never was an intruder -- and he'd shot himself as a part of this charade. He poured gasoline throughout his clinic, with two cats and five dogs inside, and set fire to it.

According to the Gadsden Times, as quoted on, the local Sheriff said that Handley may have done this to collect insurance money.

In spite of Handley's willful actions, the Sheriff is quoted in the article as having said: "He didn't intend for it [the fire] to get the animals."

OK, riddle me this: After the insane whoppers this man has told, can you please explain to me how he can have 7 animals caged inside his clinic, pour gasoline all over his clinic, set fire to it, shoot himself in the arm and leg . . . and yet he claims he "never intended" to kill the animals?

Are we still so DESPERATE to paint vets as heros, victims and martyrs, that someone is going to believe that ludicrous disclaimer after these horrible acts and mind-bogglind lies?

Perhaps even more disturbing to me than Handley's actions themselves are the fawning, idolatrous tone of the original veterinary article retelling Handley's outlandish tale, and the fact that the Sheriff and his community are even now, after the horrible truth has come out, still seemingly inclined to continue believing his statements, and extend their sympathies to him.

This man set fire to his own clinic, nearly pulled off a total scam, lied such lies that I frankly believe he must be a sociopath, and most importantly, killed 7 animals in a fire he set.

Will he be held to account for this travesty?

Jerry Handley has been charged with 7 counts of felony animal cruelty, second degree arson, and a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report. On May 30th, Handley was released on $100,000 bond and ordered to a mental health facility.

Handley will be arraigned on July 31st.


DVM 360 Article with Update Articles and Updates

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Robert Hewitt, South Carolina: Just a Record-Keeping Violation? Or something more. . . .

As I have mentioned previously here, often times veterinary boards choose to find veterinarians in violation of record-keeping statutes, when -- by reading the facts of the case in the document -- one is left to wonder if more serious things may not have occurred. This is the case with South Carolina Vet Robert Hewitt, of Hewitt Animal Hospital in Florence, South Carolina.

In 2004, the South Carolina Vet Board issued Findings which included the following:

"A canine by the name of Nikki was presented . . . [to Hewitt] . . . for treatment . . . [Hewitt] recommended and performed surgery on the animal, removing a splenic mass." Nikki was discharged later that day and her owner was told to come back the next day for IV fluids. "When the owner returned one or two days later, another veterinarian . . . [said that Nikki] did not require fluids at that time. The owner of the animal testified that the animal's condition worsened, and after not being able to contact [Hewitt] she took [Nikki] to the veterinarian who was providing weekend coverage for [Hewitt]. It was recommended by this veterinarian that [Nikki] remain at his clinic overnight and when the owner returned the following day to retrieve [Nikki], [Nikki] died shortly after after the owner arrived."

"The State alleges that [Hewitt] recommended and performed surgery on [Nikki] without first performing an adequate pre-surgical examination. Additionally, the State alleges that [Hewitt] failed to record in the patient's records some of the procedures that were performed, and failed to provide the animal with adequate post-surgical care. To substantiate the allegations, the State presented testimony from several witnesses, including an expert in the area of small animal veterinary medicine . . . the State's expert also opined that [Hewitt] failed to perform an adequate pre-operative evaluation of [Nikki], and that this failure fell below the standard of care." The document goes on to say that Hewitt asserted that he did perform a pre-operative exam, but just didn't record it in the records.


As a result of these assertions on the part of Hewitt, the Board did not find that he failed to perform an adequate pre-surgical exam. They said: ". . . the Board is concerned about the post-surgical care provided by [Hewitt]. However, the Board does not believe that any post-surgical negligence by [Hewitt] rises to the level where discipline is warranted."

They found him in violation of record-keeping only.

They gave him a penalty of $200 and required him to pay investigative costs of $1,000.

Interesting, the State fails to agree with its own experts.


South Carolina Board Order in the Case of Robert Hewitt