While this case is shocking -- and sad -- what is most shocking to me is the meagre action taken by the Maryland Veterinary Board. Read on, and see if you agree.
This case resulted in three separate sets of charges being filed by the Maryland Veterinary Board against Frederick Adams of "Rocky Creek Veterinary Clinic" in Silver Spring, Maryland. The events that led to these charges took place in February 2006.
To understand this story it is important to know that this vet apparently runs his business out of the basement of his house.
Two of these charging documents begin by noting the following about Dr. Adam's physical condition as it pertains to his ability to perform surgery:
"In a medical report concerning Dr. Adams, dated Thursday, February 16, 2006, authored by Dr. Adams' surgeon, John K. Starr, M.D., and provided to the Board by Dr. Adamas, Dr. Starr, having noted 'the chronic dyeestheeias (sic) in [Dr. Adam's] upper extremities, [the] tremor of [his] right hand, and [his] overall debilitation . . . [opined that Dr. Adams] is no longer fit for surgical practice.' Indeed, Dr. Starr noted in his report that Dr. Adams had shared with him the 'he . . .is unable to continue in his capacity as a veterinary surgeon."
The first of the three charging documents (Docket No. 06-022A] goes on to say:
"Although he had been advised by his doctor that he was no longer fit for surgical practice, Dr. Adams, later that same evening, assumed the care of 'Kita,' an eleven-month old female domestic shorthair . . . to perform an ovario-hysterectomy [spay] on the cat ... At that time [Kita's owner] paid, and Dr. Adams accepted, Sixty Dollars ($60.00) toward the cost of this procedure. The parties agreed that Dr. Adams would keep Kita overnight, perform the procedure the following day, and discharge the cat to [its owner] the following evening, following payment of the remainder of the bill."
The next evening, (when the owner would have expected to pick Kita up), the owner "telephoned Dr. Adams. Dr. Adams informed [the owner] that his aunt in Baltimore had taken ill and that he had to go be with her. Dr. Adams also informed [the owner] that his associate would be at the clinic on Saturday, February 18, 2006 [the next day] and that he could retrieve Kita at that time. Dr. Adams, however, had advised another client . . . that his aunt in Baltimore had taken ill on January 19, 2006 [a month earlier] and had died on January 20, 2006" (a month earlier!)
So, as you would expect, the next day (Saturday) the owner telephoned Dr. Adams. Dr. Adams informed the owner "that his associate would not be going to the clinic that day, and therefore, [the owner] could not retrieve his cat as planned. Instead, [the owner] would have to wait until Sunday, February 19, 2006 [the next day], to retrieve his cat. That same day, however, Dr. Adams perforned a declaw procedure on another cat whose care he had assumed (to whit: Skittles, a female cat . .. ).
NOTE: Remember that this vet's Dr. had decreed that he was not fit to be performing surgery.
So, the next day, Kita's owner called Dr. Adams, several times, and left a message, but never heard from him. "As such," the document says, the owner "was unable to retrieve Kita as planned,.:
Monday, the owner called Dr. Adams, who told the owner that he [Dr. Adams] would be coming home from visiting his sick Aunt that evening.
The next day (Tuesday), the owner called Dr. Adams, but was again unable to reach him. The Board notes that "On or about that same day, however, Dr. Adams, or his associate, discharged Skittles, a female cat that also had been a patient at the clinic, to her owner . . . "
The next day, Wednesday, the owner called Dr. Adams. If my count is right, this is now the SIXTH DAY on which the owner is attempting to get his cat back -- in other words, Kita has been at this place a whole week. However, the Board says, "Dr. Adams informed [the owner] that his associate would be at the cinic that evening, and that he could retrieve Kita at that time. Later that day, Dr. Adams informed [the owner] that his associate would not be going to the clinic that evening, and therefore, [the owner] could not retrieve his cat . . . "
The next day (Thursday -- a week and a day now) , the owner AGAIN tried to contact Dr. Adams and was unable to reach him. However, the Board notes, on that same day, Skittles owner brought Skittles back to the clinic.
Friday (a week and two days now!) the owner called Dr. Adams. Dr. Adams "informed him that he was attempting to track down his associate and would let him know if she would be at the clinic on Saturday, February 25th, 2006. Later that same day [the owner] unsuccessfully attempted to reach Dr. Adams by telephone."
Well, the next day (Saturday, now we are at 10 days . . . ) the owner called Adams, who informed the owner that he would be back in town the next day (Sunday) "come hell or high water."
So, on Sunday, the owner AGAIN called Adams, leaving messages, but never heard back from him.
On Monday, February 27th, the document says, "Dr. Adams assumed the care of 'Diamond' and 'Polar Bear,' two boxes . . . for complete physicals, vaccinations, and ear croppings. Dr Adams also spoke to [Kita's owner] that evening. Dr. Adams informed [Kita's owner] that his aunt had died (as noted previously, Dr. Adams had advised another client . . . that his Aunt in Baltimore had died on January 20, 2006). Although Dr. Adams was present at the clinic that day, he advised [Kita's owner] that he would have to wait until Wednesday, March 1, 2006, to retrieve his cat. [The owner] told Dr. Adams that this was unacceptable, and that he would be contacting the authorities, whereupon Dr. Adams abruptly ended the conversation."
Umm, does that mean he hung up on the owner?
"Dr. Adams later telephoned [the owner] and left a message stating that [the owner] could retrieve Kita on Tuesday, February 26th."
But Tuesday, the owner was again unable to contact Dr. Adams to retrieve Kita.
On Wednesday, March 1, the owner called Dr. Adams. Dr. Adams told the owner "that he finally would be back in town that day, and that [the owner] could retrieve Kita between 7:30-8:00pm. [The owner] teleponed Dr. Adams to confirm that he would be there, but Dr. Adams did not return his call." He was again unable to get his cat.
Finally, on Saturday, March 4th, "Officer Dana K. Shoup, Montgomery County Police, after receiving a complaint expressing concern about the welfare of certain animals being kept at the clinic, visited Dr. Adams' residence and clinic, located at 8337 Grubb Road, Silver Spring, Maryland. Officer Coakley accompanied her. After knocking on the doors and telephoning the residence and clinic, and getting no response, they made a forced entry, assisted by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, and found Dr. Adams asleep in his bed."
"Dr. Adams advised that he had been out of town since Tuesday, February 28, 2006, because of a family emergency. After inquiring about Kita and other animals whose care he had assumed, Dr. Adams took the officers to the basement, where the clinic is located."
"Officer Shoup observed Kita in a cage without food or water. Dr. Adams stated that he had made arrangements with his daughter to care for Kita and the other animals, but was not sure if she had been to the clinic because he had not spoken to her for several days. Dr. Adams also advised that he had not been able to check on the welfare of the animals since Tuesday, February 28, 2006, and had not done so when he arrived home earlier that day.
"Dr. Adams had failed to note [Kita's owner's] name and telephone number in the patient's record. For this reason, the Montgomery County Police, Animal Services Division, were unable to notify [Kita's owner] that it had taken possession of Kita. [The owner] located Kita himself by contacting Montgomery County Animal Control."
OK, this is my county. If you knew the euthanasia rate for cats in our local shelter, the fact that this cat -- whose owner had been trying to retrieve her for over a week -- ended up in the hands of animal control would chill your blood.
The Board charged Adams with unprofessional conduct (for accepting this cat for surgery when he was told by his doctor that he was unfit for surgery); for failing to take steps to return Kita to her owner, for failint to provide basic care to Kita (including failure to ensure that she had adequate food and water).
They also charged him with neglecting Kita, and faiing to feed and water Kita according to her requirements.
But this story didn't just involve Kita. Because while Kita was being held against her owners wishes at Adams' clinic, there were other pets there too. Remember the mention of Diamond and Polar Bear, the boxers that Dr. Adams took in on Monday, February 27th (five days before the cops broke in . . . )?
And remember Skittles?
Well, these animals appear in the other two sets of charges against Adams.
On January 17th, Adams assumed the care of Skittles (a female cat) for a declaw, a spay, and shots.
The next day, (January 18th) Dr. Adams called Skittles owner and told her that he wanted to keep Skittles another day because she had ripped out the stitches from her declaw procedure and her paws were bleeding. Dr. Adams told Skittles' owner that "he was going to put a cone over Skittles' head to prevent her from licking her paws." But in fact, the Board days, Dr. Adams had never performed this procedure (declaw) on Skittles at all.
The next day (January 19th) Dr. Adams called Skittles' owner and told her that his Aunt in Baltimore had taken ill and that he had to go be with her. Dr. Adams told Skittles' owner he would call her when he got back so she could arrange to come get Skittles.
The next day (Friday, January 20) Dr. Adams called Skittles owner and told her that he would be staying in Baltimore but that he would be back the next day (January 21) and that he could come get Skittles then.
However, the next day (Saturday, January 21) he called Skittles' owner and told her that his Aunt had died the night before, an that therefore, he would not be back that day. Keep in mind that as we already read, a month later he told Kita's owner he was visiting his sick Aunt, and that she died on February 27th!!!
Anyway, on January 21, Adams told Skittles owner that his daughter was caring for Skittles.
The board says: "In a serious of telephone conversations with Dr. Adams over the next several days, [Skittles' owner] attempted to arrange for the return of her cat, but to no avail. When asked why his daughter would not be available to discharge Skittles, particularly since she was supposed to be caring for the cat, Dr. Adams stated that he could not contact her."
"On or about Thursday, January 26th, 2006, Dr. Adams informed [Skittles owner] that his aunt's burial would take place on Saturday, January 28th, 2006 and that he would be returning home on Sunday, January 29th, 2006 and that she could retrieve Skittles at that time."
Guess what happened though? Any guesses by now? YOU GOT IT . . .
"On or about Sunday, January 29, 2006 Dr. Adams informed [Skittles owner] that he would not be returning home that day because he did not have his car. He noted that he was meeting an Attorney on Monday morning, January 30, 2006, and that he would call her following that meeting."
This goes on another couple of days, and then the document does not say what communication transpired between Adams and Skittles owner between February 1 and February 15. The document says, "On or about Wednesday, February 15, 2006, Dr. Adams met with [Skittles owner]. Following a conversation she had with Dr. Adams, [the owner] agreed to let Dr. Adams keep Skittles so he could perform the requested surgeries" (spay, declaw).
The document goes on to say that he did perform the declaw (poor Skittles!) but he did not perform the spay.
On March 4th, when the cops broke into his house, Skittles was one of the animals they found, "in a cage without food or water."
The charges in this case were: unprofessional conduct for providing false information to his client (saying he had done the declaw when he talked to her on January 18th, even though he had not); for failing to take steps to return Skittles to her owner; for leaving Skittles without adquest food and water; for peforming surgery even though his doctor had deemed him unfit to do so. They also charged him with neglect for failure to feed and water Skittles based on her requirements.
Now on to Diamond and Polar Bear, the Boxers. According to the charging documents, when their owners brought them to Adams on February 27th, they paid Adams $700 toward their care and treatment, which was to include physicals, vaccinations and ear croppings. The document says that at intake Adams agreed to discharge Diamond and Polar Bear on Wednesday, March 1, following payment of the "remainder of the bill."
Of course, no surprise now, right? When the owners called on Wednesday night, Adams said he hadn't performed the services yet, because "he had been presented with an emergency case . . . a German Shepherd who had been struck by a car . . . " (What, no dying Aunt? All out of Aunts?)
He agreed to do the procedures and discharge the dogs on Friday, March 3rd. The owner called Adams on Thursday, March 2, and Adams did not answer. The owner couldn't leave a message because the mailbox was full. (Must've been Kita's owners' messages!)
Again, they called Friday and no answer.
On Saturday, the owner went to the clinic, and no one answered the door.
It was later that day that the cops broke in. The document says that "Officer Shoup observed Diamond and Polar Bear in one cage, covered with feces. She also observed that the dogs were without food or water. She noted that the dogs appeared malnourished."
By the way, Dr. Adams had never done the ear croppings. Wonder what happened with the $700?
In this case, Adams was charged with unprofessional conduct for accepting animals for surgery even though he had been informed that he was "no longer fit for surgical practice"; he was also charged with unprofessional conduct for failure to ensure care of Diamond and Polar Bear. He was also charged with neglect and failure to feed and water them according to their requirements.
Whew! Makes you wonder what would have happened if the cops HADN'T shown up, doesn't it?
So here we have a bunch of animals locked in cages without food or water, not being returned to their owners day after day in spite of repeated inquiries, "false" statements, and numerous charges of unprofessional conduct, and charges of neglect.
You'd think the board would take strong action, wouldn't you?
Instead, the Board dismissed the charge related to peforming the declaw surgery. (That was just one of several alleged instances of unprofessional conduct). For the rest of these charges, the Board suspended Dr. Adams license to practice for six months, BUT STAYED THE ENTIRE SUSPENSION.
That's right. Not ONE SINGLE DAY OF ACTIVE SUSPENSION WAS ENFORCED BY THE MARYLAND STATE VETERINARY BOARD IN THIS HORRIFIC CASE.
They prohibIted Dr. Adams "indefinitely" from practicing surgery, boarding and hospitalizing animals. But they explicitly asserted that Adams retains his ability to treat outpatients, although stating that the owner must be present.
Now, here is my question:
Was this man supposed to hold all those pets all that time? Of course not.
Did he make false statements to a client? According to the Board's document, yes he did.
Would any veterinarian with any kind of compassion for animals leave them in cages without food and water and/or covered in their own feces? Perhaps, but only if something were very wrong with either mentally or physically or both, IN MY OPINION.
So given all that, what reasonable expectation can the board have that Adams -- who retains his license -- is going to practice within these limits established by the board? He broke numerous rules and regs that were obvious in the first place. This was not one case, but THREE cases involving FOUR patients. Given that do you really beleive he will heed these purported restrictions on his license?
Moreover, do you think the BOARD believes it?
What they should have done, in my opinion, is ACTIVELY SUSPEND HIS LICENSE -- not allow him to practice. WHY did they not?
Was it sympathy for Adams?
Where is their sympathy for these animals?
Where is their sympathy for Maryland pet owners, and as importantly, for this mans patients?
The Board's Vision, according to its website, is:
"A State in which the public can be assured of safe practices by all licensed veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary hospitals."
Can Adam's clients be assured of safe practices by him, given the above?
I mean, he took $700 from a client and subsequently, those dogs were found in a cage without food and water and covered in their own feces, according to the charging documents. What kind of treatment is that?
To my knowledge, (and this is an educated opinion, because I have personal experience with the Maryland Board) they do NOT proactively send investigators to do unannounced checks on whether or not their "restrictions" are being adhered to. And even if they did announced inspections, good luck scheduling a meeting with this guy, looking at the incredible and torturous saga the owner of Kita went through trying to retrieve their cat.
They placed Adams on probation for 3 years.
AND THEN . . .
They ended their decision by saying that in a mere six months from the order, Dr. Adams "may seek modification of this consent agreement and apply for reinstatement of his surgical priveleges and for the right to hospitalize and board animals." They did state that Adams would have to provide proof that he is mentally and physically fit to have those priveleges reinstated.
I remain baffled by their anemic response to this case.
The Maryland Board's website also states that their mission includes:
"effective discipline of veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and operators of veterinary hospitals under its jurisdiction, when warranted . . ."
Well, certainly you must agree that the prerequisite of "warranted" was met in this case.
But is what the board did "effective"?
Frankly, I think it's a joke, a joke that is anything but funny. Kita could easily have ended up euthanized as an abandoned animal in the hands of animal control, from what I can see. All while her owner has been calling practically daily to get her out.
And what would have happened to all of those pets had the cops not forcibly broken in? I think the ultimate outcome of inadequate or no food and water, over another couple of weeks, is clear.
ASK YOURSELF THIS: What if this had happened at a DAYCARE center?
Do you think that DAYCARE center would still be operating?
Ummm, I wonder if animal cruelty charges were ever filed against this guy?