Friday, November 28, 2008

Leonardo the Dog is Dropped off for Grooming, and His Vet Kills Him

TEXAS. How would you fee if you took your beloved 6-year old English Sheepdog in to the vet for a simple grooming, and later the vet called you and told you that he had killed him instead?

That is what happened in San Antonio, Texas in 1997, when Leonardo the Sheepdog was taken by his owner to Leon Springs Veterinary Hospital, where he was placed in the decidely NOT CAREFUL hands of veterinarian Doyle Cooper.

The Texas Veterinary Board records state:

". . . Leonardo was placed in a run until the groomer was ready for him. Dr. Cooper did not know that 'Leonardo' was in the building. A short time later, a Great Pyrenees was admitted to be euthanized. Dr. Cooper was in surgery and directed that the dog be placed in a run until the animal could be euthanized later. Instead, the Great Pyrenees was placed in a treatment ward cage. Both animals failed to have an ID card on their doors to determine disposition."

[COMMENTARY: That is the actual text of the vet board document. Here are a couple of things I find very interesting:

a) Isn't it interesting that the staff didn't listen to the vet and that's the source of fault here?? Hmm. Rather than the person in charge? With the whole "Instead . . . [the dog] was placed in a treatment ward cage"? I'm not so sure I believe that, although I'll never know.

b) Also, isn't the "passive voice" choice of the board telling? THE ANIMALS failed to HAVE ID cards on their doors. As they they, themselves, were supposed to grab a
3"x5" card, a marker, and write: Leonardo, Here for Grooming. Great Pyrenees, Here to be Killed. Why doesn't it say WHO FAILED TO PROPERLY MARK the identity of the animals, and WHY THEY FAILED to do so. Carelessness? Lack of procedures, perhaps?

They continue:

" . . . after lunch, Dr. Cooper located 'Leonardo' in the run and euthanized him."

OK, obviously the worst part of all this is the lack of care taken by Cooper to have procedures to make sure he euthanizes the right animal. But isn't it also disturbing, that a sick patient is brought in for euthanasia, presumably because he's suffering, and Cooper goes to lunch first?

But I digress.

"When Dr. Cooper realized he had euthanized the wrong dog, he called Mr. & Mrs. Larsen and explained the facts and circumstances to them."

My interpretation:

FACT: I killed your dog.
CIRCUMSTANCES: We are careless over here.

The document continues:

"Dr. Cooper's treatment of Leonardo did not constitute the exercise of the same degree of humane care, skill, and diligence in treating patients as is ordinarily used in the same or similar circumstances by average members of the veterinary medical profession in good standing in San Antonio, Texas or similar community."

Nah, you don't say?

The document goes on to say that Dr. Cooper reached a legal settlement with the family.

It also says that Dr. Cooper INTENDS TO change procedures at Leon Springs Veterinary Hospital to ensure that this won't happen again.

Not he HAS. Not even HE WILL. He INTENDS TO.

This document is dated December 23rd, 1997.

Leonardo was killed, and this incident occurred on, February 26th 1997.

TEN MONTHS have passed between this incident and the signing of this document.

YET, the document still says Cooper INTENDS TO change procedures. As in, in the future.

Hmmm. That's how low a priority it is to make sure you don't kill the wrong animal?

The veterinary board gave Cooper an official reprimand.

That's it.

No fine.

No suspension.

A reprimand.


Unfortunately, YES, but not unusual.

And not much has changed in the years since.

Greg Munson, who runs the Texas Vet Board Watch Website, has analyzed Texas' 2008 Veterinary Board Actions.

According to Muson, there were 84 Board Orders issued by the Texas Veterinary Board for FY 08.

67 of the 84 Board Orders (or 80%) were for violations UNRELATED to patient care. These include failure to take enough Continuing Education, drug related violations, administrative violations, and other types.

Only 17 of the 84 Board Orders (or 20%) were related to patient care.

60 total fines were issued. 59 of those fines were issued for violations UNRELATED to patient care (failure to take enough training, drug violations, etc).

Of all the patient-care (or malpractice) related actions, only ONE was given a fine.

Of the 17 patient-care related (malpractice-related) orders, 10 received an INFORMAL reprimand. 6 of the 17 received FORMAL reprimands. 1 of the 17 received a restitution only order.

There were a couple of suspensions, but they were all STAYED, which means that the vet does not lose a single day of work.

And that's just the small minority of cases in which the Texas Board takes action. Infamously, it dismisses 92% of all consumer complaints with NO ACTION whatsoever. This has garnered much public attention of late, and has been the topic of several prime time news segments. You can watch them online:

Vetting Your Vet - KSAT News, November 2008

Bad Vets: KTVT, CBS-11, March 2007:

Find more videos like this on ASPCA Online Community

Does this give you some idea what the veterinary board believes is important? It sure isn't patient safety!

Maybe that's why Dr. Cooper and his ilk think it's OK to "INTEND" to improve your procedures 10 months after killing the wrong dog.

Click here to View Public Record for this Case

Texas Veterinary Board Watch Website

Disciplinary Records for Texas Veterinarians