Saturday, May 31, 2008

Colorado Vet Matthew Aaronian: Misdiagnosis; Unnecessary Procedure; and Refusal to Release Animal to Owner Due to an Unpaid Bill, and Maybe Worse

Colorado is one of those states where the veterinary board says lots of nothing in its written decisions. They give very little indication of what happened to the animal as a result of the actions described. But reading between the lines, the "Stipulated Letter of Admonition" issued to Colorado Springs vet Matthew Aaronian raises HUGE RED FLAGS. Let me tell you what is in this document and how I interpret it.

This document, dated March 26, 2007, says:

". . . the Board determined . . . [that] you failed to meet the generally accepted standards of the practice when you misdiagnosed a condition and performed a procedure that was medically unnecessary . . . . The Board also found that you violated C.R.S. sections 12-64-120(1) and (2) when you withheld records from the animals owner because the owner had an outstanding bill. Finally, the Board found that your policy of deeming an animal abandoned if a bill remains upaid for seven days violates C.R.S. section 12-64-115, and that you failed to give proper notice of your intent to deem the animal abandoned as required by C.R.S. section 12-64-115. The Board found that these facts comprised evidence of violations of the practice act . . . the Board hereby admonishes you . . . "

The Board hereby admonishes you????? Is that IT?

Oh, not quite. They ordered him to "complete six hours of POVMR approved continuing education in radiographs, specifically in acute abdomen diagnosis and treatment . . . "

Uh oh. Let's do some reading between the lines, shall we?

We have a reference to a misdiagnosis.

We have a reference to an "unnecessary procedure" -- probably surgery.

We have an order to take training in acute abdomen diagnosis and treatment and radiographs (x-rays).

Reading between the lines, I'm betting that this vet opened up the pet's abdomen based on a misdiagnosis and that it had something to do either misinterpreting x-rays or not taking them at all.

Then, we have reference to an unpaid bill. (Probably for the UNNECESSARY "PROCEDURE").

The Board also says that the vet deemed the "animal abandoned" because the bill (which included charges for the UNNECESSARY SURGERY, I'm betting) went unpaid seven days. It also says that Aaronian failed to give the owners [proper] notice that he was going to consider their animal abandoned, and that he refused to release the records.

Not a good sign, folks.

With respect to abandoned animals, the Colorado Veterinary Practice Act says:

"(1) Any animal placed in the custody of a licensed veterinarian for treatment, boarding, or other care which is unclaimed by its owner or his agent for a period of more than ten days after written notice, by certified mail, return receipt requested, is given to the addressee only at his last known address shall bedeemed to be abandoned and may be turned over to the nearest humane society or animal shelter or disposed of as such custodian may deem proper."

Dispose of, folks, I'm thinking means KILL.

But you see, it seems this animal wasn't abandoned at all. The vet never gave "proper" notice to the owner that he was going to consider the animal abandoned because of the unpaid bill or portion thereof which seemingly included costs for an UNNECESSARY PROCEDURE (presumably, surgery).

So, I'm betting that what happened in this story is that this veterinarian euthanized this animal after having performed unnecessary surgery on it . . . because he was PUNISHING the owners for not paying their bill or for not paying it in its entirety including costs for UNNECESSARY SURGERY RESULTING FROM HIS MISDIAGNOSIS -- that's my conjecture. Reading between the lines, that is what I am led to conclude. If you know different, you just let me know.

This is what I mean about having to read between the lines of these documents, and I always assume the worst.


Click to go to Colorado Regulatory Agency Website

Better yet, read for yourself right here:


Since I doubt there are two Matthew Aaronian vets (although it could be possible), I am pretty sure this is a picture of him. He's on the left.

Here is another, probably earlier one.

If you are living in CALIFORNIA, memorize that face, and if you see him, I'm advising you to take your pet and run fast and far in the opposite direction. These vets who get disciplined in one state seem to have a habit of moving to another, and it seems Aaronian is no different: There is now a Matthew Aaronian practising in Atascadero, CA.

He also seems to have applied for (and been granted) a license to work as a vet supporting the Iditarod in Alaska in 2007. Stellar event that was to be associated with. During that race, one of the "mushers" (Ramy Brooks) was disqualified for hitting his dogs with stakes. One of that man's dogs died and two other dogs died. (Just FYI, three dogs also died in the 2008 Iditarod.

Well, Aaronian affiliating himself with that event is not surprising, is it?

For more on the Iditarod, visit

Unless of course, there is more than 1 veterinarian named Matthew Aaronian. Nah . . . how likely is that?

-- Stefani Olsen

Friday, May 30, 2008

Dr. Derrick Nelson's "Inadequate" and Substandard Treatment of "Jilly" Results in Nothing More than An Informal Reprimand (Texas)

Yet another astounding, devastating case from Texas which results in nothing but an "informal" reprimand from the Texas Veterinary Board.

In 2004, the owner of "Jilly", a Pekinese, noticed that she had been vomiting, she wasn't eating, and she seemed to have jaw pain. She took Jilly to the Animal Clinic of LaPorte, Texas, where Jilly was "treated," if you can call it that, by Derrick Nelson, D.V.M.

When Nelson examined Jilly, he decided that she had severe dental disease. He suggested that Jilly have surgery to remove "the tooth" (it says "the tooth" as though there was one tooth primarily in question) and any other "bad teeth, [clean the remaining teeth, and coat the teeth with a substance that would help prevent

During the surgery, Nelson removed 13 teeth. The document says that "He noted that the dog's jaw was somewhat loose." Dr. Nelson told Jilly's owner that she was recovering well.

So, later in the day, Jilly's owner came to pick her up. When Jilly was discharged, her owner was given an antibiotic and painkiller (butorphanol). THE BOTTLE SAID THAT JILLY SHOULD BE GIVEN 2 ml every 12 hours.
The board document said that Jilly's owner was told by her sister-in-law who WAS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE CLINIC that "it would be okay to give [Jilly] 1 ml every six hours but not more than 2 ml in 12 hours."

Once home, Jilly wouldn't eat and was vomiting. The next day, Jilly was "weak and lethargic." She had vomiting and diarrhea. Jilly's owner gave Jilly the dose of painkiller. The next day, Jilly was "unresponsive" and had diarrhea and vomiting. Jilly's owner called the clinic, and was told by a technician that "the painkiller dose of 1 ml every 6 hours was too much." But the BOTTLE ITSELF IN FACT SAID THAT JILLY's OWNER SHOULD BE GIVING HER 2 ml EVERY 12 HOURS.

Then, Jilly's owner brought Jilly back to the clinic, where Dr. Nelson told her that the "dosage amount on the painkiller bottle(2 ml by mouth twice daily) was a mis-communication."

Ummm, how can it be a miscommunication? THE BOTTLE SAID THAT, IN TEXT, RIGHT ON THE BOTTLE?

MISCOMMUNICATION MY ASS. The instructions given to this owner in writing on the bottle told the owner to GIVE AN OVERDOSE TO HER DOG.

The document says that "Dr. Nelson believed that the patient was 3-4% dehydrated and administered subcutaneous (SQ) fluids (50 ml LR solution)." The board document SAYS that Jilly was "force fed" and that "Dr. Nelson saw her walk around during the afternoon."

[Do you believe that? I don't!]

Later, Jilly was allowed to go home. But when her owner got her there, she was still vomiting, and still had diarrhea. Worse, she was "shaking and unresponsive."

Jilly's owner's daughter called Dr. Nelson to tell him of Jilly's condition.

Jilly's owner "then decided to take Jilly to the emergency clinic, but before she could do so, the dog died."

The Board said that: "On presentation . . . the patient was clinically dehydrated, at least 6-8 percent. Dr. Nelson's administration of 50 ml of fluids SQ to the patient over a six-hour period was inadequate to address the dehydration. The dog should ahve been placed on IV fluids and monitored closely based on the following, in addition to the dehydration: (a) the dog's age (14) demanded a greater degree of therapy; (b) the patient had a history of recent vomiting, diarrhea, and not eating, and an inability to metabolize and excrete pain medication;" [which, they neglect to emphasize, she had been getting REPEATED OVERDOSES OF thanks to the instructions clearly printed on the bottle -- you know, those little words in black and white that Nelson calls a "miscommunication?"] ". . . and (c) the patient had recently undergone major dental surgery. Dr. Nelson did not determine during the day if the fluid therapy was effective, except to observe that the dog was walking around."


The board said that "Dr. Nelson's actions or ination does not represent the same degree of humane skill, and diligence in treating patients as is ordinarily used . . ."

They found that Dr. Nelson violated the Professional Standard of Humane Treatment.

And then they hit him with a whopping disciplinary action . . . a mere informal reprimand.

Wow, bet he learned his lesson.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New York Vet Shawn Michael Demmerle and the Use of Unlicensed Staff to Administer Medications

Those of you familiar with my own case will know that my cat was given an insulin overdose by an unlicensed, unsupervised person. (See my website The Toonces Project for details.) I have a special interest in the dangerous and seemingly widespread practice of veterinarians using individuals who are not qualified (based on veterinary regulations) to perform veterinary duties requiring clinical skill. Worse yet, many veterinarians allow these individuals -- who are unlicensed veterinary assistants -- to perform these duties unsupervised.

This is very dangerous, and that is the reason why I take seriously any cNomplaint or judgment about a vet allowing unlicensed assistants to perform veterinary duties that should only be done by properly trained, certified, staff.

In New York, the Division of Professional Licensing issued the following "Specifications of Professional Misconduct" against veterinarian Shawn Demmerle:

"On or about November, 2004, while employed as a veterinarian by the Sullivan County, New York SPCA in Rock Hill, New York, [Demmerle] permitted an unlicensed person know as 'Tammy' to administer rabies vaccines, an activity requiring a veterinary medicine license, to several animals."

Like many board documents this one does not mention whether any harm came the animals as a result of this. However, a complaint was filed --- and usually some negative consequence must occur to inspire the filing of a complaint.

What could happen?

Well, an inadequately qualified person could draw up the wrong dose, causing an overdose that could seriously injur or even kill a pet. Or, an inadequately trained and unqualified person could fail to recognize symptoms of a adverse reaction in the animal, which in turn could also lead to serious health consequences and even death. (An example of this is the case of Kodi the Pug.)

In his 2006 press release, veterinarian John Robb of the “Protect the Pets” website warned that unlicensed staff performing duties that should only be performed by licensed veterinary technicians or veterinarians themselves poses a grave risk, which can lead to "tragic injury or even death of our beloved pets.”

He went on to add: "I have witnessed first hand horrific examples . . . Soap solution was accidentally placed in the eyes of pets scheduled for surgery, resulting in the sloughing of the surface layers of their corneas. Or urine being mistaken for a drug and being injected into the intravenous line of a pet."

So, this kind of thing can be a very big deal, and a life-endangering practice.

In the case of New York Vet Demmerle, the Professional Licensing Board suspended Demmerle's license for 1 year, but stayed the entire suspension (that is, it was not enforced); instead they placed his license on probation for 1 year and ordered him to pay a fine of $2,000.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vets Behaving Badly: Pennsylvania Veterinarian Opens Fire in Church, Witnesses Say,

News sources report that Pennsylvania (Lehigh Valley) veterinarian opened fire at a church fundraiser this month. George is reportedly one of 32 shareholders at Valley Central, a veterinary referral service in Lehigh County. He is now charged with 1st degree murder.

According to news reports, "George was heavily armed when he opened fire killing Malak Michael."


Read and watch local news story online

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Long List of Violations Results in Nothing More than a Reprimand and Probation for Virginia Vet, Mitzi Elliot

In March of 2008, the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine issued an order to Virginia Veterinarian Mitzi D. Elliot of "The Animal House Veterinary Clinic" in Laurel Fork, Virginia. In this document, the Board stated the following findings of fact (my commentary appears in brackets and italics).

1. A cat named "Kitty" was brought to Dr. Elliot for a routine spay. "To sedate Kitty, a "Push-Pole" was utilized, and Kitty was given an intramuscular injection." [Push pole??? Are they talking about those things they use on animal planet rescue shows called "catch poles?" Like this?? Or are they talking about these push pole things for pushing boats and catching fish?? Either way, a bit mideivel, don't you think?]

The day after Dr. Elliot did these things, ". . . Kitty could not walk on her right hind leg, and was returned to Dr. Elliot's office for an evaluation. Dr. Elliot diagnosed Kitty with a large right lymph node, and prescribed antibiotics. When Kitty failed to improve [Kitty's owner] sought a second opinion from another veterinarian who amputated Kitty's leg. Dr. Elliott failed to take proper precautions administering an intramuscular injection, resulting in damage to Kitty's sciatic nerve."

[OK, did you catch that part about the cat's leg being amputated? I am assuming that the need for this amputation RESULTED FROM the damage caused to Kitty's sciatic nerve as a result of Dr. Elliot's bad vettery. THIS POOR CAT LOST ITS LEG!]

3. "Dr. Elliott failed to document all pertinent medical data in Kitty's medical record. Specifically, Dr. Elliott failed to describe the surgery performed, the diagnosis and/or prognosis, post-operative instructions and treatment recommendations. Additionally . . . Dr. Elliott failed to document patient temperature during the course of treatment."

But Dr. Elliott's bad vettery wasn't restricted to the Kitty incident. The Board goes on:

"4. Dr. Elliott failed to maintain treatment records for the animals brought to her practice. By her own admission, Dr. Elliott sent [two other client's] original records to subsequent veterinarians and did not maintain copies." [Really? Or perhaps the records never existed, were never created, and that's just what she said to play it off as though she had created them in the first place and to explain why she didn't have them?] "Further, Dr. Elliott stated to the inspector for the Department of Health Professions, that she were [sic] not aware of the requirement to maintain records for three years."

5. ". . . [another client] presented with 'Sugar' and 'Daisy', both canines, following a routine spay performed at Dr. Elliott's practice. . . . Both dogs had chewed through their stitches. Dr. Elliott replaced the stitches with staples, but failed to document the type and amount of anesthesia used for placing the staples. Further the records for Daisy did not indicate if an antibiotic was administered and the amoung given."

[OK, the board would not know about this if a complaint had not been filed. Why would the owner file a complaint? SOMETHING must have gone wrong after the surgery. Given the reference to Elliott NOT documenting the kind or amount of anesthesia, I am betting something very bad happened with one or both of these dogs -- I suspect that one may even have died. You see, the Board's don't always tell you what happened to the animals, so you must ALWAYS ASSUME THE WORST.]

6. "Dr. Elliott failed to provide complete records for [yet another client's] canine 'Angel Baby.' Dr. Elliott's records did not include the date of Angel Baby's rabies innoculation and ex-rays taken."

[Geez, we are establishing quite a prolonged and consistent pattern of bad vettery here, aren't we?]

7. YET ANOTHER CLIENT: ". . . presented with 'Prince,' a canine, who had been in an altercatoin with another dog. Prince was admitted with multiple abdominal puncture wounds and shock. When Prince failed to improve . . . [the client] transferred Prince to another veterinarian who found several deep puncture wounds that were not treated; a deep necrotic tract extending dorsally through deep layers of tissue into the sub lumbar region in the retroperitoneal area; and a 3 cm abdominal tear."

[OK, don't worry -- I don't understand all of that either, so I googled some of the words. The "deep necrotic tract" business means that Prince had lots of dead tissue on his lower back going deep into his flesh, into the "peritoneum" which covers the abdominal cavity . . .]

"Further, the veterinarian opined that the Penrose drain that Dr. Elliott inserted may have been improperly placed, which allowed continued saturation of bacteria into the internal wounds. Dr. Elliott failed to properly evaluate, diagnose, and treat Prince's injuries."

[Again, the don't say what happened to Prince, but it sounds VERY grave. I am assuming he DIED.]

8. "Dr. Elliott failed to document all pertinent medical data in Prince's medical record. Specifically, Dr. Elliott failed to describe the surgery performed, the diagnosis and/or prognosis, and treatment recommendations."

[Gee, big surprise. What would that prognosis sound like? Maybe: "Well, I did a totally incompetent job and now this patient had infection deep into his body so -- whoopsie! Where's the pink juice?"]

Whew! After that LITANY of horrors what do we have?

The Board determined that Elliott had committed SEVEN violations of regulation VAC 150-20-140(6) and (7), which is the UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT section, including (emphasis mine): "Practising veterinary medicine in such a manner as to ENDANGER the health and welfare of his patients or the public, or being unable to practice veterinary medicine with reasonable skill and safety."

Also they found that she had committed FIVE violations of 18-VAC-150-20-195, which is the regulation pertaining to recordkeeping. (See what I mean when I say that when you see a record-keeping violation, it usually means that something much worse happened.)

After all that you would expect the Board to take pretty strong action, wouldn't you?

Well, guess what?

They reprimanded her.

They put her on "probation" for 18 months but the only terms of the probation were:

a) to take 3 hours of continuing education in record-keeping and 10 hours in patient communication and practice management. NOTHING in improving her skills in clinical care -- her basic veterinary skills. Nothing to improve her competence at actually doing procedures. As though what happened to these animals was all a result of communication problems? Um, did they forget the part about the leg amputation and the internal infection?

b) to have 3 inspections in which they will look at her records and pay the $200 cost of the inspections.

That's it, folks. They didn't give this vet a "time out." Not one day of work missed. No suspension. No big fines. Not even any classes that would improve her clinical skills -- just classes that in my view, are aimed at helping her learn to cover her butt when her lousy clinical skills hurt patients.


Board Disciplinary Action Against Mitzi Elliott

Monday, May 19, 2008

Death of a Donor Cat in Hands of Colorado Vet Heather Steyn

On April 16, 2007, the Colorado Board of Veterinary Medicine issued a "Stipulated Letter of Admonition" to veterinarian Heather Steyn, DVM, of VCA Ft. Collins Animal Hospital. This letter says (emphasis mine):

" . . .the Board determined that the blood collection practice in this case, which resulted in the death of the donor feline, was substandard. The Board found that your substandard treatment constituted a violation of the practice act. Specifically, the Board hereby admonishes you for a violation of C.R.S. section 12-64-111(1)(l)."

So, the substandard method of blood collection from this case RESULTED IN it's death -- that is clearly stated by the Board. (Boards so rarely establish causation, that I feel that is important to point out.)

C.R.S. section 12-64-111(1) is:

"l) Unprofessional or unethical conduct or engaging in practices in
connection with the practice of veterinary medicine which that are in
violation of the standards of professional conduct generally accepted
standards of veterinary practice as defined in this article or
prescribed by the rules and regulations of the board;"

The Board fined Steyn $500 and ordered her to take 6 hours of education in remedial critical care, but considered the latter requirement satisfied by classes she had already taken. (???) They ordered her to write a three- to five-page paper on blood collection practices.

A web search on Heather Steyn's name indicates that she is actually the MEDICAL DIRECTOR of the VCA Ft. Collins in Fort Collins, Colorado. Just this month she was
offering discounted services on services including semen collection, evaluation and freezing.

So here is my question, if the MEDICAL DIRECTOR is engaging in violations of regulations against "unprofessional" or "unethical" conduct or that which is "a violation of the standards of professional conduct" then . . . what can you expect from the rest of the staff?

Poor, poor donor kitty. R.I.P.


To see the disciplinary document for yourself,

1. Go to the

Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies
2. Select "Division of Registrations Board/Program Action Documents;
3. Click Logon
4. In the drop-down box on the next page, select: "REG Licensing Board"
5. In the drop-down box on the next page, where is says: "State Board of" - select "Veterinary."
6. Look for unique ID 30146 and click on the hyperlinked text (as of today, this is on the last page of the results, so you will need to click through the documents to go all the way to the end).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

" . . . veterinary malpractice . . . is without question the source of most harm to companion animals"

" . . . veterinary malpractice . . . is without question the source of most harm to companion animals"

This quote comes from the fascinating document, "Harming Companion Animals: Liability and Damages," written by Henry Mark Holzer, a professor at Brookly Law School.

This document, among other things, provides information on some landmark case law in the area of veterinary malpractice, including an account of the successful veterinary malpractice case brought by plaintiff "Kenny" against veterinarians F. Richard Lesser, Mark T. Meddleton, and Earl M. Gaughan. In this veterinary malpractice case Kenny was awarded $100,000 in New York State for the loss of his horse, a three-year old thoroughbred race horse.

This judgement was upheld on appeal in the year 2000.

The abridged account of the case cited in the "Harming Companion Animals" document includes the following information:

" . . . [the] plaintiff's three-year-old thoroughbred race horse underwent arthroscopic surgery for removal of a chip fracture in his right front fetlock [performed by defendant] . . . the horse was anesthetized with a combination of drugs, the bone chip was successfully removed and the horse was transported to a recovery stall. While in recovery, the horse went into cardiac arrest and died."

The horse's owner, Kenny, said that his horse had been over-anesthetized and had not been properly monitored during surgery, and that the horses death was therefore caused by the actions of the veterinarians.

"There was no dispute at trial that plaintiff's horse succumbed to the effects of the anesthesia administered during surgery. The debate was over whether this horse was among the small percentage of equine patients that simply do not survive anesthesia through no fault of the surgeon and/or anesthesiologist . . .or whether an act or omission on the part of [the veterinarians Lesser, Meddleton, and Gaughan] caused his death . . ."

Kenny, the horse's owner, had an expert testify. The expert was Nicholas Dodman, a board certified veterinary anesthetist who is a professor at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dodman testified that "the care and treatment rendered by [the anesthetist and surgeon] included departures from accepted standards of veteirnary practice which caused the horse's death.

Dodman said that "the dosage of one particular drug administered to the horse . . . over a short period of time, particularly in conjunction with the admnistration of a large dosage of another drug . . . and an inordinately high level of a gaseous volatile anesthetic . . . constituted a departure from accepted standards of veterinary care. These dosages, according to Dodman, caused the horse to become respiratorily and cardiovascularly depressed, a condition which went undetected . . . When disconnected from pure oxygen after surgery, Dodman's testimony continued, the horse could not sustain himself on room air only. Dodman also opined that the monitoring procedures employed . . . were substandard."

Specifically Dodman said that when the anesthetic Halothane (known to depress cardiovascular and respiratory systems) is being administered, standard practice requires that a patient be monitored by the use of an aneroid gauge to measure blood pressure, blood gas monitoring equipment and/or an electrocardiogram monitor. This was not done by the vets who did surgery on Kenny's horse, who said that they merely observed the horse visually and took a peripheral pulse. (Note: The owner, who was in the room at the time, said that the veterinarian NEVER took the horses pulse.]

Dodman also noted that one of the veterinarians had failed to record notes in the patient record that might have enabled him to document and see the developing trend of respiratory and cardic depression in the horse. "Dodman opined that [when] . . . an orthopaedic patient is anesthetized with gaseous Halothane, it is a departure from standard practice not to keep such notes."

It was also established at trield that after Kenny's horse died, the veterinarian created a chart of the entire procedure retroactively. The document says that this post-operative record attempts to document, in time and dosage the various drugs administered during surgery, as well as the horse's vital signs at intervals. THIS RECORD WAS NOT CREATED during the surgery itself. The jury further learned that after creating this chart, the veterinarian made additional changes to it.

[Lies and the lying liars who tell them, huh?]

In Holzer's analysis, the Kenny v. Lesser case demonstrates: conduct below the acceptable standard of care because of the way the anesthesia was handled and monitored; foreseeable injury or death if it was not handled and monitored correctly; and not having done so being the proximate cause of the horse's death.

As mentioned above, the jury awarded Kenny $100,000 for the loss of his horse.


Information on the Kenny v. Lesser appeal

Information on the Document, "Harming Companion Animals: Liability and Damages," by Henry Mark Holzer. I really recommend you order a copy from the Institute for Animal Rights Law.

Here is a link to a veterinary technician manual which says that animals on halothane require close monitoring.

Summary of an article from the journal "Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia" on the cardiovascular and respiratory depressant effects of halothane used in horses

Abstract of a Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine Article on Malignant Hyperthermia, a Problem Seen with the Use of Halothane in Horses

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Vets on Meth, or What do we Do with the Drunken and/or Drugged Out Veterinarian, Installment #4

How do you like your vets?

Perhaps hopped up on methamphetamine and cocaine?

And if your vet is driving recklessly, how can he or she be yielding a scalpel with precision? NOT!

Perhaps these are questions the clients of California Veterinarian Carla Johnson should ask themselves.

In June 2006, vetrinarian Carla Johnson (of San Jose, California) signed a settlement document in which she admitted to a list of charges filed against her by the California Veterinary Board.

In 1991, Johnson was convicted "by a plea of nolo contendere" of "dry" reckless driving. As a result of that conviction, she was sentenced to a day in jail and fined $1,350. She was also placed on three years probation.

Yet, in 1996, Johnson "submitted an application, signed under penalty of perjury, for licensure to the Board of Veterinary Medicine. In that application, [Johnson] answered "no" to question 9 which asks if the applicant had 'ever pled nolo contendre or been convicted of either a felony or misdemeanor other than a minor traffic violation,"' whereas in truth and in fact she had been convicted of the criminal offenses alleged . . . above."

But Johnson didn't stop at one reckless driving conviction. In 1998, she was convicted "by nolo contendere plea . .. of . . . wet reckless driving . . . a misdemeanor. Johnson was sentenced to 2 years probation, and ordered to pay a fine of $594 and court costs of $100. (I guess there is some special logic going on in California where severity of fines and punishment goes down with each repeat offense.)

Again in 2001, Johnson submitted an application for license renewal on which she stated, under penalty of perjury, that she "had not 'been convicted of a felony offense or pled nolo contendere, in California . . . within the last five years', whereas in truth and in fact she had suffered a 1998 conviction."

That is the Vet Board's language. "Suffered a conviction." As though it were some passive act in which Johnson was the victim. But I have a idea that even if her traffic arrests didn't result in injuries to human victims, there may have been other victims, whose names are not in these "Findings of Fact."

The document goes on to say: "On or about December 27, 2003, while working as a veterinarian at United Emergency Animal Clinic in Campbell, California, [Johnson] was ordered by United's office administrator at the time, to undergo a drug test pursuant to the clinic's policy based on perceived erratic behavior. The lab test results reported by MedTox Laboratories, Inc., dated January 4, 2004, indicated that [Johnson] had tested positive for amphetamine, methamphetamine, and cocaine metabolite."

First, let me give sincere and grateful credit to the administrator of United Emergency Animal Clinic, who picked up on Johnson's erratic behavior, had her drug tested -- and presumably, although this is not stated -- took some action as a result of it. It seems that United's administrator recognized that Johnson's drugged up state caused her to be a threat to her patients.

But how sincere is the California Vet Board about protecting veterinary patients?

In its decision, the Board cited three "causes" for discipline:

Criminal Convictions (her convictions for "dry" and "wet" reckless driving)
Unprofessional Conduct - Use of controlled substances
Fraud, Misrepresentation, Deception (for false statements on her license applications)

The California Veterinary Board "revoked" Johnson's license, but outrageously, as in most of their other "revocations" they immediately "stayed" the revocation -- which means that Johnson can keep right on practising without interruption. Instead they put her license on probation for 3 years. In fact, how's this for crazy: They actually ORDERED her to practice veterinary medicine in California a MINIMUM of 24 hours a week for 6 consecutive months. (???? The thinking being, time NOT spent practicing doesn't count toward probation. Wow, "You are a threat to pets, MAKE SURE YOU KEEP PRACTISING AT LEAST 24 HOURS A WEEK." That's my paraphrase and editorialization, by the way.)

Want more ridiculousness?

The terms of this "probation" require her to obey the laws and regulations, merely by affirmation, that is -- they say, "No, little girl, obey the laws from now on, OK?"

To really understand how ridiculous this probation term to obey laws or regulations she was breaking in the first place is, you have to read on. How is the Vet Board going to check and see if she is obeying laws and regulations?

They are going to require her to erport quarterly to the board, telling them whether or not she has been obeying the laws and regulations.

HA HA!!! This woman had been found by them to have made more than one false statement, and has been found to have committed FRAUD, DECEPTION, and MISREPRESENTATION -- but they are relying on her own report of whether or not she is obeying laws and regulations. (I say HA HA, but really its not funny, since lives of beloved furry beings are affected.)

Yes, the Board reserved the right to request an in-person report, but I doubt they ever do that.

Johnson was required to inform her employers.

Johnson was required to pay the Board for it's costs in investigating her, which were $5,295.76. But they allowed her to make these payments in 34 monthly installments of $155.76 each. (Gee, I wonder if she, as a vet, gave similarly generous payment plans to her clients?)

The Board did, at least, order her to undergo a drug test, and then to "provide documentary evidence of continuing satisfactory participation" in a drug/alcohol rehab program of her own choosing.

Oh, and they ordered her to stop taking drugs.

Wonder how that will work out?


California Vet Board Newsletter Announcing Disciplinary Actions, Including that Against Carla Johnson

Do you want to know where Johnson is currently practising?

Well, here is my disclaimer: It is possible, I suppose, for two vets to practice in the same geographic area and have the same name. So, this may or may not be her, but a "Carla Johnson" is listed on the website of Pacific Veterinary Specialists Emergency Service.

Supposedly, she handles emergencies.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Longview Texas Vet Janice Petree Fails to Diagnose or Treat Bloat in Spite of Being Told That Owner and ER Vet Suspected Bloat

Molli was a Boxer. Deep chested dogs like Molli are at highest risk for BLOAT -- a life-threatening, emergency medical problem. Also, bloat, otherwise known as GDV, is cited (link below) as the SECOND leading cause of death among dogs, second only to cancer.

The Veterinary Information Network (VIN) states that aggressive and early treatment of bloat is very important, and that with this early and aggressive treatment, 80% of dogs now survive the medical emergency that bloat presents. (Another veterinary website estimates that the survival rate is 90% with appropriate, aggressive and early surgery). Moreover, VIN says: "earlier the veterinarian gets started with treatment, the better chance there is for survival."

So, although bloat is very life-threatening, it is also common, and it is also easy to diagnose: a simple x-ray will help diagnose bloat.

It is very hard to imagine that a veterinarian, presented with a dog like Molli -- a deep chested breed prone to bloat -- who is showing the "hallmark" symptom of trying to vomit but being unable to vomit, and who has been tentatively diagnosed as likely suffering from bloat based on a phone consultation with an EMERGENCY vet -- would apparently set aside that possibility, and fail to do x-rays, and send the dog home with the owner with medicine for the much less serious problem of "gastritis" -- but that is exactly what Texas vet Janice Petree did, according to Texas Vet Board documents.

Here is the story this document tells:

"[Molly's owner] noticed a slight swelling in [her] abdomen . . . The dog seemed to want to vomit but produced no vomitis. The swelling increased. [Molli's owner] contacted the Animal Emergency Clinic in Shreveport [Louisiana]. Consulting by phone, the veterinarian at the clinic said that the dog likely had "flipped stomach" (gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV). The veterinarian could not immediately see the dog ad referred [Molli's owner] to the East Texas Pet Emergency Clinic (ETPEC) in Longview, Texas. About an hour later, [Molli's owner] and "Molli" arrived at the ETPEC where the dog was examined by Janice Petree, D.V.M.

After examining the dog, Dr. Petree opined that "Molli" did not have GDV, but was suffereing from gastritis. [Molli's owner] questioned Dr. Petree about her diagnosis in light of the dog's symptoms, but Dr. Petree was firm that the problem was gastritis since the dog was not showing all the expected symptoms of GDV. Dr. Petree administered an injectio of Centreme and some Centrene tablets to take home. Dr. Petree said she could take x-rays, but reportedly said they were unnecessary and she would not take x-rays of her own dog under comparable conditions. [Molli's owner] took his dog home."

"Shortly after arriving home, [Molli's owner] noticed that the abdominal swelling had increased and 'Molli' appeared to be more uncomfortable. He rushed the dog to the Shreveport emergency clinic aroudn 3:30 a.m. Dr. Renee Jones observed that hte dog was shocky and lethargic. Her cranial abdomen was extremely extended and she was having difficulty breathing. Dr. Jones . . . took x-rays which clearly showed [Molli] had GDV. [Molli] underwent emergency surgery but her condition declined and she died at around 6:48 a.m."

"Dr. Petree's failure to x-ray and correctly diagnose and treat [Molli] does not represent 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 . . . for the following reasons:

The Shreveport veterinarian had already suggested possible GDV to the client and the client, who had observed bloating and non-productive vomiting, had traveled a considerable distance for treatment. Although the client on several occastions expressed concern about possible GDV, Dr. Petree assured [him] that gastritis was the problem. An x-ray and bloodwork would have conclusively settled the matter . . .

Large, deep-chested breeds are most commonly affected . . . The client had described the acute onset of bloating and non-productive vomiting. These factors mandated an x-ray and foundational blood work to rule out GDV.

Although x-rays were discussed . . . Dr. Petree actually discouraged them. The medical history for [Molli] says 'I did tell the husband that if it were my dog, I would not do radiographs at this time and would see if medications started to help.' . . .

[Editorial comment: OK, Dr. Petree, THEN YOUR DOG WOULD DIE OF BLOAT.]

. . . "The client apparently relied on this statement in declining x-rays."

[Editorial comment: It doesn't sound like Molli's owner declined the x-rays, it sounds like Petree declined to do them!]

" . . . waiting and monitoring as recommended by Dr. Petree could have delayed needed treatment . . ."

[COULD HAVE????? Ya gotta love how these vet boards word things.]

So, does it sound to you like Dr. Petree is likely responsible for Molli's death? Now, I am not making this statement as a matter of fact, but as a matter of opinion: I believe that Molli had a better than 80% chance of surviving this emergency when she arrived at the East Texas Pet Emergency Clinic. And I believe that Dr. Petree's arrogant failure to heed the preliminary diagnosis of her colleague, to heed the concerns of Molli's owner, and to treat Molli's condition as potentially imminently life-threatening -- her failure to even investigate Molly's condition when both the owner AND another vet were mentioning bloat as a likely or possible cause of her symptoms -- TOOK AWAY MOLLI'S best chance to survive this emergency. The literature I have found says that survival rates are reduced from 80-90% to 50% or less. If I were Molli's owner, I would definitely hold Petree responsible for her death.

Moreover, Petree's failure to approach Molli's situation as urgent, requiring immediate definitive diagnosis (x-rays, etc) and surgery, IS PARTICULARLY REPUGNANT in an EMERGENCY VET.

Why is the management of the East Texas Pet Emergency Clinic NOT making sure that its veterinarian's are well-educated in the apparently COMMON medical emergency that is BLOAT -- an emergency that if treated competently and quickly, is survivable 80-90% of the time, but if NOT treated competencly and quickly, will result in death?

Another veterinary hospital provides this explanation of what happens when bloat is not rapidly treated:

"Progression of Events

The first major life-threatening event that occurs is shock. This occurs because the distended stomach puts pressure on the large veins in the abdomen that carry blood back to the heart. The tissues (including the stomach wall) become deprived of blood and oxygen. If the blood supply is not restored quickly, the wall of the stomach begins to die and may rupture. If volvulus occurs, the spleen's blood supply will also be impaired. When the stomach twists, the spleen is also rotated to an abnormal position and its vessels are compressed. When the stomach is distended, digestion stops. This results in the accumulation of toxins that are normally removed from the intestinal tract. These toxins activate several chemicals which cause inflammation. This causes problems with the blood clotting factors so that inappropriate clotting occurs withinblood vessels. This is called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and is usually fatal."

On the Marvistavet website, a study of bloat is provided. This study included an evaluation of circumstances that lead to higher rates of death associated with bloat. One of those included: clinical signs of bloating for more than 6 hours before seeing the vet."

Let's do the countdown: By the time Molli's owner called the first emergency vet, she was already showing the symptoms of abdominal swelling and vomiting with nothing coming up. Then her owner called the Animal Emergency Clinic where a vet told him Molli likely had bloat. Since that vet could not see Molli in a timely enough fashion, Mollis owner drove "a considerable distance" to see Petree, and an hour elapsed betwee the referral and the time he arrived to see Petree. Presumably, by this time, Molli has been showing symptoms for at least a couple of hours.

The document doesn't say how long Molli and her owner were at the East Texas Pet Emergency Clinic, but let's assume it is 1 hour. Then, when Petree sent him home with medicine -- having taken NO x-rays, NO bloodwork, and NOT treating Molly for bloat -- he would have had to drive another hour home. Now we are up to 4 hours. Then there was time for Molli's owner to continue to observe her (getting worse) at home. Let's say that's another hour. We are up to 5. Then, he rushed her to the Shreveport ER, where she was finally seen and treated for what she had been suffering from all along -- BLOAT. By that time, it was probably about 6 hours. At least.

Seeing Petree was, as far as I can see, the same as not seeing a vet at all.

For this serious violation of the veterinary practice act, what did the Texas Veterinary Board do?

They reprimanded Dr. Petree.

And made her take some classes -- 6 hours worth, by the end of the year.

That's it. That's all. No fine. No suspension. Nothing sufficient, in my view, to really drum into this woman's head that Molli's situation DESERVED to be taken seriously. She as an ER vet had no business minimizing in her mind the potential of bloat in a susceptible breed with "hallmark" symptoms. She either knew, or SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, that bloat must be treated immediately to give the dog a good chance at survival.

Sadly and shockingly, as common and serious as bloat is, it seems that Dr. Petree is not alone in her failure to adequately diagnose and treat bloat.

"Dog Connections" published "Bloat Notes" -- a letter from the Director of the Purdue Bloat Research Program, in which Larry Glickman, VMD, said:

"Too often, however, owners of dogs that died of bloat tell me that they had recognized that the dog had a serious problem and rushed the dog to a veterinarian, only to be told that it was probably only a "belly ache," or that the dog's stomach was dilated, but not rotated . . . If you suspect your dog has bloat, but the veterinarian dismisses it as a minor problem, inquire about radiographs to rule out GDV."

Well, Molli's owner apparently did exactly that: Inquired about x-rays to rule out GDV, and Petree "discouraged them." When Molli finally got those x-rays, they "clearly showed [that she had] GDV."

Glickman recounts this story:

"Following is an excerpt of a letter that illustrates some of these points.

'I noticed Kelly [an Irish Setter] attempting to vomit with nothing coming up . . .We went home and Kelly went upstairs where she attempted to vomit several times. I immediately called my vet. Kelly and I arrived at the veterinarian's office within five minutes of the phone call. I told the veterinarian that Kelly had vomited two or three times with nothing coming up. I said that she looked a little broad around the ribs. The veterinarian did a physical examination and concluded that Kelly's problem was just a "stomach ache." ... I was directed to give her Pepto Bismol®. I took Kelly home and she lay down on the bed. About 45 minutes later she went out to the back yard. When I went out 10 minutes later, I found her bloated up. I grabbed her, took her back to the veterinary hospital, but she died on the operating table.'"

Glickman stresses the importance of taking a dog suspected of having bloat to an emergency clinic equipped to do the type of surgeries bloat requires, on an emergency basis. Presumably, East Texas Pet Emergency Clinic should have been one of those places. In my viewpoint, this is what makes the story of Molli even more maddening. The owner did everything right.


Texas Vet Board Document/Findings of Fact on Janice Petree

Dog Connections and Glickman's Notes on Bloat

Bloat Info and List of Breeds Most at Risk

Veterinary Info Network on Bloat

Explanation of bloat and surgery for bloat; more information on the importance of immediate diagnosis and treatment

Marvistavet Site on Bloat

Thursday, May 15, 2008

California Veterinarian Larry Romine Ordered to Surrender License; Veterinary Board Alleges Romine Committed Negligence; Botched Spay

Yet another botched spay story from California.

In June, 2007, veterinarian Larry Romine was ordered to surrender his license in the State of California to settle a complaint brought against him by the veterinary board. As a part of the settlement agreement, Romine admnitted that the Board "could establish a factual basis for the charges in the Accusation" if further proceedings were conducted. These charges dealt with Romine's treatment of a 5-month old rat terrier female named "Roxy."

Roxy's owner brought Roxy to the Kaweah Veterinary Clinic, operated by Romine, in Visalia, California, to have her spayed.

Two days after hte surgery, Roxy's owner brought her back in to the clinic, because Roxy was lethargic and unsteady on her feet. The staff at Romine's clinic told her that "Roxy's condition was likely due to the affects of the anesthesia, and she was instructed to prevent Roxy from drinking any fluids for the remainder of the day."

But the next day, Roxy was worse. In distress, she was vomiting any time she tried to drink fluids. Her owner then took her to a different clinic -- an emergency clinic.

The examination revealed "a build up of fluid in her abdomen, with indications of kidney damage."

The next day, Roxy was seen at yet another hospital, for more evaluation and testing. Exploratory surgery was done on Roxy, and they found that Roxy appeared to have been born with only one kidney, and that a three-inch section of the right ureter (which carries urine from the kidney to the bladder) had been surgically removed "during the same surgical procedure removing her right ovary, right ovarian horn, and uterus." In other words, when he did the "spay", Romine cut the ureter leading from Roxy's ONLY kidney.

In addition, the document said, Roxy's left ovary and left ovarian horn were still intact. Which means that not only was she butchered by having her right ureter cut, but the spay wasn't even finished.

Not that the latter issue mattered much, because "due to the inability to repair damage to Roxy's one kidney and ureter, she was euthanized."

The board asserted that Romine had commited negligence, both in removing the section of the ureter, and in not removing the left ovary and left ovarian horn.

In addition, they said that another element of negligence was that Romine had "failed to recognized symptoms consistent with post-surgical abdominal pain and clinical depression" when Roxy was brought back to him after the spay.

(Gee, "depression????" I'd be depressed too, if someone cut my only ureter . . .making it impossible for my body to clear urine and essentially causing me to be unable to continue living. Depressed? Ya think?)

In addition, when Roxy was brought back to him after surgery, he "failed to perform a physical exam" on her.

Other "causes of dicipline" cited by the board included their failure to make entries in Roxy's record describing the surgical procedure performed, the sedatives or anesthetics used, and the name of the surgeon who did the butchery, uh, I mean, operation.

Other record keeping violations were cited.

In addition, the board said that an inspection of the hospital showed that Romine:

Did not have a dedicated froom for surgery;
Did not have emergency drugs or equipment in the room where surgeries are performed;
Did not have a notice telling clients that 24-hour supervision is not provided;
Did not dispose of expired drugs; he did not record the names of patients or prescribing veterinarians in the drug log;
Did not have a properly functioning anesthesia machine in the surgery room;
Did not have an autoclave device (for sterilization);
Did not wear appropriate attire in the surgery room;
Did not enter his initials on exam records;
Did not have equipment for monitoring patients under anesthesia in the surgical room;
Had stored "products intended for human consumption" in the surgery room refrigerator.

The board noted that Romine had previously bee cited for failing to comply with minimum standards of veterinary care.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

South Carolina: When Lousy Vet Boards Tell You a Vet is Bad, but Don't Give You much Detail: Case in Point - "C. Kenneth Banks Jr., DVM"

South Carolina is one of the vet boards that puts the disciplinary records of vets online. You can find these records at:

The problem is that like some other states, they give you no detail about what occurred.

So, here is my advice: When in doubt, ASSUME THE WORST.

Take the case of "C. Kenneth Banks, DVM". He was disciplined by the South Carolina Veterinary Board in November of 2006.

The Board's findings state:

"[Banks] admits that he failed to meet the requisite standard of care in his treatment of a female canine, named "Bella" as alleged in the formal complaint . . . [he also] admits that as a result of the previous admissions herein, [he] has violated S.C. code Ann. 40-69-140(11) and (12) (Supp. 2004), as alleged."

So, I go look up S.C. code, right?

Check it out:

Well, get a load of the title of Section 40-69-140:

"SECTION 40-69-140. Prior criminal record.

A license may be denied based on a person's prior criminal record only as provided for in Section 40-1-140."


So, does this guy have a prior criminal record

Or perhaps, the section violated was one which cites "negligent" practice of veterinary medicine. For, according to this website (South Carolina Administrative Law Court Decisions, S.C. Code Ann. §40-69-140(12) states:

"The board may deny, suspend, revoke or restrict the license of a veterinarian or reprimand or discipline a licensee for . . . (12) engaging in conduct determined by the board to be incompetent or negligent in the practice of veterinary medicine…"

This is all very confusing to the layperson, without the Board enumerating the nature of the violation and specifying statutes violated in plain english rather than referencing sections of code that are modified whenever revisions are passed.

But perhaps obfuscating the truth is EXACTLY what the vet board hopes to do.

This is exactly how UNHELPFUL to the public the South Carolina Vet Board's "public" records are - and I believe that is entirely deliberate.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bad Vet Robert Feher of Brewer Animal Clinic in Brewer Maine: Disciplined 3 Times by Board

The website of Brewer Veterinary Clinic says that veterinarian Robert Feher has a "special emphasis on surgery – specializing in Orthopedics and intricate, detailed surgeries." Oh yeah? Let's take a look at Feher's record, and then you decide: Do you want his surgical "special" treatment for your pet?

Feher has a long record with the Maine Veterinary Board. If you know anything about Veterinary Boards, you know that they pretty much are loathe to discipline a vet, and rarely discipline a vet once, much less three times. What does it take to incite a vet board to actually discipline a vet three times? How bad does it have to be?

In 2000, the Maine Veterinary Board found that Feher had committed "GROSS NEGLIGENCE" in his treatment of a golden retriever in his care.

In 2002, the Maine Veterinary Board found Feher's behavior constituted "incompetence in the surgical repair of the fractured femur."

And in 2006, the Board found that he "failed to share the results of the subject dog's abnormal pre-operative blood work with the dog's owner prior to performing surgery on the subject dog, and that he failed to perform appropriate pre-operative blood work or urinalysis prior to the subject dog's second surgery." (I do NOT have a good feeling about what probably happened to that dog . . . )

Is this what you want for your pet? Gross negligence? Incompetent surgeries? Cutting into your pet repeatedly, on more than one occasion, and failing to discuss your pet's abnormal bloodwork with you before hand (pre-existing conditions that show up in bloodwork can indicate increased surgical risks) or failing to do pre-opeartive bloodwork or urine at all???????

This is the guy that wants to do "intricate, detailed surgeries" on your pet.

I'm thinking that's an offer you want to DECLINE.

In 2007, the State of Iowa's veterinary board also disciplined Feher. Feher, who went to vet school in Iowa, is also licensed in that state, and Iowa fined him $500 for failing to report to them the disciplinary action taken against him by Maine (which he is required to do).

Here are the excerpts from the Board documents, available online:

FEHER, Robert C.
License Number: VT503
License Type: Veterinarian
Case Number: VET-113
Disposition: Consent Agreement dated 7/13/00
Summary: Licensee admitted to gross negligence in his treatment of a client's golden retriever by failing to take x-rays and failing to treat the dog as aggressively as circumstances required. Licensee was issued a $1250 civil penalty and was ordered to pay $250 for investigative costs incurred by the board.

License Number: VT503
License Type: Veterinarian
Case Number: VET-155
Disposition: Consent Agreement dated 12/2/02
Summary: Licensee admitted that a surgical procedure on a puppy failed to meet the standard of care, and that such conduct amounts to incompetence in the surgical repair of the fractured femur. Licensee agreed to a censure and a $500 civil penalty. Licensee also agreed to obtain 12 hours of continuing professional education in orthopedics.

License Number: VT503
License Type: Veterinarian
Complaint Number: 2005-VET-2049
Disposition: Consent Agreement dated 8/1/06
Summary: Licensee admitted that he failed to share the results of the subject dog's abnormal pre-operative blood work with the dog's owner prior to performing surgery on the subject dog, and that he failed to perform appropriate pre-operative blood work or urinalysis prior to the subject dog's second surgery. Licensee agreed to a censure and also agreed to obtain eight hours of continuing professional education in the field of internal medicine.


See Maine Disciplinary Records here

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wrong Side Surgery in Connecticut: Louis B. Pieper, DVM

If you are familiar with the kinds of medical errors that occur in human medicine, you may have heard of "wrong side surgery" -- you know, when the surgeon is supposed to operate on one side of the patients body, but operates on the other instead. In recent years, many steps have been taken to try to reduce this for humans: For example, they will have the patient mark the surgical site while still conscious.

What steps will be taken by the veterinary industry to reduce or eliminate wrong side surgery on our pets? Because . . . IT HAPPENS. Here is an example:

In Connecticut, in June of 1997, while operating as a vet at Barnum Animal Hospital in Bridgeport, veterinarian Louis Pieper operated on the left hind leg of his patient, a dog named "Slider."

Just one problem: It was the the RIGHT side leg that he was supposed to operate on.

Pieper was fined $1,000 by the vet board.

His license was placed on probation and the board ordered him to "develop a system in his office to ensure that the correct body part is identified prior to surgery."


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Blaine Firmin "Loses" Client's Cat, Who has Never Been Found

This is one of many stories about vets losing their patients. This one in Louisiana.

Blaine Firmin is a vet in Slidell, Louisiana. On December 8, 2006, a client brought his cat, Little Man, in to see Firmin because of an injury to the Little Man's leg.

It was determined that the cause of the injury was a cat bite. Apparently because he had two other cats at home, the client agreed to leave Little Man at the clinic for healing.

The client had an agreement with Firmin that he would pick Little Man up on August 12, four days later.

The Louisiana Veterinary Board's Findings of Fact state:

"Little Man escaped and/or was lost in or at the facility and in spite of attempts to locate him, Little Man has never been found.

[Firmin] is negligent in allowing the animal to escape and/lor losing the owner/client's cat which was entrusted to him for treatment.

[Firmin's] conduct is not in keeping with the standard of care required by the LA Veterinary Practice Act and the Rules promulgated by the Board."

The Board fined Firmin $250 and ordered her to pay the Board's investigative costs of $1,500.

Here is my question:

Little Man is gone. Firmin says that Little Man escaped or was lost, but all we know is that Little Man is gone.

Now, I want you, the reader to understand that I have absolutely no evidence that anything different happened to this cat. The following is merely conjecture -- but no doubt, I am merely giving voice to the same fear the owner probably has about what happened to Little Man.

What goes on an awful lot at vets offices?


And I know that the dead bodies of euthanized pets, when unclaimed by owners, are often sold to rendering companies or otherwise disposed of.

What IF Little Man was euthanized by mistake, and his body was picked up at the next regular pickup of dead bodies?

That also would be a possible cause of Little Man being gone without a trace.

And certainly, if I was a vet whose office had done that, I would probably say that the cat was lost, rather than say that the cat was killed by mistake and the body disposed of.

Please understand that I have no way of knowing whether or not that is what happened here -- and after all, the "legal" findings of fact say that the cat was LOST, or escaped. But no explanation for this escape or loss is given, nor was there apparently a witness to it. He's just . . . .gone.

So I am merely giving voice to what I know must be this owners worst fears about what might have happened to Little Man.

Wouldn't that thought cross your mind, too, if you were them?

For another heartbreaking story about dog who went to the vets and was "lost" but who has never been seen again, nor has his body been found anywhere, see Toasty's Story. Toasty's website also has lots of resources on veterinary malpractice.

Also, read our prior blog post about how the Airport West Animal Clinic in Washington allowed their client's beloved Italian Greyound, Bambee, to escape. In that case however, we DO know that the dog escaped -- because her dead, half-eaten body was found by her owner in a field.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Nebraska Veterinarian Jay Stewart Accused of Injecting Race Horses with Alcohol

In light of this past weekend's racing tragedy, with the death of the filly Eight Belle's in the Kentucky Derby, I thought it was time to pause and consider the role veterinarians play in the seedy side of horse racing.

Here is just one example . . .

According to an Associated Press article from January 2007, Jay Stewart, the President of the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association, was accused of injecting race horses with alcohol 75 times.

Stewart was charged with four misdemeanor counts of attempting to influence a race.

Specifically, Stewart was alleged to have administered intravenous vodka shots to horses at Fonner Park in Grand Island.

The article quotes the Executive Director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium as saying that alcohol is ostensibly used to calm horses before they go into the gate. He noted that this practice could pose safety hazards to the horse, other horses in the race, and the jockeys due to the effect of alcohol on the horse.


Stewart is not the only Bad Vet featured here involved in the horse "industry."

For others, check these prior blog posts:

Louis Grasso

Heather Kerr

Do the shady types gravitate to the racing industry?

Poor horses.

R.I.P., Eight Belles


Further investigation reveals that the charges against Stewart were dropped when three witnesses, scheduled to testify against him, could not be "located."

These witnesses were Armando Martinez, Kelli Martinez, and Jodi Lopez. Armando Martinez is a rider on the Nebraska racing circuit, and Lopez and the other Martinez own horses.

Witnesses can't be located to testify.

Involved in the industry.

Sounds a little mafioso, doesn't it?

Friday, May 2, 2008

San Antonio, Texas Veterinarian Scott Weeks Accused of "Indecency with a Child"

More vets behaving badly.


San Antonio, Texas Vet Scott Weeks (owner of Pet Medical Center in San Antonio) was accused of "frequently touching an 11-year-old boy over the past several years" when he was arrested in 2006, according to a June 2006 San Antonion Express News Article.

If those accusations were true, wouldn't you call it something more than "indecency?" If true, does this not constitute child sexual abuse?

The article states:

"The boy told his mother and investigators that Weeks had masturbated him over recent years . . ."

The article concludes:

". . . the affidavit . . . said Weeks is a 'continuing threat' to the boy and other children, particularly because of his job."

I find that interesting. I would like to know how being a veterinarian causes a person to be a greater threat to children. Is it because children love animals and therefore will want to be close to the veterinarian? Is it because veterinarians come in contact with many children as they treat family pets?

That is an interesting thought -- that persons suspected of molesting children etc. would have greater access or post a greater threat if they are veterinarians.

Very interesting.

If anyone knows what the outcome of this case was, let me know.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

DC Veterinarian Peter Glassman (Owner, Friendship Animal Hospital) and his Unlicensed Veterinarians

All Veterinary Boards (except maybe Idaho's) are bad. Bad meaning: They don't protect the consumer. They dismiss unbelievably high percentages of complaints, their disciplinary actions are laughable and TOTALLY not serious enough to be any kind of deterrent, by and large; they take the vet's word for it over the clients nearly always . . . in general, vet boards ain't worth you-know-what.

Texas and other vet boards have dismissal rates (the percentage of complaints that are filed and no action taken) of approximately 90%. This high dismissal rate earned the Texas Vet Board a 2-part consumer investigation from a Dallas-based TV station. It's hard to imagine that another vet board would beat them out for WORST VET BOARD IN THE COUNTRY, but there is one that is worse.

It's DC's vet board.

In years of complaints, the DC Vet Board found only in one case that the violations were worthy of action, and EVEN THEN, they did nothing, claiming they had no legal authority to act. Yup, folks, not only are DC residents experiencing "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION" but they've got no protection for their pets from bad vets.

In 2007 I made a public records request with the DC veterinary board for all public records related to consumer complaints against veterinarians from the year 2000 to the present. They sent me an envelope with 16 documents in it. Of those 16 documents:

11 were letters to complainants telling them that NO ACTION would be taken on their complaint, as follows:

1. ". . . insufficient evidence of violations of a nature or severity that would support a revocation or suspension of license."

2. ". . . insufficient evidence of violations of a nature or severity that would support a revocation or suspension of license."

3. ". . . insufficient evidence of violations of a nature or severity that would support a revocation or suspension of license."

4. " . . . the Board . . . finds no violation . . ."

5. " . . . the Board . . . finds no violation . . ."

6. " . . . the Board . . . finds no violation . . ."

7. " . . . the Board . . . lacks jurisdiction . . . "

8. " . . . the Board . . . finds no violation . . ."

9. " . . . the Board . . . finds no violation . . ."

10. " . . . the Board . . . finds no violation . . ."

11. " . . . the Board . . . finds no violation . . ."

Of the remaining documents, four (4) were letters stating that an investigation would be conducted. I assume that each of those letters is related to one of the above 11 cases.

The complaints dispatched without action include a complaint filed by the DC Humane Society. The HUMANE SOCIETY reported a vet -- yet still they took no action.

The final document, describes the one and only time that the Board found violations worthy of action -- that was the case of Glassman. But before we discuss that, let's put it in perspective:

Assuming that the four letters announcing investigations are related to one or more of the 12 cases dispatched by the board (11 dismissals and the one Glassman case), then this gives the DC Veterinary Board an abysmal record surpassing even that of the notoriously awful Texas Vet Board. Specifically, the Board found NO violation in 11 out of 12 cases, or 91.6667 percent -- call it 92%. BUT, even in the one case where they found violcations (the case of Glassman and Friendship Animal Hospital), THEY FAILED TO TAKE ANY ACTION, on advice of their lawyer (more later). That means that 12 out of 12 cases were dispatched WITHOUT ACTION -- 100%. Drumroll PLEASE . . . because this makes



Lousy as they ALL are, DC takes the cake. NO other vet board has DONE NOTHING 100 PERCENT OF THE TIME.

Back to Peter Glassman of Friendship Animal Hospital, and why I think he is a BAD VET.

That ONE case in which the vet board found violations and took steps toward disciplinary action was a complaint against Peter Glassman, DVM, owner of Friendship Animal Hospital, just off Wisconsin Avenue in DC's Friendship Heights Neighborhood.

Friendship is the most famous, and arguably also infamous, of DC's animal hospitals, and is the ONLY 24-hour hospital in the city. In 2005, the Washington City Paper ran a long, front-page article about them, pretty damning of both Friendship's actions in a particular case and the DC Vet Board itself. (

According to the City Paper Article:

"According to DCRA records, Friendship has been quite prolific in racking up complaints. When the newly constituted veterinary board met in November 2003, there were eight complaints waiting for its review. Of the eight complaints, five involved veterinarians at Friendship, which is a high-volume clinic. An investigation in 2001 also found eight people practicing veterinary medicine at Friendship without a license. Glassman is quick to mention that there were 'mitigating circumstances,' pointing out that the board concluded that those offenses weren't actionable ones."

Well, that's kind of true, and kind of not true. Here is what I found:

According to a memorandum from J. Sinclair Long, Assistant General Counsel, and Legal Counsel for the DC Veterinary Board (dated May 14, 2004, and provided to me in response to my public records request), the DC Veterinary Board did indeed make a move to take some action against Glassman for having 8 unlicensed veterinarians working at Friendship in 2001. The memo states:

"The Board of Veterinary Examiners has requested preparation of a consent order in repect of Dr. Peter Glassman, owner of Friendship Hospital for Animals, a District of Columbia veterinarian clinic. It is alleged that, during the period of approximately January 2001 to December 2001, Glassman employed eight unlicensed veterinarians in violation of District licensing law. The Board has requested a . . . that Glassman remit a fine of $1,000 for each violation, or $8,000 in total. Glassman is apparently amenable to the proposal."

Ah, you gotta love the game of "Mother-May-I" the Vet Boards play with vets.

"Bad Vet, May I Discipline You?"

"But of course, only a little though."

"Oh, thank you, we are so grateful to you."

[Vomit break]

But, seems like the DC Vet Board ITSELF, decided that was too harsh, even though Glassman himself was "amenable" to the fines. The memo goes on to say: "Alternatively, it has been suggested by staff, for reasons appearing below, that the Board conclude the case with the issuance of a letter of reprimand."

But here is the kicker: Even that meagre action -- a simple letter of reprimand ("BAD vet, no biscuit!") -- is, according to the VET BOARD'S LAWYER, illegal.

Yup, the Vet Board has no legal authority under District Law to write a letter of reprimand to a vet, or to fine a vet.

Law only allows the vet board to either suspend a license, or revoke it. And since NO VET BOARD IN THE COUNTRY hardly EVER revokes or suspends a license, this means that even in the MEASELY 8% of cases where the DC vet board finds cause to act (violations), they can and will take NO ACTION unless the violations are bad enough to revoke or suspend the vet's license. And that almost never happens anywhere. So nothing will be done.

It seems that there are regulations pertaining to the vet board which would allow it to reprimand a vet; put a vet on probation; limit the vets license; make him/her take classes, get therapy, or take an exam. But there is a STATUTE which is higher than the regulations and trumps the regulations. This statute is in the DC Official Code 3-509 (2001) which states that "the Mayor may suspend, revoke, refuse to issue, or restore a license issued . . . if the Mayor finds that the applicant or holder thereof . . . has knowingly employed a person who is practising veterinary medicine unlawfully."

Apparently, this wasn't the last time Glassman used unlicensed vets. In the City Paper article "More Than a Feline," published in summer 2005, the story of a couple whose cat was seen by a Friendship vet in 2003 is told. This cat had chronic kidney failure, and the vet -- a vet named Tawnia Zollinger, who was UNLICENSED at the time -- gave her a Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug called ketoprofen. Literature indicates that ketoprofen is -- like other NSAIDS -- contraindicated in patients with kidney failure. According to the article, after starting this drug the cat's kidney disease progressed rapidly into an acute state, and she died (at another veterinary hospital).

According to the article, the owners "spent the rest of the week contacting veterinarians all over the country, more than a dozen in all. Every single one of them agreed that Coco should never have been given ketoprofen, especially for 15 days."

The article also describes the treatment the cat's (Coco's) owners received at the hands of the veterinary board -- and it's horrifying. The link is below, and you should read it.

Why else do I think Dr. Peter Glassman is a bad vet?

In June 2007 I testified at a Joint Public Hearing of the Committee on Health and the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, to support provisions of an Animal Protection Act. The provisions that I spoke in support of would have allowed an owner to recover LIMITED non-economic damages when a pet dies because of gross negligence committed by a veterinarian ($2,000 cap), or intentional acts committed in bad faith by a veterinarian (i.e., not euthanasia) that kills the pet ($7,500 cap).

Glassman showed up with another vet, fighting this provision. Glassman argued, primarily, that subjecting veterinarians to the spectre of such damages would cause the price of vet care to rise due to increased insurance rates. This argument has been debunked by many, and seems quite disingenuous -- that is, I don't believe it is a sincere argument.

First of all, vets pay approximately $300 a year for $1 million or more in insurance coverage -- more than enough to cover such claims. Second, these claims rarely succeed and would likely succeed only where OVERWHELMING and conclusive evidence exists.

But finally what would he have to fear -- unless his vets are deliberately/in bad faith killing pets, OR committing gross negligence? I mean, those potential damages would only apply to him or any of the vets at his practice IF they were committing GROSS NEGLIGENCE that resulted in the DEATH of their patients, or worse still, doing things on PURPOSE ("intentional acts . . . in bad faith" that kill patients?????)

Last but not least, his online blog gives the lie to his claims that he cares about holding costs down for the consumer.

In his blog, Glassman discussed how marking up the costs of prescription drugs, saying:

"Everybody likes to make an easy buck here or there and for many years - let's be honest - that's the gravy train that vets have enjoyed. Who cared if you didn't REALLY make money in surgery when you were marking up heartworm preventive 200%?"

And commenting on his own blog, he added:

"With some exceptions we previously marked up drugs 100% and added a $5.00 Rx fee."

He acknowledged that to compete with online sources like PetMeds, they have now had to reduce their markup to 50% and still charge the $5.00 fee for filling prescriptions.

In his blog, and with his "product" "Pet Portals" -- he is focused on MARKETING and INCREASING REVENUES of veterinary practices -- that is, GETTING MONEY AWAY FROM THE CONSUMER.

Does this sound like a guy who is genuinely concerned about the impact of passing on costs to pet owners? I think that concern was feigned. I think he's all about getting as much money out of your pocket as he can. With little space and attention being given to issues of quality of care based on his blog (where he talks about "marketing" and "branding" and revenue) and his statements at the DC hearing, my observations tell me that Glassman is all about making money and fighting any attempt to keep vets accountable for quality of care.