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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 11 August 2004 Issue


Please keep in mind that my most important priority, at all times, was to try to save animals lives. I knew that "my" Dr. Bad Vet would never again harm or kill any of my animals. However, what I took on was to prevent him from harming or killing other animals. As I met more and more victims of this butcher who called himself a vet, I dedicated myself to saving innocent animals' lives, as well as saving unknowing neighbors in my community the heartache that we had been through.

Start keeping a chronological journal of everything that happens. Go back to the first time the veterinarian saw your animal for this particular condition and write down as much detail as possible. Include names, dates, times, details of conversations (either by phone or in person), any witnesses, contact information for all individuals, etc. As you go forward, details, dates, facts all become a blur and this journal will be a valuable resource.

Be prepared for a slow-moving process. It seems that nothing happens quickly and you will find the whole process very frustrating. On occasion, I have wanted to scream and shout and stamp my feet. My advice is to ALWAYS maintain your dignity and keep calm. You do not want to lose your credibility.

If you truly believe that you and/or your animal were poorly treated, I would start telling everyone I knew. You are doing your friends and neighbors a good service by telling them of your experience so they can be on guard and be wary of this vet. In addition, you will be surprised by what you might hear in return. In my case, I started hearing back from people "He killed my cat 2 years ago"; "I know someone who lost their dog to him recently"; "I used to work there and saw terrible abuse so I quit". It was in this fashion that I found so many other victims of one incompetent vet. Many had already filed complaints; some had not, but after my urging, agreed to file a complaint. The more complaints filed against a veterinarian, the more seriously they will be taken by the vet board. Obviously, I am not referring to frivolous complaints.

I would also speak with people in animal-related fields and tell them exactly what happened to you with Dr. Bad Vet to see if you can uncover any relevant information on the veterinarian. I received invaluable information after approaching pet sitters, pet grooming shops, pet boarding facilities and pet food shops. People who work in these facilities hear animal stories, good and bad, all the time. Even if you cannot uncover any other incidents of mistreatment, word will spread throughout the community about Dr. Bad Vet and people will be more cautious or go elsewhere.

If you feel that they would be sympathetic, approach support staff at the vet's office and ask if they would cooperate with you. They see and hear things behind closed doors and could be a valuable resource. Inquire about past employees who might come forward with information or your case, or others.

Talk about your experience so strangers can overhear you. I've done this while getting a haircut; waiting for my car at the carwash; during an exercise class, on line at the supermarket. I am quite often approached by someone who wants to hear more or has information to share with me. You will be shocked at the wealth of information you will learn from total strangers.

If you do uncover several other victims of the same veterinarian, then I have additional recommendations to pass along to you. I will do so at your request. Be aware that everything must be documented. Have they filed a complaint? If not, are they willing to do so now? Are they willing to "go public"?

Do an internet search on Dr. Bad Vet. Check various forms of the name-for example if his name is Norman Bad Vet, also do a search for Norm Bad Vet. See if anything comes up. You might get lucky and learn of past problems with Dr. Bad Vet.

Whether or not you intend to file a complaint, make sure you obtain as complete a set of records from the vet as possible. Do this as quickly as possible. The staff will probably want to give you as little as possible; insist on a complete set and do not settle until you think you have everything. The sooner you obtain the records, the less likelihood that they will have been tampered with.

Contact your state veterinarian board and question them on the vet. They will probably tell you that everything is confidential and that you are not entitled to this information. Ask for any and all information including background and complaint history. You may be required to submit a "freedom of information" request to obtain answers. If so, ask them what their requirements are. Tell them you are going to file a complaint against the vet, and get any required forms they have.

Prepare your complaint. Try to make it as factual as possible, going in chronological order. Review it for readability. The investigator who must use this complaint as the basis for his investigation needs to be able to understand exactly what happened, and not have to wade through unnecessary data. This is a very difficult task since we are all so emotional about our pets, especially after having a pet poorly treated or killed, and some people will ramble on and get bogged down with very emotional passages. If your complaint involves more than one animal, consider writing two separate complaints so that the facts will be more clearly stated. If you decide to include multiple animals in one complaint, make sure it is clear to a stranger reading the complaint exactly what happened to each animal. Attach any related documents that you have: medical records, photos, bills, etc. DO NOT SEND X-RAYS. If you have x-rays, mention that they are available but do not send them at this point. KEEP COPIES OF EVERY PAGE THAT YOU SEND.

If you have not received an acknowledgment of your mailed complaint within one week, contact the vet board to see if they received it.

The vet board will assign a complaint or case number to you. All future correspondence should have this number on it.

To help move your case along, call every 3-4 weeks to inquire about the status. You will probably be calling the named investigator, but they may direct you to an attorney or the administrator for the board. Only call this person. I have found that people who do not call will wait much longer for their case to come up.

Become familiar with your state's website for the vet board. You will see some of their board policies and procedures, board members, meeting dates, in some states minutes of board meetings and/or disciplinary orders will be posted. Some states have tons of useful information on this site and you should try to become familiar with it. If your state has a pitiful website, request all this information be sent to you. They will be very annoyed at the request but will know that you are serious.

Depending on the frequency of board meetings and the backlog of complaints against other vets in your state, the investigator will complete his investigation in a period of weeks or several months. In most states, the vet will receive a copy of your complaint and be given the opportunity to respond to the complaint. Most states will not allow you to see the vet's response. The investigator will gather all the information and present it to the board (or a committee of the board) for their review and decision on how to proceed. Unfortunately, the vast majority of complaints are dismissed. Sometimes, a vet will receive a letter of caution or letter of warning regarding certain questionable behavior on his/her part. A small minority of complaints are recommended to go to "hearing".

Inquire who will make the determination on your case. In some states the decision is made solely by veterinarians as there is no "consumer" or "public" member on the board or committee. In some states, an attorney is part of the board, but the attorney is not considered a consumer member. If no consumer member is part of the decision-making process, you must, at the appropriate time, file a protest to this policy and insist that a consumer member be added to the decision-making body. Unfortunately, this addition will probably not happen during the period that your case is coming up for review. The addition of consumer members is happening slowly, state by state, not only for vet boards but other professional boards as well.

Request that your state vet board send you the last 3 years of minutes from their board meetings. You can also request 3 years of back "annual reports". They may require that you file a freedom of information request to obtain these documents. They also may require that you pay for photocopies. The minutes, depending on the amount of detail, will provide good information to you and you will be able to see how the board functions.

The best likelihood that your case will not be dismissed is if you can prove there was a clear violation of one or more clauses in the "Veterinary Practice Act" (VPA). This name will differ state by state, but it is the Code of Laws and/or Code of Regulations the vets must adhere to. It is usually on the website, or available upon request from the vet board; I suggest you become familiar with the clauses that you feel have been violated.

If the case is recommended for a hearing, you will receive a hearing date and be asked (maybe subpoenaed) to testify against the veterinarian. However, be aware that the hearing might never happen.

In my case, my hearing never took place. Although I wanted to testify and go through the hearing process, I was denied that right because my case was "settled by consent order". This was all done without my knowledge and was, in effect, a plea bargain by the veterinarian so that he did not have to go through a full hearing. I had no say in the terms of the consent order; I was outraged by the chain of events and the leniency shown to him, all of which made me determined to fight for justice all the more.

That's when I went to the media. I had tons of documentation and had in my possession the complaints of several other people-all against this one incompetent veterinarian. My local NBC affiliate agreed to investigate and ran a four-night investigative report exposing the vet, his clinic, and the vet board for their lack of action/discipline in this case. The newspapers were kind to me, and several excellent stories have been written showing how poorly everything was handled by the vet board. These stories have helped me to have improved policies put in place with my state vet board. As stories get posted to the internet, a permanent record becomes available to anyone who does a "Google" search on Dr. Bad Vet. I have been working on new legislation which is pending.

Additional possible avenues for publicity: ASPCA; The Humane Society; PETA; local animal shelters; local rescue groups.

Of course there is the option of contacting an attorney to discuss a possible lawsuit. The few people that I know who have gone this route have not been particularly successful, even after paying large legal fees. In my opinion, a complaint with the vet board is your best option. If you are not satisfied with the end result, you can follow my lead. If you are determined, you can cause more damage to Dr. Bad Vet's practice and reputation than a lawsuit."



(Always for George - Always for the Rimadyl Dogs)

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