This presentation is intended to stimulate pet owner awareness and provide food for thought, along with some of my views and opinions, on a subject that millions of Americans never question and take for granted - "Veterinary Care".
I believe pet owners have a right to question and scrutinize veterinary care whenever there is a VALID indication of indiscretions, lack of professionalism, negligence or malpractice. There are many people who feel animals have no rights; so, by association, pet owners have no rights. Yet, pet owners are consumers of goods and services and are contributing an estimated 30 billion dollars annually to the economy of this nation. A 1996 news report even stated that more money is spent on cat food annually than religious organizations receive in contributions.
We open our hearts and open our homes, take in animals and call them our pets. We feed, shelter and in some instances people clothe them. We provide for their needs, buy them toys, love them, comfort them and get them medical attention. We sweet talk them, baby talk them, play with them, teach them and clean up after them. Other than a pets love being unconditional, is this much different than having a child? To many, their pets are their children.
After we open our hearts and open our homes, we open our wallets and pay significant and substantial sums of money to doctors of veterinary medicine for their professional services. These are alleged professionals and professionalism is not a "GIFT", no more than "TRUST". Professionalism is a wage earned by education, effort, performance and dedication. In addition, state licensing is supposed to be used as a tool or control to insure a competent level or degree of professionalism and therefore protect the public. The 18TH century philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, wrote of animals, "The question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? but Can they suffer?" This emphasizes why the veterinarian is a special kind of doctor or person. Animal suffering is of such prime concern that the Veterinarians Oath even refers to the relief of animal suffering.
Whom do you trust as you trust a veterinarian? Would you take your mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, sister or brother any place, drop them off and simply say, "Call me when you find something out?" I don't think you would. Yet, this is the type of TRUST that pet owners have automatically bestowed upon veterinarians. I'm sure the majority of pet owners who have had a problem are not even aware of a problem for we TRUST what veterinarians tell us is true. We TRUST they are competent because they are licensed by the state. We TRUST when they tell us that they performed lab work, did blood work, took x-rays and performed procedures that they really did it and we ultimately TRUST for if our pet is fortunate to come home alive they do not talk to us about what has or has not happened to them with reference to what we, as consumers of goods and services, are billed and pay for. We SIMPLY and AUTOMATICALLY TRUST the vet. Well, the only place I automatically see TRUST is on our money. It says, "In God We Trust" and God could never have been a veterinarian for it is said God answers prayer and veterinarians answer to no one. In the case of veterinarians, TRUST US, don't question us, pay your bill and keep your mouth shut. There is no veterinary accountability and you cannot in many states sue a veterinarian for negligence, malpractice, pain or suffering, but a veterinarian can sue you in an attempt to silence you from questioning their professionalism or the care of your pet.
Well, pet owners arise and take a stand. We are consumers in this land. We pay substantial fees to vets with no more rights than our pets. No consumer rights, no 1ST Amendment Rights and no Freedom of Information Rights; yet, we have the right to be sued. It is not realistic to assume that any individual, institution, organization or business that offers goods and services to the public, especially for money, is exempt to scrutiny from or by the public.
As a consumer, you generally have the right to the goods and services you pay for. You have a right to question and scrutinize those goods and services. The Lemon Law even protects car buyers. As a pet owner and a consumer, don't you have a right to even see, read or have a copy of tests, x-rays, procedures or medical reports you paid for? Don't you have the right to question the veterinarian and have your questions answered? Don't you have the right to request that your pet's file be transferred to another veterinarian? Don't you have the right to complain to someone, somewhere, who will do something?
First Amendment Rights are infringed upon whenever a veterinarian uses the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, also known as the SLAPP Lawsuit. This is the tool being used today to silence the public if there is something you want to question, expose or speak out on. You are sued by those who object in an effort to burden you financially and tie you up in litigation so you do not have the time or money to spend on the issue you were originally pursuing.
An example of this, is the Avery's who retired to the Keweenaw Peninsula in northern Michigan. A mining company wanted to start mining within a mile of the Avery's retirement home and the Avery's were against it. The Avery's researched and found information which they distributed to the public in the form of a flier. The mining company hit the Avery's with a SLAPP Lawsuit in order to burden them financially and silence them. The last account I had the bill was up to $35,000 for legal defense against the SLAPP Lawsuit and Freedom of Speech.
Consumer Freedom of Information rights are also being denied and Big Business is being protected when veterinary lobbyists and State Lawmakers PUSH AND PASS State Law that exempts the investigations of veterinarians from the Freedom of Information Act.
Consumers have the right to question the goods and services they pay for. Consumers have the right when business and government agency's refuse help to go to others seeking and sharing those same goods and services and ask questions. Consumers have a right to basic consumer rights, freedom of speech and freedom of information. As pet owners we are consumers. What reputable business hangs out a sign, offers goods and services to the public, solicits your business, takes your money, then has the state pass a law which restricts you from questioning or scrutinizing them? These people are your pets veterinarians.
In addition to being denied basic consumer rights, 1ST Amendment Rights and Freedom of Information rights, the media does not report or address stories and incidents involving veterinary indiscretions and animal rights organizations are silent. If you as an individual abuse, mistreat, maim, mutilate, violate, torture or brutalize an animal, watch at the outpouring of media and animal rights organizations but where are these people when a veterinarian imposes pain and suffering on your pet or is guilty of negligence and malpractice? When is the last time you turned on a television or radio, picked up a newspaper or magazine and saw, heard or read a story on veterinary negligence or malpractice? You most likely never have.
This conspiracy between veterinarians, lobbyists, states and the media not to report veterinary indiscretions is evidently rationalized by the fact that the law has classified pets and animals as property - NOT living, breathing, feeling life forms. Therefore, veterinarians service property. Your car is also property and when you enter a repair facility, signs inform you that State Law entitles you to a written estimate of repairs and State Law entitles you the return of parts that were removed and replaced. Again, veterinarians service property. Have you ever seen a sign in a veterinarians office advising that if you are dissatisfied with the services rendered to file a formal complaint with the Department of Commerce - Professional Licensing and Regulation? There is more stringent state regulation on facilities that service your car than on facilities that service a living breathing life form. In fact, Michigan State Law protects and shields veterinarians in the form of 1978 Public Act 368 which exempts the investigations of veterinarians from the Freedom of Information Act. Is it also just a coincidence that a cosponsor of House Bill 4070 to which Public Act 368 is attached is married to a veterinarian? How sweet for the veterinary lobbyists. One of their own is married to a state lawmaker, so they might make it known what they want and the state lawmaker goes for it.
If the denial of consumer rights, 1ST Amendment Rights and Freedom of Information Rights, along with refusal by the media to air or report or expose veterinary indiscretions is this not the ingredients for a conspiracy to silence the public from questioning and scrutinizing BIG BUSINESS along with possible conflict of interest - WHAT IS?
Consider a pet owner who notices their pet is not eating as much as usual, has regurgitated what looks like foamy soap suds the size of a quarter two or three different times but other than that appears completely normal. Drinking water, running and playing with another pet, jumping up and down on the chairs, sofa and beds and doing all the normal things a normal cat does. The concerned pet owner seeks medical advice, as a loving parent would do with a child. The pet owner is advised by an alleged professional, a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, that the pet is seriously ill, 7-10% dehydrated, needs immediate emergency attention consisting of x-rays, blood work, lab work and then demands $200 up front.
The pet owner visits their pet daily at the clinic, sometimes twice a day, and questions 3 of the 4 paws being shaved with multiple puncture wounds in each paw which would later turn red. The pet owner also questions the inability of their pet to even get up from a urine soaked towel it was laying in and a small can of dried up food. The 3RD day the pet owner is questioning what appears to be the near lifeless body of their pet who is experiencing erratic and labored breathing along with noises. Still no x-rays have been performed and the pet owner is continuously reassured that their pet is fine. On the 4TH day - Sunday - the pet owner places numerous calls to the clinic to see if anyone is checking the animals and finally receives a return call from a veterinarian who is an alleged feline expert, assuring the pet owner on how well their pet is doing and getting better every day. On the 5TH day the pet owner is so devastated at their pets condition and the inattention of the veterinarian who called, that the pet owner contacted a former veterinarian and related the situation. When the pet owner arrived on the 6TH day, attempted to remove their pet and requested the records, the pet owner was met with opposition. The pet owner was then informed that no x-rays had ever been taken and the only test produced was dated the day before.
Immediately upon merely seeing and hearing the condition of the pet the former veterinarian asked, "Hasn't anyone been talking to you. This is life threatening. You may have to consider euthanasia." The pets temperature was 90 degrees when it was supposed to be 101 to 103 degrees. The pet was even unable to stand on its own when picked up and the noises the pet owner had been questioning 4 days earlier was gurgling. The pet was allowed to lay in a cage for days drowning while the pet owner was assured the pet was fine. The pet owner had thought surely the doctors at the first clinic weren't going to let their pet lay there, suffer and die. Wrong. Not only did the alleged professionals at the first clinic fail to provide professional care and let a loving, feeling, living, breathing life form ultimately die a prolonged horrible death, they violated their oath to relieve animal suffering. To add insult to injury, the veterinarian included a daily charge for medical examinations.
This scenario again justifies mentioning the silence of both animal rights organizations and the media. In 1996, the Humane Society of The United States presented and showed a video tape nationally in which a bow hunter in Texas used a black ram for target practice without immediately killing it. This organization was appalled at such an act and the fact that this animal was allowed to agonize and suffer 4 minutes before dying. The previously mentioned pet was allowed to lay in a cage in a veterinarians clinic 4 days, not 4 minutes, dying a horrible torturous death. Other than the pet owner, no one cared.
You might be asking yourself, who is this guy? What gives him the right to sound off and speak out with reference to veterinary care? Well, in addition to being a pet owner and one of those consumers who is contributing part of that 30 billion dollars annually to the economy - I am the previously mentioned pet owner.
A cherished family member, my cat Fluffy, ultimately died for the right through me, if nothing more than that as a consumer of goods and services, to question the professionalism of the individuals to whom her life and care were entrusted. My veterinary bills, miscellaneous expenses and legal fees to defend my Freedom of Speech cost me nearly $10,000 in the year following my pets death. Six days, almost $1,000 in veterinary bills and a dead pet later, I started and refused to stop asking questions regarding the professionalism of the veterinarians and the death of my pet. To error is human and anyone can make a mistake, but it was important for me to feel in my heart that I had gotten my pet competent attention and the best medical care I could. Each day I live with the last two lines of a poem many pet owners may recall. "Please see that my trusting life is taken gently. I shall leave this earth knowing with the last breath I draw that my fate was always safest in your hands." My pets life did not end gently nor was her fate safest in my hands - nor the veterinarians.
The initial veterinarian refused to talk to me following my pets death. Refused to produce the alleged tests, x-rays and daily medical exam results I was billed and paid for. Refused to forward my pets file and records to another veterinarian and then hit me with a SLAPP Lawsuit in order to burden me financially and legally silence me from asking questions regarding their professionalism. During the legal process both the veterinarian and his attorney made it known that they would not produce my pets file and records. Is this how a REPUTABLE business operates?
I attempted to obtain background information on the veterinarian from the state regarding formal complaints, possible suspensions of license or legal action only to be informed that background information is not available to the public. I filed a formal complaint against the veterinarian with the state and my worst nightmare was realized - possible cover-up. Once again, the purpose of state licensing is to be used as a tool or control to ensure a competent level or degree of performance and therefore protect the public; not hide indiscretions, lack of professionalism, negligence or malpractice. The state used a subpoena in order to get their hands on the records and x-rays from the second veterinary clinic that tried to save my pets life. The x-rays confirmed fluid build up in my pets chest and abdominal cavities which resulted in death by drowning. After the states alleged investigation and getting their hands on these records, I was informed that they were not going to further pursue my complaint. They also stated that a veterinary expert had felt that the initial veterinarian had not done anything wrong and had provided the minimal care required. Upon being informed by the state that they were not going to pursue my complaint, I requested my records and x-rays be returned along with a copy of the alleged investigation. It was then I was hit with 1978 Public Act 368, which exempts the investigations of veterinarians form the Freedom of Information Act and therefore, I was entitled to nothing. It is only governmental agencies that are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and not individuals; so, for their licensing fee, it appears the state runs interference for the veterinarians and hides the facts in state files that are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
As a result of both veterinary and government lack of cooperation, I launched a one man crusade in order to share information with the public and let the public share information with me. Surely I couldn't be the only pet owner who has experienced this lack of cooperation or the questionable death of a pet or billing. Over four years on the streets has reinforced my belief that there is an obvious problem involving veterinary care and accountability and that is why I have received the opposition and treatment I have.
If what I have to say has no merit, then why have I been assaulted by a veterinary employee? Why have I been hit with a SLAPP Lawsuit by a veterinarian in an attempt to silence me? Why have I been kicked out of dog shows, cat shows, pet fairs and public gatherings when veterinarians object to my passing out my flier and poem? Why has my car been vandalized in close proximately to a veterinary clinic? Why has my personnel office at work been contacted by veterinary attorney's in an attempt to silence and intimidate me through my job and livelihood? Why has a television station who provided free advertising and publicity for the veterinarian I filed the complaint against refused and denied me equal time to express my views and opinions on veterinary care? Why was a news reporter who interviewed me for the evening news not allowed to do the full blown story? Is it a coincidence that mail I started receiving at a post office box in response to a flier of mine and addressed Pet Owner stopped almost as suddenly as it started; then, in a court deposition, it was revealed that the veterinarian whose professionalism I was questioning had an acquaintance who was employed by the postal service and this person also didn't like what I was doing. Why was management personnel at my place of employment involved in furnishing personal and corporate background information about me to the veterinarian? With what authority do I speak? There isn't much I haven't been exposed to regarding "Petgate", the veterinary, state, media cover-up of the horrible death of a pet or my speaking out on the issue of veterinary care.
In addition, the veterinarian in my case told people he only had my pet for two days. He said my pet was dead when he got it and there wasn't anything he could do for it. I have bills for six days and in spite of continually questioning my pets condition, was continually reassured she was all right. Prolonged life, be it animal or human, with complete disregard for quality of life, translates to no more than prolonged income for the medical establishment. Our TRUST in veterinarians and TRUST in professional licensing, with NO ACCOUNTABILITY, provide an excellent opportunity for unscrupulous veterinarians to scam and rob pet owners. My pets pain, misery and agony were unnecessary when there was a procedure to relieve her suffering, and if necessary, there was euthanasia; but prolonging the ordeal translated to prolonged income for the veterinarian. If I had not visited my pet daily, I would not have known what had transpired.
Everything has its day. It was not my pets death that was as devastating as the heartless manner in which she was allowed to suffer and ultimately die with no accountability. It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are responsible. This violation of TRUST and OATH is unforgivable. It is also interesting that veterinarians come under the James Bond category of Double "O" Seven for they are licensed to kill. A medical doctor cannot even procure or have dispensed to them the drugs veterinarians use to euthanize animals.
Pet owners pay first class fares and don't even rate a second class ride. As one pet owner so appropriately put it, "Everyone ignores us." Upon returning to a veterinary clinic this pet owner was informed their pet was dead when it had been dropped off for a minor procedure. The pet owners attempted to question the vet - he ignored them. They wrote the state - they ignored them. They wrote a pet columnist in a newspaper - he ignored them. In conclusion, the pet owner told me, "Everyone ignored us, so we just gave up." I have been informed of veterinarians making incisions on animals, putting in a few stitches and charging pet owners for procedures when they did nothing. I have been informed by a building maintenance man at a veterinary clinic of the veterinarian wanting and encouraging him to cut open animals and do things and assist him in operations. This individual said the clinic was run like a high school biology class.
It has been said, "It is better to be occasionally cheated than perpetually suspicious." This is something each pet owner has to decide for themselves, but can you afford to gamble with what may prove to be the ultimate price - your pets well being or possibly their life. There are three significant concerns of the large number of pet owners I have talked to. Pet owner concern over the quality of medical care their pets are receiving and veterinary competency. Pet owner concern over outrageous veterinary bills and pet owner concern over threats made by veterinarians that they will be sued for defamation if they say anything with reference to care or billing.
After opening our hearts and homes to the animals and opening our wallets to the veterinarians, pet owners must open their mouths and QUESTION and SCRUTINIZE all aspects of pet care when entrusting the life and care of an animal to a veterinarian. Cleanliness of the facility, qualified assistants, examinations, tests, x-rays, shots and procedures were really performed that you were billed for. In fact, many veterinary clinics are now posting guide lines on how to tell good veterinary care. Visit and check on your pet during extended hospitalization. Request and FILE FORMAL COMPLAINTS with the Department of Commerce if there is any VALID indication of indiscretions, lack of professionalism, negligence or malpractice. DEMAND through your State Legislators and Representatives REPEAL of state law exempting investigations of veterinarians form the Freedom of Information Act and DEMAND ACCESSABILITY to background information and track record regarding veterinarians.
Lets be realistic. Veterinary care is BIG BUSINESS and the relationship between pet owners and veterinarians is that of consumer and businessman. In this instance, forget animals and animal rights for the pet owner/veterinarian relationship involves the exchange of goods and services for something called "MONEY". Veterinary psychology lures many pet owners into commitments that generate income for the veterinary clinic and pet owner bills ranging from hundreds into the thousands of dollars. There are Behavioral Psychologists for pets with behavioral problems and the veterinary field is now advocating organ transplants and acupuncture for pets, along with braces for your pets teeth and contacts. All this for something the law classifies as property. What other gimmick will these people pursue in order to service property, with no accountability, and play on the emotions of distressed pet owners who want to avoid the finality of death and prolong their pets life at any cost?
There are many dedicated, proficient, competent and caring professionals in the veterinary field I'm sure, but too many feel that they are untouchable and above reproach. Evil unchecked grows. Evil tolerated poisons the whole system. The arrogant, obstinate and antagonistic attitude of too many of these alleged professionals must be corrected and it appears that pet owners are the only ones who can accomplish this. Pet owners possess the ultimate weapon - MONEY. Veterinary lobby's are powerful and THEIR MONEY TALKS. States pass laws protecting veterinary scrutiny and background information. Animal Rights Organizations and the Media are silent while accountability is non-existent and consumer rights are denied.
It would be a relief to know that my unfortunate experience was an isolated incident but over four years in talking with other pet owners has taught me better. It is a possibility that the Internet and World Wide Web can be used to relate pet owner experiences and expose and identify veterinarians to be avoided. Change never comes about by everyone taking a back seat. My pet was a loving, feeling, living, breathing everyday friend and companion. In order to avoid criticism, DO NOTHING - SAY NOTHING - BE NOTHING. Out of Trust Came Greif - Out of Love Came Inspiration