Bad Vets

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Dr. Millard (Lou) Tierce, of the Camp Bowie Animal Clinic, has been arrested for animal cruelty. A Texas family says he kept their dog alive for months after the pup’s planned euthanization so he could harvest the dog’s blood for transfusions.

Is your veterinarian safe? As in having the appropriate skills to perform surgery on your pet, to prescribe medication that won’t harm your dog or cat, and make sound medical decisions? The reason I ask these questions is that there is a lack of disclosure to the pet owning public about so called ‘bad vets’, yet I have been said by some to be one of them.

I am one of few veterinarians in North America to go through a disciplinary hearing, to be charged with unprofessional conduct, and have extremely large fines levied against me. I resigned from the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia effective December 1, 2010, following a five-year investigation into my online holistic pet health book and newsletter. The college found me guilty of professional misconduct on April 20, 2010, claiming that I had committed various offences under its Bylaws and Code of Ethics. For these offences I was fined $30,000 and required to pay an additional $9,500 for the Inquiry Committee costs.(1)

In fact these may be the largest fines ever levied against a veterinarian by a governing body.(2)

Incidence of veterinary complaints

What about other seriously incompetent veterinarians, you may ask? There are 12,035 veterinarians in Canada and an estimated 95,430 in the United States. Most veterinarians are competent and caring professionals, but not all. Mistakes happen; we’re only human. Some practitioners seem to care more about money than the well-being of your pet. While malpractice happens, you likely will never know about it, even if it has been your veterinarian.

In the article “10 Things Your Veterinarian Won’t Tell You,” Kelly Baron reveals this: (3)

I have more complaints filed against me than a used-car lot—not that you’ll ever know about it.

When she picked up her kitten, Pumpkin, from the veterinarian after a routine spaying, Mount Pleasant, SC, resident Marcia Rosenberg was stunned to find the cat nearly comatose. Soon Pumpkin’s body was racked with seizures, and her stomach swelled. Rosenberg rushed Pumpkin to another vet, who saved the cat, but the distraught owner called her state’s veterinary board to complain. Told that the board had no procedure for alerting consumers about disciplinary actions taken against incompetent vets, Rosenberg mounted a successful campaign to have such actions posted on the South Carolina veterinary board’s website.

Tracking complaints against vets often requires a bit of detective work. Some state veterinary boards list disciplinary actions against vets, while others do not. And complaints typically aren’t disclosed until a board investigation and judicial ruling have determined a case of wrongdoing. On her own, Rosenberg says she was able to find that the veterinarian had previously had his license suspended in Ohio and since then had more than a dozen complaints against him in South Carolina.

It’s not only difficult to know if a veterinarian has ever been charged, it’s also disheartening to find that the majority of cases are summarily dismissed by veterinary governing bodies.

JoNel Aleccia published a very informative piece called “When Vets Make Mistakes, Pets Pay the Price.”(4)

Owners of injured animals say they’re stunned to discover state veterinary boards that dismiss up to 80 percent of the complaints filed against their members, and a legal system that regards pets as mere property, with no way to recover damages for emotional loss.

A check of several states showed that many dismiss a large proportion of their complaints. In Texas, there were 469 new complaints in 2008, with 172 carried from previous years. Records show that more than 40 percent, 263 complaints, were dismissed without action.

In Alabama, thirty of fifty new complaints filed in 2008 were dismissed or about 60 percent. In Nevada, sixty-five of seventy-nine new complaints that year were dismissed, or 82 percent.

In 17 years of veterinary practice I had zero client complaints levied against me, yet in part due to my ongoing questioning of my veterinary college I am no longer practicing.

But consider Dr Manesis.

Bronx veterinarian Andrew Manesis was arrested in spring of 2012 for dumping bodies of dead pets in the brush near the Hudson River. News reports stated that “Andrew Manesis of Animal Clinic & Surgery of Throggs Neck was arrested by Westchester County police following an investigation that began April 5 when the remains of twenty-six cats, eight dogs, and a lizard were discovered in dense brush roughly ten feet from the Hutch in Harrison, NY. The pets were wrapped in garbage bags and lobbed into the brush on several occasions from March 2011 to April 2012.”

Manesis? He was charged in Harrison Town Court with fraud, violation of environmental conservation law, and two counts of petit larceny—but all of these charges are mere misdemeanors.

Dr. Manesis was not disciplined by the New York Veterinary Licensing Board. A search of veterinarians in New York show that he is currently licensed is in good standing, and there have been no disciplinary actions levied against him.

What Can You Do?

1.Develop a long term relationship with a veterinarian that you trust. Clearly of all that you do, this is most important. You will need veterinary care, and it needs to be based upon trust and mutual respect. If you are not comfortable, then go elsewhere. Ask other pet owners who they know, like and trust. Ask your veterinarian if they have been investigated for misconduct.

2.Be an INVOLVED pet owner. This means taking an active role in the health care of your pet, not just being a passive participant, accepting what is advised or being sold to you.

3.ASK many questions.

If your pet is sick, ask what is likely wrong before testing starts. Do you need to do that diagnostic test? Are there alternate options? How safe is that medication? Does my dog or cat need that vaccine? What are the risks associated with that vaccine? How serious is the dental disease? Is there another option to clean my dog or cat’s teeth? What is in that veterinary approved food? Is there another food I can feed? What are the concerns about giving this medication long term? Are there supplements I can give as options, or anything to give to decrease the chance of side effects?

There is a problem in the regulation of veterinary medicine, as many governing bodies are still ‘protecting’ the few incompetent veterinarians. This needs to change, and client complaints need to be taken seriously. These veterinarians should not be practicing and harming other people’s dogs and cats. Clearly these governing bodies cannot regulate veterinarians and adequately protect the interest of pet owners at the same time.

Best Wishes,
Andrew Jones DVM

1.College of Veterinarians of British Columbia, “Inquiry Committee Report re: Dr. Andrew Jones,” May 5, 2010.
2.Jones, Andrew, DVM, personal research, College of Veterinarians of Ontario, Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, California Veterinary Medical Board
New York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions (OP) via, Jan 2014
3.Baron, Kelly, “10 Things Your Veterinarian Won’t Tell You,”
4.Aleccia, JoNel, “When Vets Make Mistakes, Pets Pay the Price.”, February 10, 2010.

4 thoughts on “Bad Vets”

  1. Great article. One disturbing note is that many, many veterinarians take great umbrage when the pet parent DOES ask (respectful) questions to the point that they “fire” the client. Why ? For questioning treatment, or not going along with a treatment plan. Asking for a second opinion, not agreeing to a test because the vet “just wants to know what it shows” — cause for being fired.

  2. Thank you for this article…but something that saddens me a lot is a subject that nobody talks about… almost like if it is tabou. I am talking about the martyrs many, many, many little dogs endure in the hands of groomers. Oh! Yes! The dogs are well groomed and cute but what hapened to them when their “parents” are out of the grooming salon is, often, beyond imagination. I saw what happened, I complained to different associations and to SPCA but nothing happened, nobody moved their butts and these groomers are continuing to groom and to abuse dogs… this is absolutely horrifying.

  3. I feel a local vet did needless surgery on my 21yrs old medically compromise cat. My regular vet found he had enlarge Thyroid but given his age she didn’t support doing surgery. However, when the test came back positive & she talked to the vet that actually owns clinic, all off a sudden surgery was needed to be done ASAP because of how his heart was effected. I wanted a medicine but she said due the thyroid causing stress on his heart we needed to do surgery ASAP, wouldn’t listen about my concerns. I called to cancel the surgery the next day, the day of the surgery. She refused to consider meds. The top doc & the 1 doing the operation called & claim this operation is common in elderly cats. Rushed.. don’t know what they did before be4 as far as prep didn’t suggest a couple weeks of meds 2 stablize him! Because I couldn’t let a skinny sick cat go without food for what amounted to about 15hrs they did the procedure on a full stomach! Told me no subcutaneous fluids because of the heart problem, later because cat wasn’t doing well sent me home with fluids no orders no directions. Plus very rude didn’t even appear 2 hear my concern of troublesome symptoms after the surgery! My cat went down hill very fast! Had to call the rude uncaring bugger to put my kitty 2 sleep, rude even than! What can I do? I know this was all about money! I know my kitty was very old but I wanted to give him a little extra time!

  4. My cat of13 years come home ….vet assured me all will be fine was getting dental surgery. All went well according to vet that afternoon ..Gizmo won.t spend a night ..unknown to me he would be alone an not morning received a call he was found dead in cage .I mean will spend the night ….bad veterinary call ..why the check was no one monitoring him ..heart broke and need this stopped with cost of vets surely they can afford a tech overnight ..otherwise I would of brought him home ..where’s our justice

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