Vets Holding Dogs Hostage – Death Threats
Veterinary medicine, like human medicine, has its share of good and bad practitioners, but I have seen an alarming trend in the area of veterinary medicine. There was a time when vets treated animals out of love for animals and because they cared. Veterinary medicine had become just as bad as human medicine and in some ways even worse!
At least many people have health insurance, and there are programs for people who need health care. For pets, yes, health insurance is available, but compared to the number of pets, the coverage is still not very widespread. And yes, there are some low-cost programs available, but they are mostly spay/neuter programs and vaccination programs.
Veterinary medicine has become ‘big business’, a revolving door, ‘bottom line’ watchers. Most vets require a 75% down payment for any type of surgical procedure and if there is any question about paying the bill, which can easily run into thousands of dollars, they will not touch your pet. Vet visits and surgery cost dog owners nearly $800 and cat owners $500 last year, according to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association. And this is just an average! Few vets are willing to set up payment plans.
Lately I’ve come across several stories in the news that have really upset me, vets taking dogs ‘hostage’, threatening ‘death’ over the bills. People’s doctors don’t even do such a thing, so how can vets get away with it? Why are animals considered nothing more than ‘possessions?’
Josh Gomez of Gwinnet, Georgia, says his vet, Dr. Garry Innocent of PetFIRST Animal Hospital in Duluth, is holding his black border collie, Pilot, hostage and threatening to send him to an animal shelter where he could be euthanized.
Gomez already paid Inocencio the agreed amount of $1,125 for the puppy’s virus treatment in August. The next thing he knew, there were all kinds of additional charges that had not been agreed upon. The bill went up to $1,640 and has been increasing daily, with the vet holding the pup, due to a boarding charge of $27 per day. As of September 14, Gomez owed almost $1,000 more than what he initially agreed to pay to Dr. Garry Innocent and PetFIRST Animal Hospital. As a 22-year-old home music teacher, Gomez says he just can’t afford the outrageous charges. He has already spent $400 on his girlfriend’s credit card and used a $750 loan from his employer.
And what does Dr. Innocent have to say about this? “He’s being such a jerk that he just needs to pay his bill.”
How’s that for understanding and compassion?
On Tuesday, the vet plans to send Gomez’s dog, Pilot, to an animal shelter. Gomez filed a lawsuit in Gwinnett Superior Court this week to stop Innocent and PetFIRST Animal Hospital from turning Pilot over to animal control authorities. His attorney, Ed McCrimmon, says the Georgia law is unconstitutional because it allows pet clinics to take property from people without “due process.”
In another story from San Antonio, Texas, Jacqueline Hines rescued a little Chihuahua from the streets. She was just being a good Samaritan, helping an animal in need. And of course, when the little dog, which she named Macho, got sick, she took him to the vet.
Hines, a 76-year-old widow on a fixed income, told the vet she couldn’t afford more than $100 and the vet said she was fine, treated the dog and charged her $93. He sounds pretty good so far, right?
Well the next morning Macho was even worse so Hines got him back, another $341!
Then two hours later she was back in the ER with her little dog because he was even worse! “He was definitely having an anxiety attack,” Hines said.
Here the dog had been ‘treated’ and sent home twice for a total of $434, after Hines expressly told the vet that he was on a fixed income and could only afford $100. To me, a reputable vet would have done a little better to figure out the situation and honestly tell Hines what was wrong with the dog or, if he didn’t know, at least tell him that he couldn’t treat the dog within his financial constraints and allow him to see if he could find other options. He would not have repeatedly ‘treated’ the dog, charged and sent the dog home only for her to bring the dog back for additional ’emergency’ treatments!
This last time she couldn’t pay the bill and had to leave her little dog at the vet because of course they couldn’t let her take it home. Five days later, Hines receives a letter in the mail.
“Telling me that if I didn’t pay within 12 days, they were going to kill the dog,” Hines said.
The actual text of the letter was: “We intend to dispose of the animal,” text taken directly from the Texas law that allows veterinarians to dispose of abandoned animals.
The vet said that contrary to Hines’ belief based on the phrase “get rid of the animal”, they try to find a home for the animal, not kill it!
Fortunately for Hines, before her little buddy could be ‘eliminated’, a friend footed the vet bill and now she and Macho have reunited and she is able to pay her friend back over time.
Those are two stories of pets being held “hostage” and veterinarians threatening to “get rid of” them if they don’t get their money. I have no doubt that Jacqueline Hines would have worked out some kind of payment plan with the vet if that had been an option, after all, she has worked out one to pay off her friend.
And here is one more. No dog is being held ‘hostage’, but because the owner was unable to pay upfront, numerous vets turned away a dog in severe pain despite the owner offering to set up payment plans with them to have their dog treated.
Loraine Standifer of Fort Worth, Texas, was moving and asked a friend to watch her sheepdog, Amir. Everything was going well until one day her friend came home from work to discover that someone had poured a corrosive liquid, like acid, on the dog’s back. Standifer hurried and tried and tried to find a vet who would work out a payment plan for the extensive and expensive surgery Amir would need. The dog was in pain, but every vets she contacted turned her away.
Fortunately for her and Amir, the rescue group from which she adopted Amir put her in touch with a vet who actually did the surgery and took care of Amir for free. In fact, there are still some vets who work from the heart rather than the wallet.
Vet salaries have increased, with newer vets demanding higher starting salaries before they even walk in the door. A new graduate will start with $60,000 a year. High-end corporate practices will pay even more. Those practice owners earn more than $100,000 a year. I know that veterinary medicine has changed and has become much more specialized. I realize there are overhead costs, salaries, and equipment, but I also feel that medicine, whether animal or human, should be practiced from the heart and not the wallet. What would be the harm in adding a little compassion, at no cost?