Recently there have been a few relatively high profile cases of veterinarians in my state, in private practice, being brought under review by the state licensing board and the state board of veterinarians. Shockingly, despite at least partial findings of guilt by the state board, neither veterinarian whose case I followed had their license to practice completely revoked. Both received 'probabation' type sentencing, no fines, and have to have psych evals before they can reapply for licenses. BUT THEY CAN REAPPLY. They are not barred from practicing despite one vet who admitted to reusing surgical packs and other supposed-to-be-sterile materials (but denied the allegations of physical animal abuse) and another who was prescribing narcotics "incorrectly" and euthanizing animals in the most arcane and cruel ways.
It never hurts to do a quick google search before visiting a new vet. Either of these folks could move cross-country and just start again. While the Texas (I think it was) veterinarian who shot a supposedly-feral cat with an arrow and posted it on social media was big news, not every case of cruelty, abuse, or mispractice is. If these vets had been human doctors, their malpractice suits would have been in the million-dollar range.
The scariest part was that the one of these vets who was local to me--had offered to do vetting for our rescue. Luckily or unluckily, I had worked for her briefly as an RVT and could speak up about her animal handling and surgical skills. She was already doing vetting for another local rescue, whose medical director was one of the witnesses for the State's case against her--as was I.
I don't know if our state board's leniency and seeming unwillingness to hand down appropriately tough punishments is limited to Indiana; I suspect it's not. Do your due diligence, folks. Don't put your own pets or your rescue's in the hands of someone who will mistreat or abuse them.
Lots of things to do to ensure your pets' safety: Don't let them be 'taken to the back' for shots, blood draws, and other routine visits. Be there with them. I was just reading an article on this topic yesterday. It said that although some vets / VTs will tell you your pet does better without you there, really it is because the techs do better without you there (no pressure, etc), and even in the few cases where a pet does do better without you, it's still not worth the trade off of risking their increased fear over rougher restraining or other practices that may tend to happen when you are not there to witness. As for what you can do to make your vet and VTs feel more comfortable: learn and train your dogs on stationing and other husbandry skills that will make their visits easier and less stressful for them and therefore for the vets as well.
I truly hate having to find a new veterinarian. It's easier to find a new physician for myself than to find a good, reliable vet. In the 11 years of doing this we've gone through 13 different veterinarians. I don't know if it's partially a result of the consolidation of vet clinics by conglomerates so that the veterinarians and staff are more beholden to their board of directors and shareholders than they are to their clients. The prices at the mega-facilities certainly allude to this practice. It's frequently hard to tell if a clinic is private or has been bought out by BigVet because they retain their former names so they can retain their clients. To be fair, I've seen a lot of shoddy practices by small, independent clinics as well.
In the past I've tried to get compensation from a mega-conglomerate, that is known by 3 initials, for malpractice that nearly blinded my dog. Only one other veterinarian was willing to stand by me in this pursuit, even though the office is well known for shoddy work. All I can do in this respect is make sure all the people affiliated with me know that I would never take another animal there and I provide them with reasonable options.
I agree with SSAS. When you're looking for a vet for your rescue organization the main answer is "research, research, research". That's one of the great things about the internet. Every disgruntled client is going to post a comment somewhere. SSAS is also correct - never leave a pet alone with the VTs or vet until it's actually time for a procedure. Reputable and knowledgeable vets won't have a problem with you being there while they insert an IV stint, repair a minor wound, or give vaccinations.
Talk with the vet. We've all been doing this long enough that we're pretty well versed in the maladies our rescue animals encounter. You can test their knowledge, ask questions, and make alternate proposals. If the vets are willing to share their knowledge with you and give you reasonable suggestions there's a pretty good chance they're going to be equally sensitive to your animal's needs. It also gives you the opportunity to determine how up-to-date the veterinarian is with new techniques and procedures for your particular animal's condition. So yes, we need to do our research before going to a vet. My current vet is wonderful and barely even rolls his eyes anymore when I say........ "I was reading about..........."
Private clinics can be real lifesavers for a rescue - both in terms of care as well as financial savings. In the last year I've brought 24 animals with pretty serious conditions to my current vet and recommended him to over 15 adopters who I know are using him. We have a good personal and professional relationship. Now I'm just crossing my fingers that he stays with his clinic as long as I'm doing rescue.
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