Took the life of my beloved Emily
Our pets are our family, but current laws offer us no protection from veterinary negligence – even when it results in death.
On December 28th 2018, I lost my beloved cat Emily due to an act of extreme veterinary negligence. Emily was in need of a critical B.G. Curve. She suffered from diabetes and this procedure was needed to monitor her blood glucose levels over the course of 8 hours. If performed correctly, this would have allowed a veterinarian to determine whether or not glucose therapy was necessary. When not performed correctly, it resulted in her preventable death. It was just after Christmas and still in the midst of holiday chaos when Emily’s primary veterinarian recommended I reduce her insulin count and have a B.G. Curve performed. Although their office would not be open to administer the procedure, they were confident I would be able to find a reliable vet to perform her curve. After looking into my options, which included tracking down a veterinary student in the middle of the holidays or attempting to draw her blood for the procedure myself, I finally found a reliable vet’s office that was open and willing to book her appointment. This was not a cheap procedure by any means, but I knew that it was vital for her health and there was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. I dropped Emily off for her B.G. Curve at 8 a.m. and arrived to pick her up after 5 p.m.
The veterinarian made a brief recommendation of offering Emily appetite stimulants, which I thought was unusual as that is not a normal treatment for hypoglycemia, then told me Emily was “fine” and sent us home. Shortly after arriving home, Emily suffered a diabetic seizure and died. Frantic and distraught, I began combing through the documents from Emily’s vet appointment in search of answers. I couldn’t fathom how this could have happened, she was just with a vet! To my horror, I discovered the veterinarian never actually completed the B.G. Curve. In the 8 hours that Emily was in the care of this veterinarian, only 2 out of the 5 glucose readings were performed. According to the notes on her papers, the final glucose reading was done at 1 p.m. and clearly showed that Emily’s glucose levels were in decline and crisis. For the next 4 hours, Emily was left unattended. No more readings were performed. No glucose therapy was given. It was later confirmed to me by Emily’s primary veterinarian that her final glucose reading showed she was in critical distress and should have prompted immediate action. Instead, she was ignored and left to deteriorate. When Emily was sent home with me, she was not “fine.” She was dying due to veterinary negligence. Why did this veterinarian neglect my pet the way that she did? Was it because there was another emergency that morning in the clinic? Or the rush to close up the office for the holiday weekend? Was she unaware of how to correctly perform this procedure? I’ll never know the answers to these questions. What I do know is that if it were not for this case of veterinary negligence, Emily would still be alive today, purring by my side.
Please watch Emily’s video below.
Massachusetts Chapter 272:
Section 77. Cruelty to Animals
Whoever overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, cruelly beats, mutilates or kills an animal, or causes or procures an animal to be overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, cruelly beaten, mutilated or killed; … permits it to be subjected to unnecessary torture, suffering or cruelty of any kind shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 7 years in state prison or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 1/2 years or by a fine of not more than $5,000 or by both fine and imprisonment.
I believe the vet who did not give Emily the glucose therapy, the sustenance, she needed to survive that day is guilty of violating Section 77.
If Emily’s Story Isn’t Enough to Outrage You, These Stories Should
Other Cases of Veterinary Negligence
The Peraino FamilyThe plight of the Peraino family resulted in tragedy when the couple left their pet Doberman, Nera, with a veterinarian, Dr. Jordan Miller, to have a tooth pulled. Miller performed the surgery and Mr. Peraino came to the animal hospital to pick up Nera. Jamie Sacks and Edythe Harrison, two veterinary assistants, claim that Miller later viciously beat Nera to death because he was having difficulty getting the dog from the basement recovery room to the waiting area upstairs where the dog would be picked up. Sacks claims that Miller kicked Nera and beat her with a pole until she fell backward. Harrison claims that she found the dog dead in a pool of blood in a cage. When the Perainos learned that the dog was dead, they met with Miller who told them that the dog had died of a heart attack. Subsequently, however, Sacks and Harrison, who by this time had quit their jobs because of Miller’s alleged treatment of Nera, told the Perainos what they witnessed. When the couple later confronted the veterinarian about the incident, the court record shockingly alleges that Dr. Miller tried to provoke Mr. Peraino into a fist fight with profanity, said that the dead dog was “fat and ugly, just like your wife,” and asked the couple if they had yet “made a rug out of the dead dog’s body.” The Perainos were both 62 years old at the time. In response, Mrs. Peraino picketed the veterinarian’s office under police escort every single day for the next two years. Thirteen years later, she says she still thinks of Nera every day and often has trouble sleeping when she imagines the veterinarian kicking that “member of her family” to death. Indeed, because the whole ordeal was so traumatic, she never replaced Nera with another dog. Moreover, Mrs. Peraino reports that both she and her husband became severely depressed over the incident, and in the midst of the legal proceedings, Mr. Peraino had to undergo emergency angioplasty to prevent a heart attack. In the minds of both the trial and appeals court judges, however, all of Dr. Miller’s actions combined did not amount to the legal definition of outrageousness. Accordingly, these courts threw out the Perainos’ emotional damages claims before any jury was ever able to hear the facts, much less consider them. In justifying their position, the judges declared: “There is no occasion for the law to intervene every time someone’s feelings are hurt.” In a later related suit, a competing veterinarian obtained a substantial financial settlement from the American Veterinary Medical Association Professional Liability Insurance Trust (AVMA-PLIT) after Dr. Miller allegedly put up posters falsely accusing this other veterinarian of being the one who killed the Peraino’s dog. Threatening calls to the other veterinarian over the lawsuit also were traced to the payphone attached to Dr. Miller’s practice. In spite of these actions and the financial liability he posed, the AVMA-PLIT continued to insure Dr. Miller for at least another decade. End result? Dr. Miller continued to practice veterinary medicine with no official reprimand and the Perainos went home to face thousands of dollars in legal fees generated from this suit which their veterinarian actually had initiated against them.
Stephen Ginsburg, D.V.MIn the Matter of Steven J. Ginsburg, D.V.M., supra n. 97, at 5 (“During the course of the Department’s investigation, it was determined that employees observed Respondent slap, hit, punch, throw and otherwise abuse animals.”). One employee testified that when a sick cat that would not lie still for a procedure, Dr. Ginsburg “got mad, grabbed the cat by the scruff of the neck . . . raised his arms as far as he could,” and “slammed its face on the surgery table,” instantly killing the pet. Transcript of Investigative Interview with Employee by Animal Control Officer (Oct. 14, 1999) (contained in state board case file, employee name withheld in file for privacy reasons, file indicates that this interview is with different employee than one quoted supra n. 97). 101 Mich. Dept. of Consumer & Indus. Serv. Press Release, Kalamazoo Veterinarian’s License Suspended, http://www.michigan.gov/cis/0,1607,7-154-10573_11472-49517— M_2001_8,00.html (Aug. 23, 2001) (the state board, however, did fine the veterinarian $2,000 and gave him 2 years probation).
Ray v. Department of Reg. And Education102 See Ray v. Dept. of Reg. and Educ., 419 N.E.2d 413, 415 (Ill. App. 1981) (“Department investigators testified that plaintiff practiced out of his home and surgery was performed in the kitchen . . . several dogs had been tied to a tree after receiving medical care . . . instruments lying on the floor . . . maggots in a dog food bowl, the odor of urine soaked carpeting and dried blood,” and multiple cases of animals receiving improper treatment). The veterinarian was allowed to continue practicing after a 180 day suspension.
Massachusetts Race Track VeterinarianDivision of Professional Licensure, The Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine, http://www.state.ma.us/reg/boards/vt/ (accessed Jan. 15, 2004) (has sincebeen updated with 2003 data). In 2003, the Massachusetts Veterinary Board took no disciplinary action at all against a race track veterinarian who had continued to certify a greyhound named Willie as “fit to race” even after track workers expressed concern that the dog had been too sick to finish earlier heats. When Willie died two hours after his final race, an autopsy showed that the dog had “collapsed lungs, 2 liters of blood in the right side of his chest, 1 1/2 liters in the left side . . . a blood clot that would have taken weeks to develop,” and “a large fibrous mass” resulting from “a penetrating wound to his stomach.” Despite ignoring these blatant injuries and contributing to Willie’s death, the state board unanimously cleared the veterinarian of any wrongdoing. See Stephen Seitz, Track Vet Cleared of Negligence, The Union Leader (Manchester, NH) A5 (Jan. 18, 2003) (local newspaper article describing the events); Stephen Seitz, Negligence Alleged Against Hinsdale Track Veterinarian, The Union Leader (Manchester, NH) B2 (Nov. 20, 2002).
State of KentuckyE-mail from Jennifer McKenzie, Board Administrator, Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners (Oct. 14, 2003) – “We receive so many complaints each year that we do not keep record of how many come into our office.”. A statement that is not exactly confidence inspiring.
AS VET BOARDS THAT MAKE THESE DECISIONS ARE MADE UP OF VETERINARIANS, THERE WILL NEVER BE UNBIASED JUSTICE.
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Sixty-seven percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet, according to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This is up from 56 percent of U.S. households in 1988, the first year the survey was conducted.
Every animal has the right to live, as much as you and me.
- Tara Murray
Tragically, Emily’s story is not unique. There are thousands of cases of veterinary neglect across the country, but there are little to no legal consequences. Our pets are our family and they deserve to be protected as such under the law. Take Action.