"To be quite honest, that she (Lindridge) only got struck off for three months is a bit of a joke considering all the pain that she put Felix through."
-- Heather Irwin
Regardless of whether the setting is Angleterre
or America, the practice of veterinary medicine is rife with greed, incompetence, and cat-haters. The health and well-being of cats and other animals is of secondary importance and doubters need only to consult sixty-two-year-old Heather Irwin of Blaydon Burn in northeast England.
Her long and trying ordeal with this pack of cutthroat sham professionals and those who supposedly regulate them began in 2007 when she took her seven-year-old cat Felix to Consett Veterinary Center in Consett, County Durham, in order to have his broken left leg set. There she was introduced to Silke Birgitt Lindridge who so completely botched this rather simple procedure that she nearly killed Felix.
In what that only can be described as either pure ignorance or gross indifference, Lindridge began by incorrectly inserting a rod into Felix's leg that soon worked its way through the joint. The pin next became infected thus requiring that some of the skin surrounding it had to be excised.
If all of that were not bad enough, Lindridge then proceeded to wrap the infected leg so tightly that the bandage not only cut into Felix's flesh but began to stink to high heaven as well. That forced Irwin to take Felix back to Lindridge and this time around she wrapped his leg in cotton.
Inexplicably, she neglected to outfit him with an Elizabethan collar and this allowed him to gnaw at the bandage. The cotton then began not only to accumulate in his stomach but to choke the life out of him as well.
This in turn necessitated stomach surgery in order to remove the fabric. When all was said and done, Irwin was out of pocket more than four-hundred pounds for this ridiculously incompetent level of veterinary care.
Worst of all, Felix was put through Hell. "Felix went through so much pain and suffering. He is nine now and he is still not completely right," Irwin told The Journal
of Newcastle-on-Tyne last September 7th. (See "Vet Is Charged with Disgraceful Conduct.")
"It was absolutely disgusting the way this poor cat was treated."
To her credit, Irwin did not take this shabby treatment lying down but instead channeled her anger into lodging a complaint against Lindridge with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in London, which since 1844 has been charged with regulating the profession. (See photo above of her and Felix.)
While the suits at the RCVS readily agreed with her that Lindridge was guilty of "disgraceful conduct," it was not for the reasons that she had alleged. Instead, what they found to be so disgraceful was the fact that Lindridge had fallen behind in her dues to the organization at the time that she was treating Felix!
In other words, nearly killing Felix was of absolutely no consequence but shortchanging the RCVS merited her being suspended from practicing veterinary medicine for three months. This ludicrous ruling, quite naturally, left Irwin livid.
"To be quite honest, that she only got struck off for three months is a bit of a joke considering all the pain that she put Felix through," she told The Journal
on September 15th. (See "Durham Vet Guilty of 'Disgraceful Conduct' over Cat Treatment.")
Nonetheless, a partial victory is better than a total rebuff. "It has taken two years for this to be sorted out," Irwin told The Journal
in the September 7th article cited supra.
"At times I felt like giving up but when I looked at the cat and all the pain he had been through I thought 'I can't give up'."
Whereas the rot that infests the veterinary profession is systemic, there are certain areas of practice that are more susceptible to malpractice than others. Of particular concern is the widespread sterilization of cats.
Whether it is a lack of expertise, due diligence, sloppiness, or simply a case of veterinarians attempting to make as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time, deadly foul-ups occur all the time. Usually, however, they are not as catastrophic as what recently happened to Maria Brown's two-year-old cat, Lexi.
On June 2nd, she dropped off Lexi and his sister, Angel, at Woosehill Vets in Woosehill, a suburb of Wokingham in Berkshire fifty-three kilometers west of London, to be sterilized. When she returned the following day to collect them she was given Angel and a pet rabbit.
When she pointed out the obvious the vets finally came clean and admitted that they had irresponsibly allowed Lexi to escape through an open window. Regardless of whatever else that can be said for these boobs they must be given credit for having the unmitigated gall to think that they could get away with fobbing off a rabbit on Brown in place of her beloved Lexi. (See photo above.)
Of course, it is conceivable that as far as these professional ball whackers are concerned all animals look alike. After all, a testicle is a testicle just as a pound is a pound.
At last report, Lexi was still AWOL and the best that Brown can hope for is that he sooner or later will be able to find his way back to her home in Woodley, four miles removed from the surgery. As far as it is known, the owner of the rabbit has not publicly commented on what transpired.
"Maria is very upset," Brown's neighbor, Julie Bobb, told the Daily Telegraph
on June 7th. (See "Cat Flees from Surgery to Avoid the Snip.")
"To be honest, the vet was very vague and we were there about three hours. They were dithering around and didn't realize that the cat was missing."
The manager of the practice, who is being shielded from public censure by the ever obliging English media, at first blamed Brown for Lexi's disappearance. "Normally what happens is that people pick up their pets the same day that they bring them to be spayed," he told the Daily Telegraph.
"But this woman didn't do that. She left them with us overnight, which is very rare."
He followed up that clumsy and dishonest attempt to smear Brown by chalking up Lexi's disappearance as not being anything out of the ordinary. "Cats go missing, even in the home, and that is what has happened here," he pontificated to the Daily Mail
on June 7th. (See "Cat Makes Daring Escape from Surgery to Avoid the Dreaded Snip.")
"Clearly we made a mistake here. We have to open the window in the cattery so the cats can get fresh air, but we have now fixed brackets to it so that it cannot be opened wide enough for an animal to escape through."
In addition to losing Lexi, the vets at Woosehill also botched the spaying of Angel. Just as Lindridge failed to do with Felix, they neglected to outfit her with an Elizabethan collar and as the result she tore out one of the stitches.
That in turn forced Brown to rush her to another veterinarian in order to have the rupture repaired and thus to prevent her from bleeding to death. For its part, the surgery claims that it forgot the collar because staff was preoccupied searching for Lexi.
Worried to death about the negative impact that these two incidents of glaring malpractice are going to have on business at his two-year-old establishment, the manager has issued an apology of sorts to "this woman" and is contemplating sending her a bouquet of flowers. He additionally claims to have refunded the forty pounds that she paid him to sterilize Angel.
"But I don't think she should question our competence because we have been performing this kind of surgery for many years and never had any problems," he had the nerve to tell the Wokingham Times
on June 3rd. (See "Cat Owner Left Distraught after Vet Loses Pet.")
"We are trying to run a successful and first-class clinic and people are happy to use us."
A perusal of readers' comments posted on the Wokingham Times'
web site tells an entirely different story. For instance, one reader reports that Lexi is not the first cat that Woosehill has lost. In particular, they carelessly allowed another one to escape during a consultation a few months ago.
Although the surgery advertises itself as providing around-the-clock emergency veterinary care, another reader recounts being repeatedly lied to and jerked around all night before finally being shown to a vet sometime after 6 a.m. the following day. Finally, a third reader was so disgusted with the quality of care that her cat received that she completely gave up on Woosehill Vets after two unsatisfactory visits.
The practice's self-serving drivel on top of its gross incompetence ultimately proved to be too much for the editor of Moggies to stomach. "'Sorry' just does not do it for outright stupidity. This vet is stupid beyond reason. Leaving a window open is unbelievable," she stated June 9th on the organization's web site. "This vet needs to get either his or her practice up to proper standards and practices that include safe areas for any animal with no open windows. This practice probably follows the pharma companies' mantra of 'charge for what you can when you can'."
Contrary to the slipshod procedures in situ
at Woosehill Vets, it generally is a good idea for sterilized cats to be held overnight in order to ensure that they, unlike Angel, do not suffer any surgical complications. For example, in either late December of 2007 or early January of 2008 Nadia Pavlovic of Oxford lost her cat, Darcy, to a botched spaying performed by Andrew Bartholomew Veterinary Surgeons on Iffley Road. (See photo above on the left of Darcy.)
The day following the procedure, Pavlovic noticed that Darcy had cold paws and would not eat. She immediately telephoned Bartholomew with her concerns but was told that they were unfounded.
Pavlovic then sought out and received a second opinion from another vet who advised her to rush Darcy back to Bartholomew. Sadly, by that time it was too late and Darcy bled to death en route.
To this day, Bartholomew has yet to offer Pavlovic either an explanation or an apology. (See Cat Defender post of February 26, 2008 entitled "The Dark Side of Spay and Neuter: Veterinarian Botched Surgeries and Back Alley Castrations Claim the Lives of Numerous Cats.")
The hazards associated with these procedures are magnified ten-fold for homeless cats. First of all, these cats usually are sterilized en masse
by so-called humane organizations under such hurried circumstances that it is doubtful that any of them ever receive anything remotely approaching the level of individual care that they need and deserve.
Moreover, none of them are outfitted with Elizabethan collars and if the complications that Angel and Darcy experienced are typical multitudes of homeless cats most likely bleed to death each year after they are prematurely returned to the wild. Even those cats whose incisions hold are easy prey for wild animals, motorists, and ailurophobes for as long as they remain under the side effects of the anesthesia. All of that is totally unacceptable and practitioners of TNR urgently need to implement procedures that better protect the health of the cats that they sterilize.
Sometimes the sterilizers do not even bother to clean up after themselves. For example, in February of 2005 Alley Cat Allies left a cafeteria at a school in Washington in such disarray that classes scheduled for the following Monday had to be canceled.
Moreover, there is some evidence that even those cats who come through these procedures unscathed are more prone to obesity and osteosarcomas than their intact cousins. (See Margaret V. Root Kustritz, "Determining the Optimal Age for Gonadectomy of Dogs and Cats," 231 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 1665-1675, December 1, 2007).
The cold-blooded, merciless nature of some veterinarians is nowhere better illustrated than in the large number of cats and dogs that they deliberately kill each year simply because their owners either cannot or are unwilling to pay in order to have them treated. That is in itself a staggering indictment of a profession that should be dedicated to saving, as opposed to extinguishing, lives. Jack Kevorkian, for example, spent eight years in jail for helping one-hundred-thirty individuals to do away with themselves but veterinarians kill far more cats and dogs each year with society's blessings.
Tracey Keyes and her family from the Edmonton section of the borough of Enfield in north London are well-acquainted with that scenario. After all, it was precisely a lack of money and bureaucratic red tape that prompted the then forty-three-year-old mother of three to have her fourteen-year-old cat, Soup, killed off by a veterinarian in 2008.
Once Soup became ill, Keyes took him to a vet who demanded one-hundred-fifty pounds up front in order to treat him. Since she did not have that amount of cash on hand, she next turned to the RSPCA's Harmsworth Animal Hospital in Finsbury Park, Haringey Borough, where she did not fare any better.
"They refused to see Soup point-blank or even to carry out a consultation," she told the Enfield Independent
on June 5, 2008. (See "'Our Cat Died after It Was Refused Treatment'.")
"A woman told me Soup could not be seen because I'm in work. But we rely on tax credits to get by."
"It is policy that people who want their animals treated there (Harmsworth) prove they live on a weekly household income of two-hundred pounds or less," a spokesman for the RSPCA shot back to the Enfield Independent
. Apparently Keyes could not meet that requirement although she did volunteer to pay part of Soup's bill.
Consequently, Keyes and her family went ahead and had Soup killed off but the matter did not end with his interment. (See photo above of her with sons Christopher, Ike, and Connor alongside Soup's grave.)
When she had the temerity to complain to the RSPCA about Soup's shabby treatment instead of sympathy she received another kick in the teeth. "A man told me that I'm to blame for Soup's death because I should have emergency funds set aside for veterinary emergencies. He called me an irresponsible owner," she told the Enfield Independent
in the article cited supra.
"To be told that Soup's suffering was my fault angers me."
Keyes is, quite understandably, disillusioned with the RSPCA. "I used to respect the RSPCA's work. Now I think they're a fake. I turned to the charity for help and it refused," she told the Enfield Independent.
She is far from being the Lone Ranger in that regard. Imagine, for example, how Katherine and Paul Parker-Brice of Ruislip in Middlesex must have felt after the RSPCA trapped and killed their nineteen-year-old cat, Mork, in May of 2007. In what has become an all-too-common occurrence, the RSPCA was sicced on Mork by a cat-hating neighbor after he had strayed into her garden.
The RSPCA made absolutely no effort whatsoever to contact the Parker-Brices and Mork was killed a scant two and one-half hours later. "The RSPCA quickly prosecutes anyone who neglects animals yet here it is killing them indiscriminately," Katherine pointed out in sentiments that mirror those expressed by Keyes. (See Cat Defender post of June 5, 2007 entitled "RSPCA's Unlawful Seizure and Senseless Killing of Mork Leaves His Sister, Mindy, Brokenhearted and His Caretakers Devastated.")
Even though it is a bitter pill to swallow, there is considerable truth in the RSPCA's admonition to Keyes. All charities, both public and private, are taxed to the maximum with the demands of both the rich and poor.
Consequently, receiving assistance from them often can be even more difficult than getting a job and squirreling away the cash for a rainy day. Therefore as a practical matter cat owners have little choice other than to put aside funds in order to cover unexpected veterinary expenses.
Of special concern are crimes committed against cats. With ailurophobia being at epidemic proportions, nobody can predict when either his or her cat will be the victim of an unprovoked attack and thus require life-saving veterinary intervention.
That was the predicament that Jane Worthington and Sean Mahoon from the Manchester suburb of Burnage found themselves in back in 2007 when someone doused their four-year-old cat, Solskjaer, with acid. Already forced to get by on Mahoon's disability checks, the family was saddled with a $534 veterinary bill.
Despite the financial hardships foisted upon them by this horrific act of animal cruelty, they saw to it that their beloved cat received the veterinary treatment that he needed. (See Cat Defender post of September 25, 2007 entitled "Acid Attack Leaves Solskjaer with Severe Injuries and Horrific Pain as His Heartbroken and Cash-Strapped Family Struggles to Cope.")
Pet insurance is an option but the devil is in the details. Some plans are comme ci, comme-ca
while others are virtually worthless.
Sorting out competent, reasonably priced vets beforehand is therefore imperative. Some minor ailments can be treated with home remedies and a premium should be placed on preventive care.
Compounding an already difficult situation, veterinary costs in the United States are estimated to be increasing at nine per cent per annum.
For some procedures the increases are even steeper.
The exorbitant fees charged by veterinarians also had led to the proliferation of quacks who sometimes maim and kill as many animals as they help. That was what twenty-eight-year-old Steven Vassall of Brooklyn was up to when he was arrested by the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office and charged with practicing veterinary medicine without a license in 2006. (See mug shot of him above.)
His eventual apprehension was made possible by the heroics of an eight-month-old former stray named Fred who posed as a sterilization candidate in an elaborate undercover sting operation. (See photo below of the highly-decorated cat.)
Sadly, Fred was killed several months later by a hit-and-run motorist outside his Howard Beach home in Queens. (See Cat Defender posts of February 14, 2006 and August 17, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Special Agent Fred the Cat Goes Undercover to Help Nab Quack Vet in Brooklyn Sting Operation" and "Brave Little Fred the Undercover Cat Has His Short, Tragic Life Snuffed Out by a Hit-and-Run Driver in Queens.")
Even when veterinarians try to do the right thing they sometimes wind up in hot water. Such was the fate that befell South Carolina veterinarian Merri Walden Crenshaw of the Animal Clinic of Woodruff.
In May of 2005, Brandi Hart brought her daughter Rachel's cat, Mr. Kitty, to Crenshaw's surgery in order to be treated for a urinary tract infection. When told by Crenshaw that the cat would continue to experience painful health problems, Hart instead elected to have him killed.
Instead of going through with that heinous crime, Crenshaw decided to treat Mr. Kitty and after he recovered she made him her office cat. In January of 2007, one of Crenshaw's employees ratted her out and the South Carolina Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners seized the cat the following month and returned him to Hart.
Crenshaw subsequently was charged with falsifying medical records, fraud, and unprofessional and unethical conduct. She also was fined $1,000 and placed on indefinite supervised probation where she was subjected to unannounced inspections by state regulators.
Although Mr. Kitty remains on a special diet, his urinary tract disorder appears to be under control. (See bottom photo of him and Rachel.)
"I just think it takes a cold-hearted person to do that to a child," the elder Hart groused to the Spartanburg Herald Journal
on December 10, 2007. (See "Woodruff Vet Reprimanded for Keeping Cat.")
"And I can take a lot, but I felt like they were doing that to Rachel. That was her animal. That was her cat."
Both Hart and the Medical Examiners have got it all wrong. Mr. Kitty is alive today solely because of Crenshaw's compassion and generosity.
Hart and Rachel either wanted Mr. Kitty dead or were too cheap to foot the bill for his treatment. Moreover, instead of bringing charges against Crenshaw they should not only thank her for saving his life but also reimburse her for treating and caring for him for two years.
Even Crenshaw's lies and fraud are forgivable. She really does not owe anyone as callous and cold-hearted as Hart the truth and the killing fee that she received was a mere drop in the proverbial bucket when compared to what it cost her to successfully treat and house Mr. Kitty.
Being that competent and affordable veterinary care is in such short supply for even those cats that have owners, it should not come as any surprise that for a cat to be even suspected of being homeless it is pretty much out of the question. That was the hard lesson driven home to Maria Hernandez back in March when her cat, Frankie, turned up at the Northeast Animal Control Shelter in El Paso.
Although Frankie was interned at the facility for at least several days, veterinarians categorically refused to treat him despite the fact that he was bleeding from cuts to both his stomach and mouth. "We have a medical team that does the rounds and (in) this case they did not notice that this cat had this cut on the belly," shelter director Eddie Castro first told KTSM-TV of El Paso on March 31st. (See "Woman Furious Over Untreated Cat.")
A little bit later on in the interview Castro finally got around to telling the truth. "The cat was running loose. It didn't have a microchip and (it) didn't have a tag," he told KTSM-TV. "If the cat (had) had a tag around the neck it would have been treated different(sic)
than a cat that's just a feral cat."
The reason for this unequal level of treatment is, not surprisingly, money. Cats that appear to be tame are provided with veterinary care because shelters think that either their owners will ransom them or someone else will adopt them. Either way shelters collect their bounties.
Cats that appear to be homeless do not have a prayer in Hell. The same rationale applies doubly to homeless cats that are either sick or injured.
Since shelters are going to kill them anyway, they deliberately allow them to suffer until the time arrives when they can legally kill them. (See Cat Defender posts of April 18, 2010 and June 15, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Ally's Last Ride Lands Her in a Death Trap Set by an Uncaring and Irresponsible Supermarket Chain and a Bargain Basement Shelter" and "Bay City Shelter Murders a Six-Week-Old Kitten with a Common Cold Despite Several Individuals Having Offered to Give It a Permanent Home.")
There are not any heroes in this story. For his part, Castro blames Hernandez for not equipping Frankie with some sort of identification whereas she would have preferred that the shelter had gone ahead and simply killed him.
"I would have been upset, but I would have been more understanding if they would have put him down and told me why they put him down," she told KTSM-TV in the article cited supra
. "Thinking he was a stray and no one was going to pick him up or what have you, than to know he was in pain that long and they did nothing about it."
The thoroughly reprehensible manner in which homeless cats and those that appear to be homeless are treated by veterinarians does not come as any surprise when it is viewed in light of the disgracefully ailurophobic policies advocated by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Divested of all the nuances and double-talk, the AVMA wholeheartedly believes that the only good cat is a profitable one. All others are vermin and accordingly should be killed.
In fact, its policy toward cats is taken pretty much verbatim from the anti-cat screeds disseminated by the diabolical American Bird Conservancy, the various chapters of the National Audubon Society, and wildlife biologists everywhere. (See "Free Roaming Abandoned and Feral Cats" at www.avma.org.)
For starters, the AVMA ludicrously claims that cats are dirty and diseased and therefore a threat to both wildlife and humans. From there it goes on to advocate that all homeless cats be rounded up and systematically exterminated and that domestic ones be imprisoned indoors for life.
It also is categorically opposed to all public feeding of down-and-out cats as well as to the adoption of cats that have not been sterilized. Curiously enough, the hypocrites at the AVMA are conspicuously silent on the vitally important issue of the breeding of purebreds and designer cats, which also add to the population of homeless cats.
Not surprisingly, it is in favor of mandatory microchipping, vaccination, and the sterilization of all cats. These largely superfluous procedures are a sure bet to put as many cats in the graveyard as they put shekels
in the pockets of veterinarians.
The problems associated with microchips are manifold. Most importantly, they are an unnecessary invasive procedure that have been linked to cancer. (See Cat Defender post of September 21, 2007 entitled "FDA Is Suppressing Research That Shows Implanted Microchips Cause Cancer in Mice, Rats, and Dogs.")
Secondly, they do not offer cats any protection whatsoever against the machinations of ailurophobes, motorists, thieves, and wild animals. (See Cat Defender post of May 25, 2006 entitled "Plato's Misadventures Expose the Pitfalls of RFID Technology as Applied to Cats.")
Thirdly, since the AVMA insists that all cats should be locked up indoors for life microchips are unnecessary. The same holds true for many of the vaccinations that it touts so feverishly. Besides, vaccinations have been linked to sarcomas as well.
Much more importantly, exclusively indoor environments are lethal to cats in that they have been shown to lead to increased incidences of obesity, diabetes, Feline Hyperthyroidism, lead poisoning, mesothelioma, and other deadly diseases. (See Cat Defender posts of August 22, 2007 and October 19, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Indoor Cats Are Dying from Diabetes, Hyperthyroidism, and Various Toxins in the Home" and "Smokers Are Killing Their Cats, Dogs, Birds, and Infants by Continuing to Light Up in Their Presence.")
Whereas the AVMA's attitude toward cats can only be described as cruel and inhumane, its distortion of both science and logic in order to enrich its members and to defame and kill cats constitutes the very epitome of professional dishonesty. That is why Sheila Dobson and several of her colleagues from the Kansas City area broke with the organization in 2006. (See Cat Defender post of May 16, 2006 entitled "Kansas City Vets Break Ranks with AVMA to Defend Cats Against Bird Advocates, Wildlife Proponents, and Exterminators.")
Individuals who care about cats therefore would be wise to patronize only those veterinarians who refuse to join the AVMA. There are about ten-thousand such practitioners in the United States; the remaining fifty-five-thousand belong the AVMA and therefore can only be classified as inveterate cat-haters.
Not only would such a principled stand deprive these fakers of the money required in order to finance their anti-cat campaigns but, given their inveterate hatred of the species, they cannot be trusted to honestly and competently treat any cat. Cat-lovers should not under any circumstances subsidize those individuals and groups that are dedicated to doing harm to the species.
In the final analysis, veterinary medicine should be about saving lives and all conscientious practitioners should refuse to kill animals under all circumstances. That admonition also applies to veterinarians who aid and abet vivisectors, meat producers, and those who race dogs, horses, camels, and other animals.
Photos: The Journal (Felix and Irwin), The Daily Telegraph and INS (Lexi), Nadia Pavlovic (Darcy), Enfield Independent (Keyes and her family), New York Police Department (Vassall), Alan Raia of Newsday (Fred), and Spartanburg Herald Journal (Mr. Kitty and Rachel Hart).