Meet Bella – an Old English Bulldog puppy whose life was cut tragically short due to veterinary malpractice. As Jacksonville pet sitters, you can imagine the horror stories we hear.
We have also been victims of veterinary malpractice ourselves, so this story hit particularly close to home. This tragic tale was shared by a friend of mine, Nikki…I warn you, it’s a tear-jerker!
How The Day Began
Bella was in need of a normal, preventative visit to the vet for shots. Nikki & Ben, took her to a local veterinary clinic here in Jacksonville. The clinic (on the southside of Jacksonville inside PetSmart) was not their first choice, but the location was very convenient and they assumed that simple shots could be administered by any veterinary professional without jeopardizing Bella’s health or well-being, not to mention her life. Had they been able to foresee what was to come, they’d have waited for the next available appointment with their regular vet.
Bella received a total of five shots during her visit, which seemed excessive to both Nikki & Ben. With no reason to believe otherwise, they trusted the judgment of the supposed professional and assumed he understood the potential negative impact of giving such a young, notoriously sensitive breed puppy so many shots as once.
Later That Afternoon
Upon returning home from the clinic, Bella started playing with, Geisha – her American Bulldog best friend and playmate. Bella and Geisha had NEVER shown any aggression toward one another – ever. In fact, Geisha is notoriously mild-mannered – not even fighting back when being aggressively pursued and engaged by another dog (as happened with an aggressive Akita in the neighborhood some time ago).
That said, Geisha bit Bella’s face while they were playing, causing a one inch gash on her lip that was large enough to cause concern. It didn’t bleed much, but you could see a tiny bit of pink flesh peeking through. Nikki’s first inclination was to simply care for the wound at home, but thought a call to the vet was probably the “better safe than sorry” approach to the injury. After an immediate emergency call to their regular vet and also to the clinic where Bella’s shots were administered, Nikki & Ben decided it might be best for Bella to have it checked out by a professional.
Now What Should We Do?
As it was a Sunday afternoon and this certainly wasn’t a life-threatening injury that warranted an emergency visit to their normal vet, they elected to take Bella back to the clinic that administered her shots to have the cut checked out, as suggested. While the cut was fairly minor, there was some concern of infection…and what harm could come from having it checked? Right? Had they known then what they know now, they’d have cleaned the injury with saline, applied some antiseptic and super glued it closed at home. No one could have foreseen what would happen in the coming hours.
Upon their return to the clinic, Nikki made it very clear what she felt Bella’s best treatment option was – to glue the injury. The vet disagreed adamantly and aggressively insisted that Bella be placed under general anesthetic to have the cut stitched. His aggressive insistence upon placing Bella under general anesthetic finally led them to state that not only did they not agree with his “treatment plan”, but that they could not afford such an expense – hoping that would be enough for him to back off on the idea.
When Pet Parents Know More Than The Vet
Both Nikki & Ben are experienced bulldog owners – very aware of the potential risks of general anesthesia. Due to Bella’s notoriously sensitive breed, young age and the fact that she’d had five shots just hours before, they demanded other options. After Nikki & Ben absolutely refused to have Bella put under general anesthetic, the discussion continued as to how to treat the wound. Much discussion and an absolute refusal of the initial plan to place Bella under general anesthetic later, they all came to an agreement – Bella would be given a mild sedative via injection, as well as a local anesthetic and the cut would be stitched. There was absolutely no mention of shaving Bella’s leg or introducing an IV. None.
About 20 minutes after their departure, Nikki received a call from a female technician at the clinic informing her that Bella had passed away. Beside herself, she dropped the phone. Ben immediately picked up the phone asking how stitching up a one inch cut using a local anesthetic turns into a phone call that your precious puppy is no longer alive. The clinic had very few answers. Of course, they rushed back to the clinic to find out exactly what happened. They were utterly shocked to find evidence of an IV…since Bella’s leg had been shaved, there was no way to miss it. Neither Nikki nor Ben ever consented to Bella having an IV and that was never discussed as a part final, agreed upon treatment plan.
They Were Simple Instructions – No IV Anesthetic
The vet explained that the IV was used to administer the “sedative” they had discussed. As it turns out, the vet appears to have absolutely disregarded both Nikki’s & Ben’s wishes, opting to put Bella under general anesthetic without their consent. When they realized Bella was given general anesthetic via IV (contrary to their wishes and the agreed upon treatment plan), they naturally asked why she wasn’t intubated. At that point the vet became more defensive – stating that they had refused intubation initially. Funny…they refused general anesthetic, too…and that then begs the question: “Why was my dog placed under general anesthetic in the first place – as that is CLEARLY something we were adamantly against from the outset…”.
Upon further investigation into the negligence and veterinary malpractice that clearly resulted in Bella’s death, Nikki & Ben discovered that three of the five shots administered to Bella during her first visit to the clinic that day were actually shots she had already received. Documentation of all of her shots and vaccinations was provided to the staff at the clinic before any shots were given, as to prevent Bella from receiving unnecessary vaccinations. Again, Nikki & Ben are clearly aware of the precautions owners of sensitive breed dogs should take in order to prevent any harm from coming to them. This clinic – not so much, apparently.
Willful Neglect, At Best
While administering duplicate shots and/or vaccinations alone doesn’t constitute malicious intent, when combined with what transpired later that day, it is clear evidence that this clinic’s primary function is to generate incoming revenue – NOT to provide professional, quality and uncompromising care with the animal’s health, well-being and safety in mind. There is absolutely no question that the actions of this vet were motivated by greed. He willingly and purposely put Bella in grave danger and her death was ultimately caused by his blatant negligence. Anyone who questions that is absolutely naive and/or far more willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt than I.
I mentioned earlier that Nikki & Ben finally resorted to claiming they could not afford to have Bella put under general anesthetic, and while that claim was untrue and simply an attempt to remove that treatment option from the table, after Bella’s death the clinic’s office manager (with the clinic’s vet sitting just to her side) had this to say, “Well, it sounds like we did you a favor…you said you couldn’t afford her anyway.”
I thought I’d never hear a veterinary malpractice horror story that rivaled what we experienced a few years ago. I WAS WRONG! This is the single most ridiculous, outrageous, asinine and blatant case of veterinary malpractice and negligence I have personally come across. There is no question this vet should be considered unfit to practice veterinary medicine. I only hope that his greed and blatant negligence doesn’t cost any other precious animals their lives.
Don’t Let This Happen To Your Dog!
If nothing else, I hope reading this gives you the strength to walk out of a vet’s office without treatment should the need arise. Nikki & Ben did EXACTLY what they should have done – making their feelings known and refusing (or so they thought) to allow Bella to be placed under general anesthetic. They had no way of knowing that their wishes would be completely disregarded and that their greatest fears would soon be realized.
The bottom line is this: if your intuition is telling you “something isn’t right here…”, then SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT! If there ever comes a time when you disagree with a vet’s proposed treatment plan or don’t like the manner in which he/she answers your questions, you are well within your right to walk out. Period. You wouldn’t let a pediatrician bully you into putting your child under general anesthetic to stitch a small cut (at least I HOPE YOU WOULDN’T)…and you shouldn’t be willing to let a vet do it either!