The Companion Animal Protection Alliance (CAPA) is a coalition of individuals brought together by the common desire to protect our companion animals from veterinary malpractice -- which we believe has touched all of our lives by either taking the lives of our dear animal friends or injuring them irreparably.
Through these life-changing and eye-opening incidents, and our subsequent attempts to see the veterinarians held accountable, we became aware of the virtual absence of any kind of accountability for harm done to our pets, particularly when that harm is committed by "licensed professionals."
We became committed to changing this system by fostering consumer awareness and education, fighting to expose the veterinary boards who fail to honor the public trust by coddling and protecting vets who kill and injure animals, and fighting for recognition of our pets' value in the eyes of the law.
We pledge to make common cause with individuals who pursue justice on behalf of their companion animals in cases of alleged veterinary malpractice, those who fight for legal recognition of our pets' value, and veterinary insiders who are called to speak out against the rampant tolerance for substandard care and worse within their profession.
Veterinary malpractice "is without question the source of most harm to companion animals" ("Harming Companion Animals: Liability and Damages," Henry Mark Holzer, International Society for Animal Rights, 2006.)
Pet owners don't know this because the problem is hidden. The press seldom covers it, and the veterinary industry covers it up.
In spite of the fact that veterinary malpractice is the #1 cause of harm to companion animals, veterinarians are consistently ranked by the public as one fo the most honest and trustworthy professions. A look behind the veil of secrecy shows otherwise.
Malpractice takes many forms including:
Outright abuse: hitting, deliberately injuring or killing animals in their care. (Note: Practicing veterinarians are exempt from animal cruelty laws in 26 US States.)
Unnecessary and even experimental surgeries, procedures, and drug regimens, often without owner knowledge or consent.
Failure to take the necessary steps to achieve an accurate diagnosis, sometimes resulting in wrong and even contraindicated treatments with serious consequences, up to and including death.
The widespread use of unqualified, untrained or inadequately trained and unlicensed staff to perform medical functions, such as anesthetic induction and monitoring, administration of drugs, and other invasive procedures.
Failure to provide your pet with the "standard of care" including failure to adequately treat disease. This may also include failure to do bloodwork (pre-anesthetic screening) before surgery, failure to check for drug interactions, use of improper or old x-ray machines and other diagnostic equipment that do not yield any useful information.
Unsanitary conditions that can lead to infections, including MRSA.
Incompetence, such as failure to suture properly after a spay which can result in internal hemmorhaging.
Negligence, such as failure to monitor a patient who is recovering from surgery, or leaving a critically ill animal alone overnight.
Failure to refer a pet to a specialist when the pet's medical problems are beyond the vets clinical abilities (such as failing to refer to an experienced specialist for a type of surgery that the vet has never or rarely performed before, and doing the surgery themselves).
Medical errors equivalent to those committed in human medicine.
Failure to disclose to the pet owner risks associated with procedures or drugs.
Failure to provide adequate or accurate instructions to the pet owner.
Inhumane methods of "euthanasia."
Each year throughout the nation many veterinarians are disciplined by the State Board of Veterinary Medicine for the above violations. Yet, for every vet who is disciplined approximately nine more have had complaints filed against them by distressed, often grieving owners, only to have their cases dismissed by these boards made up of veterinary peers. In the few cases where State Boards do take action, the results are rarely publicized, and the pet owning public remains dangerously unaware of the dangerous vets in their midst. Many states do not make vets' disciplinary histories public on the internet, and those that do often seem to go out of their way to make it hard to find, access, or understand.
Aside from the State Vet Boards, the only other recourse for these aggrieved individuals and their pets is the courts. But lawyers are almost always unwilling to take veterinary malpractice cases as part of their "pro bono" work or on contingency. In fact, few lawyers are willing to take these cases even when the pet owner "pays by the hour" for the lawyer (at rates in excess of $200). Those few pet owners who are fortunate to find a lawyer to represent them and who have the resources to prosecute the vet can expect to spend tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands, and will typically only be able to recover the "market value" of the pet. Veterinarians know this, and thus commit acts of malpractice in full knowledge that the law will almost certainly never touch them. They have lobbyists who are paid to travel around the country fighting AGAINST legal recognition of your pets value. Although vets exploit your love of your pet as a means of livelihood, they turn around and argue that your pet is a worthless piece of depreciated property when they kill or injure them. And that is exactly how the law in most states views your pet -- and vets want to keep it that way.
In spite of organized veterinary medicine's assault on the value of our animals, pet owners remain unaware of the prevalence of veterinary malpractice and the fact that veterinary associations lobby to keep our pets classified as "worthless" in the eyes of the law. In surveys, pet owners consistently rank veterinarians as among the most trustworthy and honest professionals. They typically assume that a veterinarian, by his or her choice of profession, is an animal lover. And some veterinarians become quite skilled at fostering that myth, all the while doing things to their patients behind closed doors and out of sight of their loving families, whose hearts would be broken if they only knew.
But pets can't talk.
They can't tell you that the vet slapped them across the face or punched them in a fit of anger. They can't tell you that contrary to what you were told, they were left suffering alone all night in a cage. They can't tell you that instead of dying of an "anesthetic reaction" as you were told, the vet (or his unlicensed assistant) gave them too much anesthesia. They can't tell you that when you entrusted the vet with that final act because you could not bear to watch, the vet shoved a needle in their hearts while they were fully conscious. They can't tell you that they were left in a cage with no food or water, lying in their own excrement, for hours or days. They can't tell you these, or any of the other innumerable horrors that have actually been inflicted on companion animals in the United States in recent years.
Because they cannot speak, we are speaking for them, and we ask you to do the same. Join us!
MSNBC recently ran a feature highlighting several heartbreaking stories of veterinary care gone wrong. In human medicine, it is widely accepted that there are certain things that should simply NEVER happen -- they are considered "inexcusable" outcomes in medicine. These are called "never" events, and they include wrong side surgeries and medication errors. While healthcare professionals in human medicine are in agreement about "never" events and are organizing to make sure they never occur, the veterinary industry continues the draconian practice of deny and defend. Worse still, they argue that their patients are "worthless" when these "never" events kill or injure, as they argue against any kind of accountability.
The feature included a link to a discussion page where pet owners could recount their own stories of veterinary medical errors. While some of the posters, representing veterinary hospitals, attacked heartbroken pet owners telling their stories, the majority of the 766 comments appeared to indeed be from pet owners recounting their own tragic stories -- proving the breadth and reach of this problem.
You can still add your own story, here, or read the article.
Do you believe that your pet has been the victim of veterinary malpractice, negligence or abuse?