Before You Check-in Your Pet, Check-out Your Vet!

Paws and the Law  © 2013  |  Privacy policy

Paws and The Law

If a pet owner has a complaint against his veterinarian in Ohio, he may take two avenues of complaint. First, he can complain to the Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board (OVMLB), which, in my opinion, is useless, and second, he can file a lawsuit, which is cost prohibitive. I have done both.

My Legal Battle: The following is the story of what happened when I went to the OVMLB with my complaint and then filed a lawsuit against Bailey's veterinarians for negligent care causing his death. I think you will see the failed system that is currently in place at the OVMLB for complaints of Ohio pet owners and the extraordinary odds the pet owner is up against in a lawsuit.

When my golden retriever first died, I made a formal complaint drawn up by an attorney and submitted it to the OVMLB to be reviewed. Incredibly, they sent me a letter saying there was "no violation" of conduct or care by the veterinarians. Teresa Stir, Executive Director of the OVMLB, was not able to cite to me by phone why there was "no violation", nor was she able to produce any documentation that could support what the Board discussed or how it came to that conclusion. That is because it is not the current practice of the OVMLB to generate those papers. It is my understanding that those papers do not exist. On the other hand, should a veterinarian be found to be in violation, the OVMLB does produce paperwork against which the veterinarian can defend himself in a hearing. AGAIN, Pet Owners in Ohio, there is no substantive paperwork made by the OVMLB at their hearings for the pet owner who has made a complaint, but there is paperwork for the veterinarian who is found to be in violation of standard of care. In my opinion, this is not a fair practice of the Board.

The Whole Story 

DownloadS for Further Reading About This Case

Readers, attend carefully to what has been said here. There is not only no one watching the veterinarians in Ohio, but, apparently, no one is watching the Veterinary Board. Your own animals' care and health is affected by the standards of care in place and the oversight of that Board.

"Who's Watching the Vets?": Hagit Limor, top-notch reporter for WCPO-TV, did an investigative report of the OVMLB. Her touching and informative segment, "Who's Watching the Vets?" is the story of four dogs and three pet owners. I am one of the owners. The owners had filed complaints against their vets with the OVMLB. Each incredibly received the standard, form letter "no violations" in response to his complaint.

Hagit discovered that in 2009 there was only ONE HEARING in the OVMLB for 88 counties and 6,000 licensed veterinarians and vet techs. In 2008 there were just SIX HEARINGS. 

The Board consists of 5 veterinarians, 1 vet tech, and 1 lay person. These individuals are all volunteers, appointed by the governor. The office personnel consists of the Executive Director, Teresa Stir, and one and a half secretaries. 

Hagit's segment is linked here.

More about Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board: In addition, it appears that the OVMLB may not be following the law in Ohio regarding the complaint process. The law states that they "shall make investigations" of each complaint. The law does NOT say "may". Then why aren't the complaints coming into the Board from 88 counties investigated?

Furthermore, the OVMLB uses a different and more difficult standard by which to find the veterinarians in violation than does the State of Ohio. That means that the vet must do something extremely egregious to be at fault. In my opinion, the complaint process is woefully inadequate for the pet owner.

  • Deposition of defendants' expert witness, Dr. Amy Snyder (She says in her deposition that she did not know she was an expert witness for this case and had not prepared herself for the deposition. Dr. Snyder withdrew as an expert shortly after her deposition.)
  • Deposition of defendants' expert witness, Dr. Kelly Wang (She says in her deposition that she did not know that she was an expert witness for this case and had not prepared herself for the deposition. Later that year Dr. Wong moved to Tennessee. She is listed on the pretrial statement as an expert witness.)
  • Deposition of defendants' expert witness, Dr. Michelle Muldoon (She says in her deposition that she had not reviewed all of the materials and had only spoken for the first time to the defendants' attorney five minutes before the deposition began. Because of her lack of notice and of preparation for the deposition, I believe that Dr. Muldoon's deposition is incomplete. The Plaintiff tried to schedule a second deposition with Dr. Muldoon, but her schedule did not permit it. Dr. Muldoon is listed on the pretrial statement as an expert witness.)

Pet Owners, take notice of what has happened here! I believe there is no reasonable avenue of complaint now against a veterinarian in Ohio. The OVMLB does not investigate all of the complaints sent there, even though, apparently, the law requires it. Those paltry few that are investigated receive very small penalties. Filing a lawsuit is not realistic. The process is too long and too expensive. The current laws in Ohio appear antiquated regarding veterinary care. They were made when Ohio was mostly farmland. I don't believe that they don't support the prominent place that a pet has today in the life and the heart of its family.

If you are an Ohio resident, please click here to contact your state representative and senator and inquire about the OVMLB and whether that the Board does the work that is entrusted to them by the State of Ohio, to oversee the quality of care by veterinarians in Ohio. These veterinarians take care not only of our beloved pets, but also of our farm creatures. 

I invite all of you to please write me an e-mail to share your thoughts with me about veterinary care and oversight. If you live in other states, I am also interested in hearing how your state oversees veterinarians. 

Other Pet Owners Have Similar Experience: I then made a public records request at the OVMLB of other pet owners in Ohio like myself who had made formal complaints against their veterinarians. It took about four months, many e-mails, and phone calls to get those records. When I called those owners, I discovered that they also had the same reactions that I did. They were very upset twice, first by the behavior of their veterinarians and second by the "no violations" form letter sent to them by the OVMLB.

Also, the other pet owners relayed to me that they were unaware that their vets were required to make a written response to the OVMLB when their complaint was received. Because of my public records request I had copies of their files and was able to send the other complainants the responses of their veterinarians. The pet owners were understandably very interested in the replies of their veterinarians. It's my understanding that this should have been done right away in Columbus, not incidentally and long after the fact by me.

My lawsuit: I then filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County for veterinary malpractice against the veterinarians in Cincinnati, Ohio who had treated Bailey. There was a jury trial scheduled in front of Judge Mallory. The date of the trial was moved twice about six months each time. In my opinion, the objective of the defense is not to discern the truth of what happened to Bailey, but to wear down the plaintiff emotionally and financially until she gives up.

As an example regarding my opinion as stated above, my own deposition was about five and a half hours in length. Can the reader put himself into the position of working all day and then going to an intense, sustained interrogation? Also, the plaintiff personally sustained the heavy, financial costs while the defense costs were funded by their insurance carrier through veterinary malpractice insurance.

Files from my case available on the side panel are the following:

  • My original complaint to the OVMLB (This explains what went wrong in Bailey's care and is aligned with the ORC for veterinarians.)
  • My complaint filed in Hamilton County Courthouse for veterinary malpractice. (This outlines the problems in Bailey's care and the outstanding facts of his case.)
  • Affidavit of Plaintiff's expert witness, Dr. Matthew Barnhart (He states in brief what went wrong in Bailey's medical treatment and points directly at the incorrect care of the veterinarians for Bailey's death.)
  • Pretrial Statement of the Defense
  • Deposition of Plaintiff's expert witness, Dr. Matthew Barnhart (This explains in detail what went wrong with Bailey's medical care and how that poor care led to his death.)
  • Deposition of Dr. Mary Sallee, defendant
  • Deposition of Dr. Colleen Black, defendant
  • Deposition of Dr. Tammy Smith, defendant
  • Deposition of defendants' expert witness, Dr. William Rogers (He said in his deposition that he does not intend to appear in court for the trial. – My question, then, was: why is he an expert witness? - He had not brought with him any of the materials that he reviewed for his deposition. - It is standard practice to physically bring all reviewed materials. - He wanted to speak at length about research he brought with him to the deposition on ultrasound. - Ultrasound is not relevant to Bailey's veterinary malpractice case. 
    ​Dr. Rogers said in his deposition that he remembers meeting me for five minutes in the Loveland Animal Hospital in examination room 4 in 2009. I had never been to that Loveland Hospital before being present that evening for Dr. Rogers's deposition. We had met in 2007 for about an hour and a half in a Milford Animal Hospital. Ironically, I had contacted and met with Dr. Rogers to interview him as my expert witness shortly after Bailey died. At that time we each had in our possession and discussed in detail all of Bailey's medical records. Dr. Rogers stated time and again that evening in 2007 that he could not say anything for certain either way in the case. Yet, in 2010 he was deposed as an expert witness and listed on the pretrial statement as an expert for the defense.)

This could happen to you. My golden retriever, Bailey, swallowed a piece of material and in my opinion suffered a terrible, needless death because of the incorrect care of his veterinarians.

Since 2007, I have been fighting first for understanding of what went wrong with Bailey's care, then to pursue legal claims against Bailey's veterinarians, and finally for reliable standard of veterinary care and oversight of veterinary medicine in Ohio on behalf of all animals and their owners.