Greedy Vets: A Major Cause of Alleged Animal Abuse; Why Vets and Animal Services have You By The Short Hairs

When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1972 and had my first cat here, vet costs were nominal. I was living in a Zen center at the time. One of the center’s cats was hit by a car in 1975. I rushed him to a vet where they made heroic efforts to save him. The final charge was $287.

When I moved to Santa Monica in 1983, I had several vets until I found Ken Jones.

In my eyes, he could do no wrong. He appeared to be a great diagnostician, and his prices were right. He did not recommend blood tests unless he thought it necessary. Rarely did an office visit cost more than $65.

In 1995 he performed a bladder surgery on Satchi; the total bill after a one day stay: $316.

Only problem with Ken is his horror of a wife who began doubling fees in the early 90s. Now Suzanne has jacked up Ken’s prices until he is right up there with VCA. I had a big argument with Suzanne and was 86’d from his practice.

However, somewhere along the line Ken began liking the new prices. He began buying all sorts of equipment and his prices shot up too with his o.k.

I then went to Dr. Martin and others in West LA. Martin’s prices were reasonable, but he seemed somewhat a cold fish.

One of my cats developed breast cancer and I took her to Alan Shulman at that time, about 1995. The VCA oncologist only gave her 6-12 months to live after surgery. Alan provided a bilateral, radical mastectomy. She lived almost 2 years afterwards. The cost of surgery and followup? 900$!

Moving to the Valley I first went to McClaves where I stayed two years or so. McClaves is now VCA, as all independent vets are going: more money.

McClaves was good, but pricey and you never knew who you would get as a walk in. When I left in 2005, an office visit was $42. Office visits were rarely over $200.

On recommendation I went to Adler Animal Hospital in Reseda, with Dr. Reimer who has a great bedside manner and even more expensive rates. Rarely could I go away with under a $250 bill.

About 10 months ago, a VCA rival bought Adler and office visits jumped to $55. Prices across the board went up 10-20%. The doctors gave themselves a $10/hr. raise and gave office staff and tech staff a 50 cents per hour raise. A failed surgery on Gopi and a failed overnight attempt to save Gracie with kidney failure cost $900 and $740 respectively.

I went to Noreda twice because I heard his prices were better. I liked him; he took his time and explained things. However, one day I had a walk in. He was not there, but a relief vet was. With an office visit, blood tests, antibiotics, a vitamin B shot, and SQ fluids, it cost $340. I was never asked about any of the procedures except the blood test, and was shocked that the other procedures were done without any discussion or permission.

Then Dustin developed small cell intestinal cancer about two years ago. It was diagnosed after a biopsy last May. Luckily he had a cancer rider on his insurance. He also had thyroid problems and was given radiation therapy for that, but an ultrasound and Endoscopy discovered the cancer. Cost: $3,200! This was done br Dr. Broome. Broome was patient, detailed in his discussion and readily returned phone calls. AND, he was expensive. For example, charging $10 for each Baytril pill pushed down Dustin's throat and $12 for each 10mg pill of Pred.

The first oncologist, Ayl in Oxnard wasn’t that expensive but he never talked to me. Even when problems arose, he never talked on the phone but only through staff.

I then went to an oncologist at an unmentioned location (he is still Dustin's oncologist).

He promised to be instantly communicative, which he was for the first visit. The first visit, with office call, ultrasound, blood tests cost almost $600. Dustin is still hanging in 12 months later but treatment has not resulted in a remission and another $1,860 has passed by. I see him and most others in his practice as someone who sees Dustin as a pricey lump of coal and he is a coal miner. (I just talked to him. Dustin's bowel is normal. Lymph nodes are swollen, but likely not due to cancer but chronic inflamation. There is a nodule on his liver, but in a place that cannot be aspirated, and likely benign (est. 75% benign). I feel relieved. I would hate to have another cat die within a year.)

You can see it is all of their eyes: MONEY.

I did have one great vet for a time until he became Chief Vet at LAAS: Steve Feldman. Steve was almost cheap. Great service, easy appointments, never too busy, just like with Ken Jones 20 some years before.

Unfortunately, Steve was replaced by another coal miner who charged my neighbor over $600 to treat a deep abcess surgically and a half day stay.

So, how was Mason supposed to pay for the medical care of 50 cats? He couldn’t provide perfect medical care and even spay neuter. He was basically employed part time, yet he tried the hardest. He said as soon as he collected $120 for a day's work he took it to Holiday Humane to pay off his bill.

(I do understand that Cynthia Hockman did a lot to help Ron. She did a lot of free things for him. He just said she became strange once he was busted and she started working for Boks.)

Then he was arrested and charged with felony animal neglect and stories of his criminal lack of care for his cats spread all over the web and by Dana Bartholomew in the Daily News.

By the way, Ron was never charged with anything. Dana’s front page story with tons of photos and his description of the horrible scene at his house was never retracted. A month or so after the case was closed, the Daily News printed a 2” column buried in the middle of the paper saying that Mason, whose house had been raided in October, was not charged with a felony. Dana’s promised retraction and followup story was never written. Mason is still therefore considered a felon by many who saw the huge front page article and then read Boks’ defense of the ACTF bust. Ed has never mentioned anywhere that no charges were ever filed.

And what about Mason? His cats were confiscated and no medical care was attempted on 28 cats who were immediately euthanized. Should LAAS be brought up on animal neglect charges because they could not afford to treat the cats either?

The point is the entire animal care system from shelters to private practice vets has grown corrupt and bloated. Very few people can afford the vet care of three cats or three dogs. You can with insurance, but the premiums themselves become increasingly pricey and the carriers always find ways to refuse claims.

One person, since fired from McClaves, overheard one vet, “Dr. Ted” complaining to another about money. The other said to Ted, “What are you bitching about, you are still making $400,000 a year?”

I see the only solution is that we consumers of vet “care” need to start a pet HMO that controls the greed and pricing, bringing care within the reach of many who cannot afford care now and thus risk arrest for animal neglect should a neighbor complain.

The pet care system is rigged against the pet owner who has had his vet turn into a green-eyed money machine where care for the animals is vastly secondary to the care of the vet.

I once saw a client bounced from Adler Clinic with a cat with a broken leg. The doctor showed him to the door and said “we do not do that kind of surgery, you need a specialist." The client asked who and where, and the doctor said he didn’t know and actually was showing the client and his cat to the door. The guy walked out of Adler with his cat's leg dangling.

I told the guy about Alan Shulman--who is board certified in orthopedic surgery--and Care Credit that many vets use. I hope he went, but he just looked stunned at the bum's rush.

I think at that time my long festering anger with greedy vets began turning into hate.

We who love animals are at the mercy of increasingly callous vets whose eyes see only money.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Britto and Dr. Carvalho at Brentwood don't seem to be coal miners yet. Dr. Britto in particular has been very good about squeezing as much service into as small a bill as possible for me. Not that I haven't paid a bunch overall (my house is apparently a Cushings' festival) but I can tell she tries to keep in mind that not everybody is loaded (don't be fooled by the "Brentwood" name, this isn't a Brentwood clinic)

Ed Muzika said...

Thanks. What is the full name of the Brentwood clinic? Is that the one on Olympic near Sepulveda?

Anonymous said...

Veterinarians have student loans to pay, work long hours very hard with lots of responsibilities and they have the right to expect compensation for their professional work. Vet hospitals have high overhead and they are a business, not a public service to provide "affordable" health care to animals. Unfortunately, like the rest of society, the bottom line these days is profit, not providing the best possible service.

Now that society insists on treating dogs and cats as human beings, your pets' medical costs are reaching parity with your own.
The reason vets are giving (and charging for) unneccesary lab tests, x-rays, pain meds and fluid therapy (IVs) is people expect that for themselves so why not for the dogs and cats too.

Ed Muzika said...

Yeah, yeah.

Making $400,000 as a vet is obscene. There is no excuse for the greed.

If the doctor takes home $400,000 AFTER expenses, imagine how much he has had to charge to pay employees and overhead.

There is a vet shortage and it is a vet's market, and they are charging what the market will bear. The concern for the animals extends to concern for animals whose owners have money.

Like Boks who discovered he could make money as a dogcatcher, these guys only see the animals through green eyes. You can see it in their eyes, their bearing, their thinking.

The whole profession has changed. It is no longer all creatures large and small.

The other problem is that the greedy corporate types have seen the money to be made in vet care and raised the prices out of reach for many of us.

They want profit. Profit means serving at high prices the greatest amount of procedures, leaving an increasing number of animals without care.

Ten years from now all the new greedy vet students will have graduated and there will be five times as many vets as now, and they won't have a pot to pee in because they will be employees delivering services by fiat and not getting that much themseleves anymore.

I have seen it happen in psychology and psychiatry. The private practices and small clinics have been eaten up by HMOs and corporations. Psych care is about 1/5th as good as it was 20 years ago, and the provider is an employee whose provision of care is decided by a list of posted criteria based on profitability.

Mental health care is down the toilet. The only thing that prevents most from going mad is that psychotropic medications are so much better now that it counterbalances the loss of the entire psychotherapy profession.

Vet care may improve because of technology, but you are now going to a factory for care--an expensive factory where you are treated, like cattle.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Brentwood Pet Clinic is where Drs. Britto and Carvalho work. It's at the corner of Olympic and Barrington.

Dr. Carvalho has also come to the emergency aid of a rescue I work at -- she's legend over there, as is Dr. Tony George, who works at Pet Medical is Santa Monica. Exceptionally nice guy, very accomodating to a very non-glamorous rescue and very kind and affectionate to dogs a lot of people wouldn't even care about, like our rescue's ancient (15 to 17 yr. old) blind pit bull.

All three of these vets are very nice.

Anonymous said...

In the end the pet feels the pain and goes untreated if the costs are too high. From my experience when you don't have a major surgery or expense for a good 10 years. It FLOORS you how much the office visits and procedures increase!! Are vets in it to make money or are they in it to treat animals? If you're a vet to make bank, you're in it for the wrong reasons. No one suffers except the animal and their household.

Gaius Gracchus said...

More people need to talk about this!
We have spent over $30,000 on vet bills for only 3 animals. One of the animals died -- she was a cat that was over-vaccinated.
We told the vet that every time we had taken her in for vaccines she got sick, and that she got sicker each time. He told us it could not possibly be the vaccine...
Wrong. He vaccinated her again and she was dead in less than a month.

All sorts of animals are being over-vaccinated and over-treated.

I could tell you one horror story after another. Like the time we went to one of the 'Best Vets in Philly' (local magazine story). The guy was a TOTAL SLEAZEBAG! He wanted to charge $700 to remove some little growth on the dog's paw. He wanted to put her under general anesthesia, etc. We took her to what must be one of the last honest country vets on earth and he was horrified to hear this. He used a mild systemic sedative plus a local and charged only $65 for the whole procedure. The dog was fine.

Or the time that they insisted on doing a biopsy on our dog's leg (a nasty, painful procedure). One even suggested if we did not want to do the biopsy we could just proactively cut the leg off.... Turns out it was not cancer at all, just a sprained leg.

I could go on and on. I have so many horror stories I could share I don't know where to begin.

Veterinarians are the lowest form of life on the planet as far as we are concerned. There are a few decent ones out there, but NOT MANY. Very rare to find one that is not just in it for the money. And to take advantage of people's love for their pets is EVIL, pure and simple.