Animal Rights Activists Indicted as “Terrorists” For Home Protests

Mar 19th, 2009 by Will Potter

Home protest by animal rights activists in Santa Cruz. Photo by AP/WSJ.
Home protest by animal rights activists in Santa Cruz. Photo by AP/WSJ.
When four animal rights activists were arrested under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, it was unclear how prosecutors would proceed, and what specific accusations the activists would face. Now, thegovernment indictment,available here for the first time, makes it strikingly clear that prosecutors intend to use terrorism laws to target First Amendment activity.
The “AETA 4,”—Joseph Buddenburg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope, and Adriana Stumpo—have been indicted for conspiracy” to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. As justification of the charge, the indictment lists three specific acts:
  1. A protest on October 21, 2007, at an animal researcher’s home. The government says this amounts to “threats, criminal trespass, harassment and intimidation.” In the criminal complaint, the FBI said that on this date “protesters trespassed onto Professor Number One’s front yard and rang his doorbell several times. The group was making a lot of noise and chanting animal rights slogans (“1, 2, 3, 4 open up the cage door; 5, 6, 7, 8, smash the locks and liberate; 9, 10, 11, 12, vivisectors go to hell”)…”
  2. A protest on January 27, 2008, at an animal researcher’s home. The government says this amounts to “threats, harassment, and intimidation.” In the criminal complaint, the FBI said that on this date approximately 11 individuals demonstrated at the homes of multiple researchers. “At each residence, the individuals, dressed generally in all black clothing and wearing bandanas over their nose and mouth, marched, chanted, and chalked defamatory comments on the public sidewalks…”
  3. Use of the Internet. They allegedly “used the Internet to find information on bio-medical researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz.”
Even more telling, though, is what is not listed in the indictment. In thecriminal complaint and the FBI press release, the government mentioned the above allegations along with two other incidents—the only two incidents even approaching a “gray area” between protected speech and illegal conduct.
  • At one protest attended by the defendants, a researcher “struggled with one individual and was hit with a dark, firm object,” according to the FBI. (February 24, 2008)
  • A stack of fliers titled “Murderers and torturers alive & well in Santa Cruz July 2008 edition” was found at a local coffee shop, CafĂ© Pergolesi. The fliers said “we know where you live we know where you work we will never back down until you end your abuse” and listed home addresses and telephone numbers. The FBI used video surveillance to allegedly link the flier distribution to the defendants. (July 29, 2008)
Now, to be very clear, the details in an indictment aren’t the final word in any criminal case. They never reveal too much of the prosecution’s hand. They do, however, lay the backbone of the government’s case and put the prosecution’s best foot forward.
Omitting the most controversial, potentially-illegal activity, and instead focusing on protests that involved chalking slogans and chanting, sends a very clear message of where this is all heading. This case and others like it are not about underground groups like the Animal Liberation Front, they are not about “violence,” they are not about the real potential for violence.
They are about using the “War on Terrorism” to chip away at basic First Amendment rights and criminalize dissent.

USDA Brands ALF, ADL, PETA As Domestic Terrorists

In a form sent to various facilities inspected by the Animal and Plant Inspection services, the USDA branded some of my favorite organizations as domestic terrorists. See page 3 of the following document. But PETA? What is the terrorist aspect, half nude women wearing leaves?

        Now a lot of wing nuts who leave comments on this blog refer to everyone who even likes animals as terrorists.

Writer Doubts Credibility of GM Seach

An anonymous writer outlines how Ed Boks became GM and expresses skepticism that anything will be different this time.

We do know that Guerdon Stuckey was appointed because he was black and Hahn was wooing the black vote for reelection. This writer alleges the mayor accepted a promised $10,000,000 bribe to appoint Boks.

Remember, Boks resigned seven months ago in April and an unnamed headhunter firm still hasn't completed a job description or list of requirements for the position. The apparent secrecy does raise eyebrows.

Sedona Photos; Sun City Cattery Photos

It rained one day when we were in Sedona, producing muted, pastel colors. Other days were overcast, making the red rocks very red. The high point for me is always Schnebbly Hill Road, where I've taken hundreds of photos over the years, including a large elk about 6 years ago, The lighting the last hour is always fantastic. The Indian seller was taken on the way to Flagstaff.

The Sun City 4 Paws cattery is located in Peoria, AZ, a western suburb of Phoenix next to Sun City and Glendale, all high retirement areas. There are over 100 cats here. In the past, a lot of them were considered not placeable due to disease, health or behavioral problems. However, today the majority are. They do get placed. There is a message from 4 Paws President Pat Sherman at the link below. I showed up unannounced, and, as you can see, it is in perfect order.

When you get to the album, click the "Full Screen" tab in the upper left hand corner. it makes a big difference.

Two Weeks in Phoenix

     There hasn't been much action on this blog because I was away for two weeks in Phoenix. My mom had been hospitalized for 8 days due to a diverticulitis infection, and her caretaker of many years was retiring. So we were looking for a new caretaker or for a home.

     The weather in Phoenix is just about like Chatsworth from about October to April. After that, it get consistently hotter in Phoenix. Chatsworth may get to 106 or even 110, but Phoenix can get to 120, and is consistently over 105 daily during the summer.

      The shocking thing about Phoenix is the cheaper prices. Everything is cheaper. Premium gas goes from $2.69 to $2.81 throughout Maricopa County. All you can eat buffets (My favorite is Furr's) cost $6.99 all day with pies, meats for meateaters, and all the hot veggies and cold salads imaginable.

     Then there are soup and salad buffets, all day for $5.99.

     Movie matinees cost $6.50!

     Rent for a small 3 bedroom house in a senior community can be $650, and rents for a 4 bedroom, 2,500 foot house run around $1,100-$1,250. Apartments that allow animals are around $500.
     Prices in the supermarket also are lower, sometimes a lot lower.
      Going North to Sedona, we got a motel room at Sky Ranch Lodge, about 500 feet above Sedona with great views and a three to four star listing for $80 a night with a king bed; no complimentary breakfast though.  I have about 500 pictures of Sedona which I will post later.  Prices in Sedona, Cottonwood and the area, despite being a tourist trap, are as cheap or cheaper than Phoenix. Also, there is more rain, an average of 17 inches a year compared to Phoenix's 5, and LA's 14.
      Within 8 miles of where my mom lives in Sun City, there are 35 retirement homes, many with three levels of care: independent living; assisted living; and nursing. AND, all are relatively new compared to LA, and much cheaper, and larger. This West Valley area of Phoenix is the largest retirement area outside of one large retirement area in Florida. The economy is directed to support retirees.

      Near where my mom lives is Sun City 4 Paws, the most wonderful cattery I have ever seen. It holds about 120 hard to place or not placeable cats due to behavior or medical problems. They even have a feral room with 35 ferals. It is a wonderful place and I will post photos.
      I am thinking of moving. One place advertised in Sedona was 2,650 sq. feet on .46 acres of land. I saw the photos but didn't have time to see it. $198,500! The usual price range for such a property is around $250-$300,000 so I don't know what was wrong with it.

     The photos and videos I got of Sedona were of extraordinary beauty.

Winograd's New Book Out

I have to agree with Nathan's last post: the struggle for No Kill is a war. We are at war with the status quo and pro-kill shelters. We are at war with all the naysayers who say it can't be done. 

The second book by the author of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America, the most acclaimed book on animal shelters ever written.
Available through To purchase, click here.

GM Search Process Goes On

I can sympathize with those who feel the GM search process has been going on too long and in the dark.

However, my sources as mentioned in an earlier post, indicate the actual search process has not yet started, and the headhunter is still in the process of establishing a job description based on email questionaires sent to me and many others in the LA Animal Community.

Most of the people that ADL has suggested be part of the search committee will be contacted during the actual search process and some have been contacted in the job description stage. The headhunters already know which websites should be targeted once the actual search process begins.

When the search begins, it will be posted far and wide.

So my concern is not with this factfinding stage, nor whether a lot of people be informed about the job opening. My concern is the selection process itself. I think at that time people like Winograd and Batista and others should be allowed input to whomever does the winnowing at each stage.

Boks Applies for Job at a Winograd No Kill Shelter; Rejected, He Attacks Nathan

On November 21, Ed Boks wrote on Facebook:

"The Oreo Law is nothing more than a political vendetta on the part of Nathan Winograd against Ed Sayres. The law adds nothing to the saving of lives in NYC. While there I implemented a program called New Hope that allows registered 501c3 rescue groups to save animals at NO COST TO THEM and we provided the s/n surgery, vaccinations, and microchip, again, at no cost to the rescue groups. New 
allows ACC to monitor the rescue groups to ensure animals are not being placed at risk by a rogue organization. The Oreo Law will completely undo these safeguards." 

Nathan Winograd Responded to me via email:
“Ed Boks left Maricopa on threat of termination. He was fired from New York City. And he was forced to resign from Los Angeles. He then has the audacity to apply for the Associate Director position at the Nevada Humane Society I've been recruiting for, as if I would actually grant him access to the most successful shelter in the country, and after submitting a resume that qualified for nothing less than fiction. Does anyone care what he has to say? 

And how did his program help Oreo? Not at all. The fact remains that shelters kill in the face of lifesaving alternatives. The only way to change that, and to change it forever, is to legally remove the discretion men like Boks and Sayres have to ignore what is in the best interests of animals and kill them needlessly. These directors already have had 15 years to follow the model pioneered in the No Kill movement and they have chosen not to. The animals do not have the time or luxury to wait another 15 years. 

If they won't save these animals willingly, we are going to force them to do so. This is not a vendetta. This is a war. A war to save the lives of animals under the threat of a death sentence by men like Boks. 

"I might also add that Boks' argument is nonsensical. First, the law is state legislation meaning it would help animals in every shelter, not just NYCACC. Put aside the issue of Ed's claims (most of his "programs" were programs in name only and had no substance), laws set minimum standards. There is nothing preventing shelters from enacting more comprehensive lifesaving efforts. All Oreo's Law does is take away the power of shelters to kill in the face of a rescue alternative. It's focus is small, but its reach is enormous and will save thousands of animals every year. Boks is trying to undermine that and in doing so, shows his true colors: he doesn't appear to really care how many animals live or die, as long as he can make a name for himself. Which begs the question: if Boks talked and nobody listened, would he really make a sound?"

Winograd on the ASPCA and Ed Sayres

Sayres' shelter successes are exactly the same as Ed Boks' successes--in their minds and from their mouths only.  I became aware of Sayres' and Boks' failures in 2004 when the Bernstein committee was looking for a successor for Greenwalt. It is quite clear to e that all large animal shelters and organizations have largely failed the animals, except maybe for Batiste's organization, Best Friends.

The meaning of Oreo

November 16, 12:27 PMSF Animal Shelters ExaminerNathan Winograd

The ASPCA killed Oreo despite an offer to save her by a No Kill 
shelter and sanctuary. 
Over the last several days, the ASPCA’s killing of a dog named Oreo has ignited a furor among animal lovers nationwide. They tried to justify it by claiming she was aggressive. But the question of whether or not Oreo was beyond rehabilitation is merely a side story to the most significant issues raised by Oreo's execution. And while Oreo’s killing by those who were supposed to be her protectors has left too many questions unanswered, what has emerged as the most significant one is why did Ed Sayres, the President of the ASPCA, rush to kill an abused dog when the public demanded that she be saved and a sanctuary had offered her lifetime care?

Last June, a one-year old dog named Oreo was intentionally thrown off a sixth floor Brooklyn roof top by her abuser. Oreo sustained two broken legs and a fractured rib. Although the facts are sketchy, Oreo also appears to have been beaten in the past—several of the neighbors in the building where Oreo lived reported hearing the sounds of the dog being hit. The ASPCA nursed her back to health and arrested the perpetrator. They also dubbed her the “miracle dog.” 

The miracle was short-lived. According to Ed Sayres, the President of the ASPCA, when Oreo recovered from her injuries, she started to show aggression. After a series of temperament tests, Ed Sayres says he made the decision to kill her. The New York Times reported the story the day before Oreo’s scheduled execution. Despite the best efforts of Sayres to spin the outcome, the furor and condemnation by dog lovers all over the country was immediate.

In an attempt to contain the wrath of the animal-loving community against him, Sayres issued a press release replete with crocodile tears (“We are all upset by this”), saying that she was truly vicious, and arguing that lifetime care in a sanctuary would have meant no quality of life. Sometimes, Sayres said, there are no happy endings. Early on Friday morning, Oreo laid dead, the victim not of her former abuser, but of an overdose of poison from a bottle marked “Fatal-Plus,” at the hands of a shelter bureaucrat. 

Refusing a Lifesaving Alternative

Facts are troubling things. Facts get in the way of a contrived story. And there is one troubling fact that all of Ed Sayres’ double-speak simply cannot overcome. Try as the ASPCA might to argue that Oreo’s death was unavoidable, Sayres’ misrepresentation has one fundamental obstacle: Oreo had a place to go. The issue doesn’t turn on the real extent of Oreo’s aggression. The real issue is that a No Kill shelter and sanctuary, with experience rehabilitating aggression in dogs, which works with area shelters that could have vouched for their credibility, which enjoys wide community esteem, and which is only a short drive outside of New York City, offered to give her lifetime sanctuary, and was refused. 

They called and left a voice mail message on Sayres’ telephone. They called his secretary. They called the ASPCA Press Office. They contacted everyone on the ASPCA website contact page. And they were ignored, hung up on and lied to. 

Pets Alive in Middletown, New York, is not only a member of the Mayor's Alliance for New York City animals, of which the ASPCA is also a member, they are not only an Alliance-approved rescue partner, they not only have had experience with aggressive dogs, but they agreed to take responsibility for a dog the ASPCA was committed to putting in a body bag and then dumping in a landfill. Even though Pets Alive is already an approved rescue partner, the fact that Oreo may have presented a special case didn’t mean the offer should have been rejected out of hand. The ASPCA could have visited Pets Alive; they could have checked veterinary references, community references, could have insisted on specific precautions and liability waivers. But instead, early that morning, before the "media circus got out of hand," Ed Sayres, willfully, neglectfully, cruelly, and dishonestly, chose to kill Oreo instead. That is the true face of the ASPCA. And that is intolerable.
Lowering the Bar
Ironically, had these events taken place in California, it would have been illegal for the ASPCA to kill Oreo instead of giving her to Pets Alive. In 1998, the California legislature overwhelming and bipartisanly passed a law making it illegal for a shelter to kill a dog if a No Kill shelter or rescue group is willing to save that dog—even in cases where the shelter says the dog is aggressive. Having worked in San Francisco, Sayres should be sensitive to the fact that the ASPCA, which claims a leadership position in this movement, should not have a more regressive policy than one approved by an overwhelming number of politicians on both sides of the political spectrum and the State’s Republican governor. 

And yet the ASPCA, under Sayres, proves once again that the large national organizations have no vision, no desire to truly raise the status of animals in society, and despite claiming they are setting the bar on how society should relate to animals, that they are in reality staffed by those who would rather perpetuate the violence and betrayal Oreo already experienced by killing her—even as true animals lovers offered them a simple, life-affirming alternative, and the second chance at life Oreo so richly deserved.
And as an agency which claims to be the leading voice of animals, the ASPCA has a duty to continually push the envelope and raise the bar on these issues: to ask the tough questions, to give the issue the time it needs to arrive at a just and thoughtful resolution. Instead, the ASPCA rushed to kill Oreo and permanently closed the door to an animal that needed the full force of the ASPCA’s compassion—and vast resources—the most. 

Ignoring the Public

A few short years ago, this case would have had the same tragic ending, with the majority of the dog loving public angry that Oreo’s life had come to this short end. But their anger would have been directed only at her former abuser. Today, that anger is still strong, but it is also being directed at the agency which was supposed to protect her from that ultimate harm and fundamentally failed. This is the same anger that forced Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle—like Sayres, another stalwart defender of killing—to stop pursuing the automatic destruction of abuse victims. Today, despite the claims of aggression which would have ended the dialog in the past, people want, deserve, and believe the dogs deserve the happy endings to which they are not only entitled, but which are readily available if men like Sayres and Pacelle would only give it to them. But time and time again, they choose not to. 

That Oreo may not have been an immediate adoption candidate due to aggression issues is therefore secondary to the will of the people who wanted Oreo saved, who demanded that Oreo be saved, who were not swayed by false calculations of quality of life, of talk of being traumatized, of any other rationale that would have allowed Sayres and Pacelle to kill dogs without public condemnation. People are tired of the excuses, they are tired of the justifications, and they are tired of the killing. 

Because I was quoted in the New York Times article (a bit misquoted actually as I would never call a dog an “it.” I was referring to the testing, not the dog), I was flooded by e-mails and telephone calls. The anger at Sayres was resolute. As one of those individuals noted,
Missing completely from the ASPCA’s response is any acknowledgment whatsoever of the concerns and outrage of the public who fund their work. The public was disrespected; their concerns guided by compassion disregarded.
The gulf between what the public expects from a humane society and the conduct of the ASPCA and others in their league is so at odds with humanity, a gulf so wide, it cannot be crossed. Instead of building a bridge to create needed dialog, Ed Sayres mounted a barricade from which he ran a self-serving propaganda campaign to force his views. He forgot that the ASPCA is publicly funded. He behaved like a dictator, not a leader.
Set Up to Fail?

No analysis on Oreo’s death would be complete without an evaluation of how the ASPCA determined that she was aggressive: Did the ASPCA evaluate her fairly? Given the abuse she suffered, how painful was she? Did they give her enough time to learn to trust again? Critics have charged that the ASPCA set her up for failure. That is an important issue and one that cannot be left to the often self-serving claims that have defined the ASPCA over the years.

As in many of these cases, people are questioning whether she was truly as aggressive as Sayres is trying to make out. There have been unconfirmed reports that staff and volunteers have claimed the ASPCA is exaggerating, and the ASPCA has not yet released any videotapes of her which would shed light on the real extent of her alleged aggression. According to unconfirmed reports, two staff members indicated that while the dog did show aggression, she could also be very affectionate, and as a result, they felt she was treatable. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that staff members asked Sayres for a reprieve so she could be placed in a sanctuary. And finally, unconfirmed reports indicate that a volunteer was able to go in and handle Oreo, despite some aggression issues. I have not been able to verify the veracity of these claims, but since this is secondary to the main issues above, their resolution would not alter what should have been the outcome.

On top of these nagging issues, there is the question of whether Ed Sayres is fit to make the final determination. I worked very closely with Sayres at the San Francisco SPCA. It was Sayres who was responsible for the decline and eventual abandonment of the No Kill goal in San Francisco. It was Sayres who embarked on the boondoggle of building a $20 million specialty hospital despite other specialty veterinary hospitals in that city and surrounding areas; and projections that it was not needed, would ultimately harm the San Francisco SPCA’s finances without meeting an unmet need, and cause programs for homeless animals to be curtailed. It is no surprise that those predictions have come to pass: The SPCA is now losing $3,000,000 every year, has eliminated 25% of its staff, has cut lifesaving programs, and appears to be racing toward financial oblivion, all due to the legacy of Sayres’ catastrophic leadership. As I wrote in Redemption about his tenure in San Francisco, Sayres inherited an,
SPCA with a strong infrastructure, departments that had become the envy of the growing No Kill movement, and a fundraising apparatus that had amassed an endowment of over forty million dollars. [He] would not fully leverage the opportunity he was given. In a short period of time, with money being wasted, fundraising opportunities missed, deficits created, an increasingly bloated bureaucracy developing, and key programs gutted or eliminated, the SPCA finally abandoned all pretensions toward No Kill in San Francisco.
This is a man who, as head of the wealthiest and most powerful SPCAs in the nation, claimed on the front page of USA Today, the most widely circulated newspaper in the country, that not killing was the moral equivalent of killing. This is a man who in Austin, Texas, has chosen to attack No Kill and shelter reform advocates and hinder their goals by throwing his organization’s support behind a shelter director who refuses to embrace alternatives to killing and who also kills tens of thousands of animals annually despite hundreds of empty cages at her facility. Sayres is also taking credit for the modest decline in killing this year which is exclusively the result of the work of a private rescue group saving the animals the ASPCA-partner shelter is otherwise determined to kill. 

During my tenure with him in San Francisco, Sayres rarely ventured out of his office, almost never walked the kennels or interacted with the animals, and was so detached, that he simply signed off on whatever his staff said, no matter how regressive those he hired were (and there are plenty of regressive people at the ASPCA also). But there is one incident in particular which sheds light on the Oreo case.

When I was working with Sayres in San Francisco, he had signed off on the killing of a dog who I felt deserved further evaluation. He made the decision to kill a dog without seeing the dog, without observing the evaluation, without, I would venture, even being able to pick the dog out of a kennel of other dogs. I objected and suggested that we needed to set the bar higher. I gave him a formal proposal that, before killing an animal, he appoint a guardian ad litem, someone who would represent the dog (or cat) the same way an attorney would defend the accused during a death penalty case. It would not cost him anything, as I was an attorney, I already worked there, and I agreed to represent the animals whenever a behaviorist or veterinarian issued the death warrant. He said, “No.” Ironically, that is the process used in the criminal and civil case against dog slayer Michael Vick. A guardian was appointed by the federal judge overseeing the disposition of the dogs. As a result, the vast majority of Vick’s victims were saved. In other words, when Sayres is given the chance to be fully involved, he chooses not to be, even when it means death for dogs at the shelter he oversees; or when it means a lost opportunity to advance this movement, as would befit someone in his position.

The Great Betrayal

In 1866, over 140 years ago, Henry Bergh began the modern humane movement in the United States with the founding of the ASPCA. For the rest of his life, Bergh devoted himself to saving the lives of animals in and around New York City. For over two decades, Bergh spent each and every night, regardless of freezing temperatures, walking the streets of New York City tending to sick animals, fighting for their rights, working to save them, and confronting—and stopping—their abusers. 

At the time, New York City had the largest horse-pulled railway in the world. In one poignant incident, one evening in February of 1871 during the evening rush hour, working people rushed for the cars, and the horses began to strain with heavy loads through snow and slush. As one overloaded car reached the corner near where Bergh stood, the driver was ready to give the horses another lash when the call came to “Stop!” and “Unload!” It was Bergh. “Who the hell are you?” came the reply from the driver. “Unload!” called the order again. When the driver refused, Bergh reportedly pitched him into a snow bank and unhitched the horses. Often, Bergh would completely stop traffic on the lines, causing traffic jams that would leave thousands of people stranded and cursing to no avail—because one man had stopped all the traffic to protect a single horse.

As hard as Bergh labored to protect all animals, he worked equally hard to protect dogs, particularly against abuses at the hands of city dogcatchers. Through prosecutions of abusive dogcatchers, lobbying for stronger laws and greater protections, and by striving himself to save them, he reduced deaths for dogs at the hands of the city pound by over 80 percent in just one year alone. Henry Bergh would not have killed Oreo.

Today, Ed Sayres sits in the chair once occupied by Bergh. He does not advance the cause of animal protection. He is not a tireless champion on their behalf. He does not faithfully represent Bergh’s vision, nor does he faithfully represent how most Americans now feel about animals. Instead, when given the opportunity to save the life of an animal, he cowers in his office, refusing to return telephone calls, while collecting a paycheck of half a million dollars a year. On the afternoon of Friday, November 13, Ed Sayres had a personal driver take him home. Oreo’s body was sitting in a freezer, waiting to be delivered to a landfill. 

Toward the end of his life, Bergh would often lament, “I hate to think what will become of this [SPCA] when I am gone.” Ed Sayres has answered that question for him. And Sayres’ answer: “an agency that kills savable dogs,” would have hurt Henry very deeply. 

When I was growing up, the ASPCA represented very little beyond an annual fundraising calendar with pictures of kittens and puppies and platitudes about the human-animal bond. And while we have all grown up to demand more than calendars and killing, the ASPCA has not. And while that agency claims to be a leading voice for the animals and the people who love them, their actions toward Oreo demonstrate otherwise: The ASPCA doesn’t represent the dog lovers at Pets Alive. It doesn't represent the values of the American people. It no longer represents the fierce compassion of its founder. And it certainly doesn’t represent dogs like Oreo.

Value Vet-Repost

This is a repost as someone tried to pull a fats one to have google automatically delete this post. 

Many of you know I have championed Value Vet during the past three years as an excellent provider of veterinarian services, including the Department awarding it the West LA spay/neuter contract against some opposition.

I first went to Value Vet three or four years ago where I met Dr. Feldman, who was always gracious, had a great bedside manner and provided quality veterinarian care at a budget price. In my estimation Dr. Feldman provided care at about a 30+% discount compared to other vets in the West Valley area.

However, things have changed. Since the City awarded Value Vet the West LA spay neuter contract, and since VV performs a large number of spay/neuter surgeries, VV now has a large, City-sponsored and supplied captive audience.

It appears that Value Vet is taking advantage of this City captive market and has moved from supplying excellent care at a discount, to providing ever more ambitious care at a much higher prevailing fee rate, however, without the staff to safely supply these procedures.

My recent experience with the Canoga VV has been a nightmare, with a rescue cat receiving a 45 minute abdominal exploratory surgery on Friday afternoon, and being left unattended, while receiving fluids on an IV drip for four days, sometimes being unsupervised, unmonitored and unfed for up to 19 hours at a time. She was not given pain medications on the second day. None of the two weekend veterinarians was asked to look at her to see how she was doing. She did not eat for 4 days, yet no one attempted to syringe feed her.

I have asked around for professional opinions and universally they say no cat having received major surgery and while on an IV drip should be left alone beginning three hours later, for 15 hours until the morning staff came in. The next day she was left alone at night, unmonitored for 16 hours, and Sunday evening for 19+ hours. This is not an acceptable level of care for an animal having received major surgery.

My experience in summary:

The fees at Value Vet are no longer a value as in the past. For all intents and purposes their charges are the same as those at VCA or other large multivet clinics that have huge overhead in terms of large facilities, large numbers of very expensive diagnostic and treatment equipment, large staffs, near round the clock veterinarians on duty, as well as night vet tech staff.

The Canoga Value Vet does not have a round-the-clock staff to monitor animals overnight and the physical plant itself is miniscule and chaotic with huge potential for medical mistakes.

My cat Lakshmi spent a total of 5 days during two hospitalizations, including 4 after major surgery, on an IV fluid drip without a night staff to monitor her health. Why I allowed this I do not know. I put her life at risk by letting her be without medical supervision for as many as 19 hours at a time. The surgery was Friday afternoon, and the clinic closed at 6 pm, leaving her alone until 9 am Saturday morning, and then again from 2 pm on Sunday to 9:00 on Monday morning.

The total cost of treatment was essentially the same as if I had taken her to a specialist, given a far less intrusive endoscopy with biopsy, rather than the long abdominal exploratory surgery she did have, followed by 4 days and nights on an IV, totally alone at night. Yet, I was told since I had such a long relationship with VV and they had treated several pets in the past, I was given their top, lowest priced, best discount. This leads me to ask how much are they charging to the general public who now comes mostly as a City referral?

On the weekend, she was locked in a single bank of cages, next to very noisy cages with lots of frightened dogs kep before and after S/N surgery of animals referred by LAAS. The room where she was caged is also the surgery prep room, is incredibly small (maybe 80 sq ft) and therefore very crowded with the cages, the animal preparation area, people going in and out of the bathroom, or in and out of surgery attached to that same room carrying comatose animals to cages. On week ends, due to all the business the City of Los Angles sends their way, there are many spay/neuter surgeries and the animals recover or await surgery in the same bank of cages she was in. That little room is chaotic and rife with the possibility of medical treatment error.

Lakshmi was never looked at by a weekend (Saturday and Sunday) relief vet until I insisted on Sunday. The vet with a Russian sounding name told me on Sunday (the surgery was Friday afternoon) no one had told him he should look at Lakshmi, the only cat that was there when he arrived, and who had been there in a cage, on an I.V., for two days following major surgery. Why he had not been asked to check on her condition as part of his duties on Sunday points to some sort of communication problem within the clinic.

Dr. Sherif Abdelmalak did not see Lakshmi until Monday morning, 2-1/2 days after the surgery, despite my telling staff on Sunday that Lakshmi was not doing well. She had not eaten since surgery on Friday. She subsequently vomited 4 different places in her cage between 2 pm on Sunday and 10 am Monday morning.

When I came on Sunday to see her, they were already closing up early (2 pm) and I found to my utter shock and depression that Lakshmi had not had any pain medication that day---the second day after major surgery. I finally demanded she be given pain medication.

I was told by staff that Dr. Abdelmalak had stated pain meds were only to be given on Saturday, because the pain meds could mask her symptoms. But so what? No vet looked at her on the weekend, and she would be alone in the cage for an additional 19 hours from Sunday at 2 pm to Monday at 9 am. What good did it do for her to be in pain, alone for over 19 hours so that no one could see whatever symptoms she was having, and Abdelmalak didn’t think not eating for 2 days and frequent vomiting was worth a visit by him.

In fact, on Saturday I saw the note on her cage that said she was to be given pain medication on Saturday only. I asked Tony (office manager) if the pain meds were only going to be given on Saturday as the note said, and why none were prescribed for Sunday. Tony said that those notes were for Saturday only, and certainly she would be given pain medications on Sunday and Monday. But they did not until I insisted on Sunday as they were closing. Rather than give Buprinex 2 X a day, it was given only once every 24 hours.

Dr. Abdelmalak was told by staff at my insistence at about 2 pm that she was not doing well. He made no attempt to come in and see her. He said there was nothing he could do but wait.

Lakshmi did not eat at all from the time of her surgery until I picked her up on Tuesday—4 days. Dr. Abdelmalak insisted she only be fed Science Diet i/d for abdominal symptoms. She did not touch i/d for 4 days. Apparently he thought it better for her not to eat at all than to eat anything besides Science Diet i/d.

Dr. Abdelmalak only once talked to me on the phone during the 4 days Lakshmi was in the hospital despite his promise to advise me of lab results and her progress. He talked to me that one time on the phone when I was in tears demanding she get pain medication on Sunday afternoon, and after I complained to staff that Dr. Abdelmalak never talks to me on the phone—he has others do it. Communication was never initiated by Value Vet. Never. Of course I did talk to him when I came in on Monday.

Later when I talked to him he told me his father had had a heart attack
That weekend and his personal life was in chaos. I can understand his viewpoint, but, at the same time, my cat’s life was in danger, she had no pain meds, she was not eating, and no attempt was made to syringe feed her. And, the weekend vets were not even told to look at her.

Value Vet closed at 2 p.m. on Sunday. She had not been eating so they left a small dab of Science Diet i/d on a small plate as her only food. On Monday morning, I waited until 10:15 a.m. to call to see if she had been eating. I had assumed they would have tried to feed her first thing since she had nothing fresh for 19 hours. Incredibly, Tony said they had not fed her yet, but they would “In about 15 minutes.” She went 20.5 hour without food.

On Monday afternoon I suggested feeding her something other than i/d, such as a/d, which she had eaten before. Lakshmi did not eat this either when offered. My feeing was it was because of under-treated pain.

Tuesday morning when I came to see her she had still not eaten. They had not tried any other food. It is my understanding that if a cat has not eaten in two or three days, it is better to get her to eat anything rather than just the “correct” prescription food. Dr. Abdelmalak stated he thought it better she remain the another day, as though she was not eating, she was still getting fluids and medication. I said no, I wanted to take her home. I had brought a can of Fancy Feast with me. Lakshmi wolfed down a half can in 15 seconds. I did not feed her any more at that time, but made arrangements to take her home several hours later when it was less busy. Tony and the doctor were both surprised and happy that she was finally eating.

Dr. Abdelmalak said the three sets of X-rays were very difficult to read and understand because they showed poor organ definition. He stated that the poor definition may be due to the presence of abdominal fluids or rampant inflammation in her belly. He did state he did not think it was fluid after palpation.

The oncologist I took Lakshmi to at VCA on January 8 (Dr. John Critin) stated the X rays were of relatively poor quality but clearly showed multiple organ enlargement, spleen, liver but especially stomach. He stated that Dr. Abdelmalak should have told me this. However, it was clear that Dr. Abdelmalak did not know this at all. He was perplexed by the results. Critin also said her heart was small and she had a heart murmur. Dr. Abdelmalak did not mention this either.

Regarding Lakshmi’s cost of treatment. When I first brought her in, a week before the surgery, Abdelmalak said because I was a long time customer, had been supportive of Value Vet and knew Dr. Feldman, I would get the highest discount, their very best prices. Instead:

Regarding prices, I believe 6 “administrations of meds” (over the 2 admissions) charged at $300.00 was excessive.

The Antech C1 blood panel was charged at $166.18, high average. VCA charged $165 and change.

The Fecal Combo Giardia test was $51.00, I think high normal prevailing rate. Fluids were $65, the same as VCA. Catheterization was $28, $20 less than VCA, and the office vistit was $20 less than VCA.

Additional Urinalysis was an additional $25.88, again, slightly lower than VCA.

The $500.00 charged for exploratory surgery was excessive in that I could have taken her to my own internal med specialist I’ve used before (Dr. Broome) for a far less invasive and painful endoscopy for $425.00. Biopsy, of course, was necessary in both cases. Dr. Abdelmalak never suggested referral to someone else for less invasive treatment, nor to defer surgery until after the weekend, when he would be the attending, or to take her to another clinic with a night staff. He did suggest I could take her to an emergency clinic after surgery so someone could monitor her at night if that made me more comfortable. However, that would have cost hundreds more. Apparently he did not think leaving her alone for 15-16 hours (Friday closing to Saturday opening) was a concern.

It was a concern of mine at the time, but the concern became extreme after I saw with my own eyes how she had been treated.

I was given an estimate for the exploratory surgery procedure and dental (we talked about the extraction of one tooth beforehand), and was shocked to hear an estimate of over $1,400. This was in addition to the well over $700 I had already spent. She was already in the back room being prepped and I had no idea if I could get her to see my usual internal med specialist (Dr. Broome) in Westwood in a reasonable time as an alternative. I did not know how sick she was so I thought immediate treatment was essential and gave in---extremely reluctantly. I found out later that Dr. Broome was out of town until the following Wednesday and I didn’t see much use in taking her to another general vet like Adler, which would have required an entirely separate workup and perhaps redundant testing, although Reimer may have been less aggressive or suggested an endoscopy. Nor did I know whether Reimer was available or what other doctor might be on call. Lastly, I had had 3 cats die while hospitalized at Reimer’s clinic in the previous 18 months, so I was not in a rush to take any other cat there. (Two kidney failures on fluids and one cat with exploratory surgery and cancer tumor removal.)

I asked Tony if I could get a discount, and Dr. Abdelmalak told him that this ridiculous charge already had a razor sharp profit margin, but he did give me a 5% discount.

After the exploratory of her belly, while she was still under, I was talking to Tony and he said Dr. Abdelmalak said she needed a dental and extraction, which would cost another $65, even though we had already discussed the dental need this prior to the estimate. I had assumed the dental was included in the quote. Of course I said yes. He also said a fecal culture was needed and that was another $114. I felt he had misinformed me with a lowball estimate or else he should have been more careful in preparing it and added in the dental. I learned afterwards that Tony may not have put the dental charge on the final bill. I am awaiting copies of all the bills as mine appear different from what the doctor said I was changed.

I feel I was given first world charges for what turned out, in my opinion to be third world care, with no night supervision for as many as 19 hours at a time while she was on an I.V., and no pains meds after Saturday until I insisted. I was deeply hurt, depressed and feeling guilty by what I put Lakshmi through as well as feeling I had made a fool of myself for going along with Dr. Abdelmalak’s treatment plan of exploratory surgery. I just did not know how sick she was, if I could see a specialist in a short period, she was already being prepped for surgery. I felt under pressure to make an immediate choice and chose for treatment despite misgivings as Dr. Abdelmalak indicated it was a medical necessity. Who am I to judge medical necessity? I still feel depressed and guilty almost two weeks after the surgery.

Given the extremely small size and layout of the Canoga facility, and given the volume of City-referred and funded surgeries taking place there, I fear for the quality of the care offered to these animals, and I wonder what is the final out the door charges are to new owners who are given essentially a free spay/neuter, but may end up paying substantially more.

If the bill I received and the care Lakshmi received was their premium best for a long-time customer, what is happening with the general public?

I think the Commission has to do due diligence in this situation as Value Vet is a City contractor, and investigate the Canoga premises as to the adequacy of the facility for high volume care of City adopted animals, and which treatment will reflect on the City with VV as a contractor.

I think the City should obtain a sample of the final bills given to adopters to check the fees and procedures.

I think VV should never be allowed to do a major surgery leaving an animal alone at night after major surgery, and especially while on IV fluids.

The biggest question in my mind is how could Value Vet go from being a good, solid discount veterinary providing quality services at substantially below market prices, until they get a City S/N contract, a rent free state of the art facility, along with no utility payment overhead, and then go to a VCA level of pricing offering services beyond their capacity to provide safely?