Protect the public and companion animals from unscrupulous veterinary hospitals
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Johnny White died after his intestine was partially torn away from his stomach over the course of 13 days. Veterinary records indicate veterinary employees suspected Johnny had a foreign body as early as day 3 of his ordeal. The veterinary employees did not disclose their suspicions until day 12, but happily took money for examinations and treatments that did not fix Johnny's underlying issue. On day 12, the veterinary hospital promised to conduct emergency surgery, but reneged 5 hours later and made Johnny wait an additional day. The following night Johnny was brought to an emergency and urgent care facility that also made him wait a second night to receive appropriate treatment for his critical condition. Johnny died from his injuries on day 14 at 7:30 am just as the day staff was strolling in.
I filed a complaint with the Consumer Protection & Antitrust Bureau (“bureau”) against two businesses on July 28, 2016 alleging fraud, false advertising, breach of contract, and deceptive practices. I promptly received a letter dated August 4, 2016 from James T. Boffetti, Senior Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Consumer Protection Bureau, stating the complaints I filed raised issues of medical malpractice and not violations of the consumer protection act and as such should be dealt with by the professional licensing board.
The complaints I filed were against two businesses, not individuals. The NH Board of Veterinary Medicine (“board”) has no authority over businesses that engage in commerce in the State of NH. The bureau is in fact the appropriate authority and agency to investigate and address complaints of businesses engaged in deceptive practices. NH does not exempt veterinary care from the consumer protection act.
Specifically, I alleged the first animal hospital engaged in deceptive practices and breach of contract in the following ways:
1. Charged me for unrelated tests for which I brought Johnny in for;
2. Charge me for defective blood work due to a defect in the in-house blood machine;
3. Charged me and failed to disclose to me the expert opinion that Johnny had a foreign body, while writing that diagnosis down on internal communications on day 3 and day 5 of Johnny's very painful ordeal. The basis of our contract was I paid the business for their employee veterinarian in exchange for the veterinary employee to examine Johnny and provide her expert opinion;
4. Told me directly and unequivocally on day 6 Johnny did not have a foreign body even though internal communications (and subsequent diagnostics and surgery) indicated he did;
5. Leveraged the fact Johnny needed urgent emergency surgery in order to secure my agreement to run a boatload of diagnostics, some of which that would exacerbate his condition, under the guise that there was no time to bring my dog to another veterinary hospital because he required immediate life saving surgery
6. Reneged on that contract to perform emergency life-saving surgery after spending 5 hours running diagnostics that further confirmed Johnny needed that life-saving surgery, effectively cutting Johnny off from obtaining emergency surgery from another animal hospital
I alleged the second business engaged in deceptive practices as it holds itself out as an urgent emergency veterinary facility that provides advanced veterinary care and diagnostics including complicated surgeries, in-house blood work, endoscopy, ultrasounds, CAT scans, etc. 24/7/365. I alleged that these services are not in fact available during overnights and I provided evidence from multiple consumers who also experienced this. This is the very definition of a deceptive practice. It puts the public and the public's companion animals at risk, and not only monetarily. It is unscrupulous for this business to misrepresent the level of care it provides to the public and charging a premium and pocketing that money without delivering on that promise. This business is acting like a charlatan snake-oil peddler. Protecting the public from these types of deceptive acts is the purpose of the bureau.
The fact the businesses are engaged in veterinary care does not give them a free pass to deceive and fleece the public. Because the businesses are for the benefit of animals, a vulnerable segment of the population, rather than inanimate objects and it is widely recognized that animals are sentient, even in legal circles, and are capable of sensations and emotions, feeling pain and suffering, and experiencing a state of well being, it is even more paramount that veterinarians conduct business in an above-board, moral, and humane manner.
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