No Wonder Vets Hate Lawyers
I belong to the Florida Bar’s Animal Law Committee,
a group I naively joined because I thought it actually had something to
do with advancing the legal interests of animals. Come to find out they
are so afraid of being perceived as an animal right’s group (gasp!)
that the efforts to appear neutral in my mind defeats the purpose of having
an animal law committee. Example, a non-attorney citizen working hard to
enact a state law to prevent condos from forbidding pets asked if she could
come address the committee. She was told no, not unless someone from the “opposition” also
spoke. Funny, I have been a member of the Environmental Law Section’s
Public Interest Committee for more than a decade, and I have never seen
any effort by these environmentally minded lawyers to balance their seminars
by ensuring equal time for polluters and developers.
Last week an email was sent to a member of the committee that was forwarded
to all the members. The email was from a legal aid attorney, and the subject
was “client threatened by vet dog will be euthanized if bill not
paid.” According to the email, the attorney had been contacted by
a couple, one of whom is disabled, that had a poodle that had given birth
to puppies five months earlier. They noticed their dog had fleas and did
something to treat her but she got sick and their regular vet referred
her to a specialty clinic because the dog needed a transfusion. According
to the email the vet came out and yelled at the owners saying their neglect
had caused the dog’s condition and threatened to report them. The
couple of course had no money to pay for the dog’s treatment, and
applied for credit but were denied. Then, according to the email, the evil
vet took the dog and treated it and was now threatening to kill the dog
if they did not cough up the money.
The story sounded pretty suspicious to me, why would a vet treat a sick
animal when there is no apparent prospect of payment, and then threaten
to kill her? One of my outraged colleagues immediately suggest we all chip
in to pay the bill to save this poor dog from certain death in the hands
of the evil veterinarian. He offered a whopping $25.00 towards a $1500
bill. What a guy. A couple other lawyers offered to chip in.
I did not. I can barely pay my own vet bills, and am certainly not going
to pay the bill of someone whose dog needed a transfusion because she was
anemic from flea bites. In fact I stayed out of the frenzy initially, and
it was soon reported that a sheriff acted as intermediary between the couple
and the hospital and that the dog had been returned to the couple after
working out a payment plan.
Unfortunately I was not smart enough to simply delete the emails. I chimed
in suggesting that the people that had jumped to pay the bill might want
to contribute to have the dog spayed and provided flea control so she does
not end up sucked dry again.
The same colleague that offered the $25 informed me that I missed the
point-that this evil vet was engaging in unconscionable practices and must
be stopped. I pointed out that we only knew one side of the story, and
that vets are not obligated to treat anyone’s pet for free and are
likely less willing to do so when the owner’s negligence caused the
pet’s critical condition. Surely this dog did not go from perfectly
healthy to needing a transfusion overnight. I even included a link to Dr.
so that he just might be able to see things from the veterinarian’s
His response-if I treated the child of parents that let him eat at McDonalds
every day, would I be justified in kidnapping the kid until my bill was
paid? When I pointed out that the law provides veterinarians a lien for
unpaid services I was accused of being an “unimaginative attorney” and
when I attempted to give him examples of how I creatively use the law in
my animal cases I discovered he had demonstrated his great maturity by
blocking my email address.
Clearly my suggestion that there might be another side of the story fell
on deaf ears.
Thankfully another committee member contacted the hospital for the proverbial “rest
of the story”. The dog was presented with a severe case of flea bite
anemia and needed a transfusion. She clearly had been suffering for days
before treatment was sought. The owners had no money to pay and were denied
credit. They were given two options, we will euthanize the dog to end her
suffering, or you can sign her over to us and we will treat her and find
her a new home. The owners chose the later, and signed the dog over to
the clinic, but later decided they wanted the dog back.
And they got what they wanted. The dog is now back in the hands of people
who have failed to prevent her from contributing to South Florida’s
obscene pet overpopulation problem, and allowed her to become so infested
with fleas that she was anemic. The hospital will likely never see one
penny of the money they are owed, and it appears my colleagues, most of
whom have never handled an animal case in their entire careers, think the
vet was the bad guy here. No wonder vets hate lawyers.