Judge rules against veterinarian over dog's death - Tideland News: News

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Judge rules against veterinarian over dog's death


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Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 12:00 am

Tideland News Writer

Former Swansboro resident Shawna Zimmerman last week won a $5,000 Craven County Small Claims Court judgment against a local veterinarian she holds responsible for the death last year of her 7-year-old Bichon Frise dog, Baylee.

However, the vet, Robert Ridgeway, who at the time of the incident was on duty at the Emergency Pet Hospital of Havelock, has appealed the judgment, rendered July 5 in New Bern, to Craven County District Court. The appeal was filed July 6.

Ridgeway, whose address is listed in court documents as South Glenburnie Road in New Bern, did not return calls left for comment. But Zimmerman, who now lives in Crestview, Fla., said Friday she felt “some relief” from the judgment.

“I still miss Baylee every day and nothing is going to bring him back, but this (judgment) at least indicates that he (Ridgeway) made a horrible decision that night, and maybe this will help keep someone else and their pet from having to go through what we went through,” she said.

The story began on Jan. 13, 2010, when Baylee began having respiratory problems early in the night. Zimmerman at the time worked at Carteret General Hospital, and her contract with the Morehead City facility prohibited her from traveling more than 45 minutes from there while she was on call. Her husband faced a similar travel restriction in his job at Camp Lejeune.

At that time, Zimmerman told Tideland that after she noticed her dog’s distress, she first called Baylee’s primary care vet, Banfield, a clinic affiliated with PetSmart. The after-hours message from the Banfield clinic in Morehead City directed Zimmerman to call Coastal Veterinarian Emergency, a clinic in Jacksonville.

However, a malfunction with that clinic’s phone line prevented Zimmerman from reaching help for Baylee, so she dialed 411 for information on other local vet clinics and was connected to the Havelock clinic. However, Zimmerman said, when that clinic learned Baylee was a Banfield patient, she was told Baylee could not receive treatment there. After pleading for the veterinarian on duty that night, Dr. Robert Ridgeway, to make an exception, and even arriving at the clinic with Baylee in her arms, Ridgeway maintained, through an employee, that he could not.

Baylee died a few hours later, and Zimmerman believes he would have lived had he been treated. She was furious that an administrative policy cost the life of her dog.

“It’s a terrible policy to have,” Zimmerman said to the newspaper last year. “What happened shouldn’t have happened and should be illegal.”

Zimmerman at the time felt so strongly that the “discrimination” against Baylee was unethical that she sought legal representation.

She took her case to attorney Callie Gerber of the Gerber Animal Law Center in Raleigh. In the end, because of the unpredictability of winning a judgment and the high cost of going to court with an attorney, Gerber recommended Zimmerman proceed, if she chose to do so, in small claims court, without a lawyer.

However, Gerber said Friday she was “elated” by the decision rendered in small claims court.

“I think it’s historic,” she said. “I feel that it says nobody can do this kind of thing – refuse to treat a dog in an emergency situation – and feel he can get away with it. No animal deserves to be tortured the way Baylee was. It was a bad policy and a very bad decision.”

In her small claims court complaint, Zimmerman stated that Ridgeway, “failed to follow veterinary ethics codes set forth by the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board.”

In a May 5, 2011, letter to Ridgeway, George C. Hearn, attorney for that board, wrote that it had been “reasonable for Ms. Zimmerman to seek emergency care from EPH and that an exception be made to the EPH policy of declining to evaluate and treat animals whose primary veterinarian is not a member of EPH.”

He noted that Ridgeway had been asleep in the clinic’s doctor’s lounge that night, but stated that, “it appears EPH corporate management and you were remiss in delegating too much screening authority” to Jennifer Kidney, the EPH office manager and the person who talked to Zimmerman on the phone and at the door of EPH.

The “letter of caution” signed by Hearn states that the board’s committee on investigations “recognizes the difficult and ethically problematic position in which you (Ridgeway) were placed by the EPH bylaws and the facility policy” and adds that the board “has determined in several cases over the years that owners of animals do not have the absolute right to demand that a veterinarian examine and treat their pets. Each case turns on specific facts.

“Nevertheless, on the facts of this case, the committee has concluded that general veterinary medical ethics called for a response from you other than a denial of service based upon the EPH bylaws. While the committee recognizes your lack of knowledge (Ridgeway never spoke to Zimmerman, only his employee), you should have been aware of all of the relevant facts regarding Ms. Zimmerman’s request for assistance.”

Hearn cited sections of the American Veterinary Medical Association ethics code: “In emergencies, veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to provide essential services for animals when necessary to save life or relieve suffering, subsequent to client agreement” and, “Regardless of practice ownership, the interests of the patient, client and public require that all decisions that affect diagnosis, care and treatment of patients are made by veterinarians.”

 Hearn cited an NCVMB rule that states, “If no probable cause is found, but it is determined by the committee that the conduct of the accused party is not in accord with accepted professional practice or may be the subject of discipline if continued or repeated, the committee may issue a letter of caution to the accused party, stating that the conduct, while not the basis for a disciplinary hearing, is not professionally acceptable …”

The committee, Hearn wrote, issued the letter of caution for the following reasons:

• “You failed to appropriately manage the EPH office by failing to adequately supervise Jennifer Kidney… Your failure to do so resulted in your being unaware of extenuating circumstances surrounding Ms. Zimmerman’s attempted presentation of Baylee for evaluation and care.”

• “You should have assessed the dog’s condition to determine the extent of his problem, whether he could be stabilized and the best means to provide stabilization or referral of him, if available, for necessary care. The committee cannot know, and it would be unwise to speculate, whether Baylee would have survived even if treated.”

 The letter also notes that the committee has since interviewed other EPH officers, including Walter Westbrook of Newport, David Hall of Morehead City and Christopher Worrell of Morehead City, all of whom “affirmed to this board that it is the current policy of EPH that an animal presented in an apparent emergency condition will be assessed and stabilized or treated by EPH … even though the animal’s owner or agent maybe not be a regular client or a member of EPH.

“The board certainly hopes that this clarified policy of EPH will prevent situations similar to that experienced by Ms. Zimmerman on 1/13/10 from occurring in the future.”

Although Ridgeway did not respond to messages left for him by Tideland News, he told the newspaper last year that, from his point of view, the problem was not with the pet hospital’s policy, but with the reluctance of other vets to become shareholders in EPH.

“The Emergency Pet Service has been there since 1995,” Ridgeway said. “Very shortly after its formation, we decided to become a private clinic.”

Ridgeway emphasized then that, since its inception, the clinic had invited every veterinarian in surrounding counties to join the practice.

 “We made every effort to put Mrs. Zimmerman in touch with a public facility,” Ridgeway said last year.

Unfortunately, Zimmerman was not able to utilize those facilities – the phone line was malfunctioning at the Jacksonville facility, and the Greenville facility was too far for Zimmerman’s work obligations, he said.

“I am sorry for that,” Ridgeway said at the time. “We are not a public facility. We’re limited by certain rules, and I didn’t set up the rules.”

Zimmerman said the judge in the case was very brief, seemed very familiar with the case and seemed to base the decision in large part on review of the letter from the AMVA board.

She and Gerber said they are glad EPH has clarified its policy, but Zimmerman said she is disappointed Ridgeway has not apologized or otherwise accepted responsibility for what she feels was his role in her beloved pet’s death.

“He hasn’t shown any sense of remorse or grief,” she said. “I know they have now changed their policy, but even before that … well, a vet takes an oath, like a doctor.”

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Robert W Ridgeway DVM posted at 9:58 am on Sat, Dec 15, 2012.

    Robert W Ridgeway DVM Posts: 1

    To complete the story. When the complete unbiased facts were presented before a qualified judge (not an uneducated, biased magistrate), the entire suit was summarily withdrawn by Mrs. Zimmerman and her lawyer. The coverage in this case was extremely biased, and Mrs. Zimmerman took great liberties with the actual facts.

  • ElizabethR posted at 6:41 pm on Tue, Aug 2, 2011.

    ElizabethR Posts: 0

    I am going to throw up.

  • anonymous posted at 1:36 pm on Tue, Aug 2, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    To havaheart: Thank you for your well written posting. You described it perfectly. Our pets are a part of our family and give us so much love. Those who haven't experienced the love of a puppy or kitty are missing out. Of course other critters love us as well. I did raise a mockingbird from a chick when its mother was killed by the neighbors cat. It grew up proud and strong, and became quite loving to me. She would land on my shoulder and sing to me, eat out of my hand. And yes, it does fend for itself outside, having released her some time ago, and she hangs around the house. Thank you havaheart for your post.

  • anonymous posted at 12:38 pm on Sun, Jul 31, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    When I was sixteen, my parents separated. My father fell in love with another women and left his wife of 27years and two teenagers. Needless to say, it was a difficult time being a sixteen year old girl who's father had just walked out. I'm giving this backstory to explain why I feel the way I do about my mini shnauzer. He was a gift from my mother after my father had left. My depression faded day after day that I spent with him. He made me laugh and was always there when I started to cry. He has been my "baby" for the past ten years and anyone who spends time with him understands why. For those of you who may not get the love an owner can have for their pet, do not judge. The circumstances under which those joyful creatures came into their lives may derserve a second look. Pets serve as therapy guides for the sick and elderly in hospitals, clinics, rehab centers, and nursing homes for a reason. For JVMc and the others that balk at the idea of loving a pet as a family member, I feel sorry for you. You have missed out on such a wonderful experience. Treat an animal like a family member and you will get in return unconditional love from the most non-judgmental, life-loving, easy to please creatures ever created.

  • anonymous posted at 10:28 am on Sat, Jul 30, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    crzywill Thank you for being the voice of reason.

  • anonymous posted at 7:07 am on Sat, Jul 30, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    This is an awful tragedy for the pet owner involved. The topic has been thrown way off course, and it seems the one that's "full of self" should seek mental help judging from the comments made on this forum. God bless pet owners who care for their pets.

  • anonymous posted at 3:52 pm on Fri, Jul 29, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    The part that bothers me about my country is. You will go to jail for fighting a chicken or a dog or hurting a animal, But YOU CAN KILL ALL THE BABIES YOU WANT AND THAT'S OK! It is plain see people read the bible and will quote it to everyone, But they dont live by it.

  • anonymous posted at 1:31 pm on Fri, Jul 29, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Would the editor stop obstructing discourse between presumably adult parties here.

  • ElizabethR posted at 10:29 am on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    ElizabethR Posts: 0

    correction too: I think one on here "is" full of self.

  • ElizabethR posted at 8:55 am on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    ElizabethR Posts: 0

    I think this thread has lost its intent. I can appreciate the efforts of "misguided souls" to speak the truth, but I think one on here are full of self. So sad. I will quote Mother Teresa, " Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."

  • anonymous posted at 8:31 am on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    correction : Proverbs 24:29

  • anonymous posted at 5:06 am on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    bamalynn : I was just responding to your "addendum" which quoted "There are times when feet that rush into evil are a good thing. Dissension also sometimes is a good and necessary thing to effect change, to defeat evil. "Returning evil for evil does no one any good and the cycle of constant retribution and vengence as a response to violence is not an answer to anything. How many more thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, innocents included, will it take to "call it even"? SO many more have died or been killed since the 9/11 attacks than were killed in the actual attacks. Are you saying it's "justified" to take your revenge on the deaths of some 3,000 by killing or approving of the killing of more than 100,000 people in the war since 2003 and that includes over 66,000 INNOCENT civilians. You just can't justify such an act and expect that you're in the right. The statement inscribed on the currency of this country states "In God We Trust" and I find it quite hypocritical that no one seems to do it . Many of the reasons (weapons of mass destruction and the like) for "rushing in" after 9/11 proved false with the passing of time, and in 2008 the President admitted it.. Jumping in and exacting revenge without the benefit of having facts in hand is one reason we should be willing to "trust in God" who also says "vengence is mine, I shall repay". Prov. 24:28, Romans 12:19 Just saying .......

  • anonymous posted at 2:41 pm on Wed, Jul 27, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Also to Carolinaborn: I guess we shouldn't have "rushed in" to stop 9-11 either, if we could. Tell that to the victims, children and families of the dead of the twin towers. I hope you are just stirring up conversation, and don't really believe evil should not be stopped at the earliest opportunity. I will be sure to never come to your aid.But wait, my NIghtingale pledge prevents that, well I'll help, but not enjoy it.

  • anonymous posted at 2:32 pm on Wed, Jul 27, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    To all you misguided souls: I have not once made reference to any biblical or religious anything. What I meant was that sometimes it is necessary for good men to stop evil in progress, not sit back and watch or wait. It has nothing to do with the word of god. It is amazing how twisted some of these folks are, reading religion into this. So if I hear someone beating the helll out of you or yours, I'm gonna just sit back and wait and watch. Can't rush to your aid. Well, your right, natural selection will take care of the problem. It appears that some religiouis souls here think it perfectly good, and their religion supports letting evil prevail. Well I guess our troops are "rushing in", and are too bad. CarolinaBorn and Fred Jones, when the new Hitler arises, lets just sit back and welcome him, not rush in to stop him. Millions of Jews would agree with you.

  • anonymous posted at 8:21 am on Wed, Jul 27, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    bamalynn you are twisting the word of the Lord. STOP IT!

  • anonymous posted at 2:51 am on Wed, Jul 27, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Bamalynn ~ You responded to Goody2shoes' scriptural reference with your own opinion....no scripture to back it up, only your own twisted belief that 'rushing into evil or dissention can be a good thing'. Any church or religion that teaches ideas that are diametrically opposed to God's Word should be avoided like the plague.

  • anonymous posted at 5:28 pm on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    This discussion has finally run off my. radar screen. I do appreciate Tam S's concern for my "at risk" eternal soul. Since she doesn't know me from Hogan's Goat or know anything about my 69 years on this earth she should be well qualified to judge the status of my soul. My salvation is that hers will not be my final judgement.Now I'm going to discuss politics with my dog.

  • ElizabethR posted at 4:55 pm on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    ElizabethR Posts: 0

    Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.Mark Twain

  • anonymous posted at 3:58 pm on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I know the plurality of any given word, and if I choose to dangle a "e" at the end of mosquito(e), well just suffer over it, grammar police. Keep on pondering the answer to the last question in my previous post. Liberals just love to look at trees, and miss the forest. And yes, working as a nurse is a noble profession, caring for others, and critters too. Ellie Mae happens to be my sister, and Jethro is going to kick your butt, if not granny. The cement pond was removed to install a state of the art outhouse. Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed, poor Beaufort man who kept his family fed, then one day he was shootin at some food, and up from the ground came a bubblin crude, liberals you see, hollywood, movie stars, cesspool, cama fans. Time for you liberals to change your pants, must be awful wet by now. Puppys rule. Join P.E.T.A. today. Save the planet, world peace, love a turtle, save a manatee. Invest in rope, hoist a liberal, save the planet. The original purpose here was to identify mistreatment of beloved pets, not to draw fire from the anal glands of life.

  • ElizabethR posted at 2:40 pm on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    ElizabethR Posts: 0

    Miss bamalynn is right, her logic is astounding! BTW, the plural of baby is babies and it's mosquito, no e at the end.

  • anonymous posted at 12:59 pm on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Remember, it is always the democrats who want to keep killing human babys. The logic of some here is astounding. Understanding the difference between survival and food, versus a beloved pet is too much to ask of some, especially those who don't understand the need to swat a mosquitoe biting your flesh, sucking your blood. The mosquitoe has much in common with some of these poor souls who don't understand the joy of a beloved pet. Can you guess what it is?

  • ElizabethR posted at 12:19 pm on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    ElizabethR Posts: 0

    Gee, If we could all be as good as Miss bamalynn. She is the sweetest lady, loving her critters so and adopting even more. I think she could be modern day Ellie Mae. Hoping she has a cement pond in the backyard for all those critters. And she works as a nurse, does it get any better?

  • anonymous posted at 11:56 am on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    JVMc, you are wise and raise a great point.Do the animals that are hunted or raised for slaughter have souls?Where is the outcry when they are killed?

  • anonymous posted at 9:45 am on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Everyone that goes to this ve'st office should find another until they can get better help. Hurting someone in their pocketbook always seems to get people moving in the right direction

  • anonymous posted at 6:34 am on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    chihuahuas and chiweenies rule!Long live the critters!

  • anonymous posted at 4:50 am on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I was gonna' hush, but I can't. It seems somewhat strange to me that the only animals that have souls are those that have been domesticated by man for the pleasure of man. When you swat a mosquito do you worry about her soul? When you eat chicken, fish, pork, or beef do you worry about their souls? I dare say not.

  • anonymous posted at 4:04 am on Tue, Jul 26, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I'm not even going to try to argue if dogs have a soul (yes, I know that Old Shep might have,) or why vets can charge so much. I was simply stating my opinion. I don't believe that any of you can tell me about bad experiences in ER's, several times I have thought I might be treated better at a vets.

  • anonymous posted at 3:41 pm on Mon, Jul 25, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    To JVMc... How can you EVEN think that our pets have no soul!!! Think again!! ALL LIVING beings have a soul!God created them... they have a soul just like you even though yours is at risk.... I also had a bad experience @ the ER in Havelock and Hope and Pray I Never have to go there again!

  • anonymous posted at 1:40 pm on Mon, Jul 25, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    To all of you that are so indifferent to what you call animals: the best part of living in America is that if I choose to love and care for critters, and to even think of them as my babies, that is my right, and I don't have to give a rats butt what you think. Don't bother to respond as I really don't care. I went to petsmart this weekend and saw many babies needing homes, and I am adopting some of them. I intend to care and love them, and they will be well cared for and live happy lives. All my babies are very happy, and they show it all the time. Those who cannot handle having the responsibility of a pet , as some of those who wrote demonstrate, then by all means avoid it. But don't presume to tell the rest of us how to live. I'll bet those belly aching about having pets are the same ones who just love abortions. Ouch, did that hurt!

  • anonymous posted at 8:41 am on Mon, Jul 25, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    JVMc, Sally and Frank, If your rational is correct than the local Vets and the EPH needs to stop charging fees as if animals and pets were human!

  • anonymous posted at 4:13 am on Mon, Jul 25, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Animals should not be kept as pets. It in humane! They are animals and not humans and you should stop treating them as humans.

  • anonymous posted at 2:26 am on Sun, Jul 24, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    JCMc: Finally, a voice of reason.

  • anonymous posted at 5:18 pm on Sat, Jul 23, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I had the same treatment when i called the EPH on April 25 2011 at about 8 o'clock that night that my rottweiler needed to be put down,and all the receptionist was worried about was our drivers license number and paying the bill,even though I had been there several times she told me i wasnt in there system.I said can yall please just get Smokey out of his suffering and she still wanting drivers license number.I said what the **** does drivers license number got to do with a pets suffering. I was mad and bout ready to go across that counter on her.Luckily Dr. Worrell was the dr. that was working and he came out and said he would go to the van and put him down,and he did.But I hope that I never have to go there again ,cause most of them there dont care about their job or have a heart for animals. Its just the money.

  • anonymous posted at 8:56 am on Sat, Jul 23, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I can find in no scientific or religious writings anything to indicate that a pet is in anyway anybody's baby.Pets are nice but they are not human and do not have human souls. I have lost pets that I cared for and it was painful, but, a baby?

  • ElizabethR posted at 12:04 pm on Fri, Jul 22, 2011.

    ElizabethR Posts: 0

    Dana,Carla, Lynn, be aware that there are wolves in sheep clothing posting on here. They might seem as if they care, but if you knew them for who they really are and their actions toward animals, you would be appalled. Witnessing first hand the cruelty of abusing animals by some and hiding behind a mask of caring is just as bad as what this vet did. May God take care of all the animals we love and may everyone find a new baby to love at the local animal shelter, those angels truly need a loving home.

  • anonymous posted at 10:06 am on Fri, Jul 22, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    My husband & I feel the same as Ms. Norris does. If people with children took up as much time with their children as we do with our dogs wouldn't the world be a better place. I treat my dog better than most people treat their children. Plus I have a dog that does what I say and doesn't tear the house down and I don't have to yell or spank her. And yes I love children too.

  • anonymous posted at 6:27 am on Fri, Jul 22, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Carla and I must have been typing at the same time! I totally agree with you Carla....what gives Smith the right to say that Dana must have a sad and tragic family life because she has a heart and did everything possible to save her precious loved one? That is what I call pathetic. Some people never cease to amaze me! As they say....the apple dosent fall far from the tree.

  • anonymous posted at 5:25 am on Fri, Jul 22, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I agree with Bamalynn as well. As a pet lover myself, I can totally relate to Dana and would have done the same thing had that been one of my babies (dogs). Who is Smith for trying to determine how someone should feel after the loss of their pet? Obviously, they have never considered a pet as part of the family and loved them unconditionally! Some of us have huge hearts, able to love people and pets, others have no heart at all! I'm glad you dismissed Smiths rude comments, as their not worth your time or energy!!!

  • anonymous posted at 5:11 am on Fri, Jul 22, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Miss Smith what gives you the right to tell other people how they should feel? Please get a life of your own.

  • anonymous posted at 5:48 pm on Thu, Jul 21, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Bamalynn, thanks for your input and don't worry Smith doesn't upset me, as I know everyone is entitled to their own opinions. The purpose of my email was not to be judged by others, but rather to enlighten all pet owners of the problem with the Havelock EPC and show Ms. Zimmerman my support. Us pet lovers have to stick together :)

  • anonymous posted at 1:27 pm on Thu, Jul 21, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Dana, I agree with you, our pets are our babies and are part of our family. I too would do what I had to, to save one of my babies. Don't let folks like smith get under your skin, ignore them.

  • anonymous posted at 3:49 am on Thu, Jul 21, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Dana: You must have a tragic and sad family life to substitute the love of a dog for that of a human being.I feel sorry for you. We've all had pets we loved, and miss when they are gone, but that level of emotion is nowhere near the same level as that reserved for human beings.Again, I pity you.

  • anonymous posted at 7:02 pm on Wed, Jul 20, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Madison Smith: Are you kidding me??? You read my entire story and you did not realize that our dog WAS "our baby!" I would do it again in a heartbeat if it would save his life. Just because my husband was driving 80 mph doesn't mean he was wreckless and we did not receive a ticket because unlike you, some people (to include Ms. Zimmerman) have compassion and understand how much a "dog" means 2 a family that loves it! My priorites are sooooo straight but thanks for ur concern.

  • anonymous posted at 6:26 am on Tue, Jul 19, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Dana Norris: You drove 80 mph to save the life of a dog?Treasured pet, or not, that is shameful behavior.What if you had hurt or killed a REAL baby riding peacefully in his parents' car while you were recklessly speeding?Get your priorities straight.

  • anonymous posted at 9:44 pm on Mon, Jul 18, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Our precious, priceless little 7 mo old dog was hit by our neighbor last April. I immediately called my primary veterinarian (which is on the “approved list”) and their answering service notified me to call the Emergency Pet Hospital in Havelock. The Vet on duty was John Dowler and as in this case the Assistant/Office Manager was also Jennifer Kidney. The first thing I was told by Ms. Kidney was the cost to see him. She notified me they close at 7:30, (which was supposed to be 8:00 according to their sign on the door) and was very sarcastic and uncompassionate. When we arrived, they would not examine or treat our dog until the paperwork was completed and I had agreed to pay $555, which I immediately agreed to. Dr. Dowler said his leg was broken and listened to his chest. He took our dog in the back, (according to the bill), started an IV, and proceeded to give him pain meds. We were told nothing. Ten minutes later Jennifer came out and told us to pay the bill $250 total because they decided not to take x-rays, and that we needed to leave their facility and go back to Morehead City to our primary vet because they closed at 7:30am. Our baby was brought out on his side, worse than when he went in, gasping for air and literally foaming at the mouth and they caught his broken leg in the door while trying to get him out to our vehicle. I kept asking what was wrong with him and the only response I got was “his color looks good” and when asked if he was going to be ok, I was told “I can’t say”. We left headed to Morehead City going 80 mph, were stopped by a State Trooper where our baby started bleeding at the mouth and took his last gasp of air while I was holding him and begging him not to leave us. I don’t remember much after that as I cried for several days. I later spoke with my vet who had insisted a breathing tube and x-rays should have been a must and that he would have never turned a pet away because of closing time. I later researched online and found out this was not Dowler’s first issue with negligence. He also received a warning by NCVMB in 1997. I contacted WCTI Channel 12, WITN Channel 7, American Animal Hospital Association, Coastal Vet Clinic, Carteret News Times PETA, Tideland News, Pet Docks, AVMA, over 100 co-workers, Calley Gerber: Gerber Animal Law Center, Sun Journal in New Bern, News and Observer, Jacksonville Daily News, sent a letter to the NCVMB requesting action, and took out an add in the paper for people dissatisfied with services rendered at EPH. Unfortunately since Carteret and Craven County does not have a wide variety of Veterinarian Clinics, employees were frightened to come forward due to being labeled. He was not just a dog; he was our family member and was and is always with us. We built a shrine where he is buried outside our window, where we visit daily. This facility's callous behavior, incompetence, and disregard for a life are inexcusable. They should be held accountable for their actions, lack of compassion, concern, and communication. Hopefully your persistence has kept this from happening to other helpless animal that can’t speak for themselves. It is shocking how an Emergency Care facility can kick you out of their facility without adequate medical treatment, just because they close and/or are not on the "approved" listing. If this had been an actual "person" at an Emergency Care facility, would they be treated the same way in an emergency? If your efforts in this case have saved just one pet, it is well worth it all! Our babies are gone for now and waiting at the Rainbow Bridge, but NEVER forgotten.

  • anonymous posted at 8:19 am on Mon, Jul 18, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Let's hope what goes around comes around. I hope when this Vet is in his hour of need he will be treated the same way. Karma!

  • anonymous posted at 5:58 am on Mon, Jul 18, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I am sorry this happen to you a similar thing happen to me with my poodle. We came home on a saturday afternoon and found him having a seziure, we called our vet who was out town we were refered to another clinic who would not see him because he was a diabetic, we tried the emergency pet hospital after we called 2 other vets and they did not want to see him but after I pleaded with them they did says they would see him by the time we got him to their clinic he passed away. This may have been prevented it it was not for stupid rules and no concern for our pet!

  • anonymous posted at 8:21 pm on Sun, Jul 17, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    how could this vet turn his head and have a good nights sleep knowing a life is being lost in the other room because he didnt want to brake a policy. i would put my license on the line to save a life. do you agree? so sorry for your pain. i pray your suit will bring awareness to the public. SHAME ON EPH!!!!

  • anonymous posted at 8:08 pm on Sun, Jul 17, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    my pets are my family. mr. vet person who shouldnt even be called a doctor is in the business of giving care to our pets during an EMERGENCY this is not a time for following "policy" if we human beings have an ability to help just do it. what is happening with our compassion and wanting to do the right thing? and shame on you Jennifer for not being a good advocate for this precious life.

  • anonymous posted at 5:58 pm on Sun, Jul 17, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Addendum to goody2shoes: Evil prevails when good men do nothing. There are times when feet that rush into evil are a good thing. Dissension also sometimes is a good and necessary thing to effect change, to defeat evil.

  • ElizabethR posted at 3:10 pm on Sun, Jul 17, 2011.

    ElizabethR Posts: 0

    Proverbs 6:16-20There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes,a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

  • anonymous posted at 8:02 am on Sun, Jul 17, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Being a registered nurse, I know there is a standard of care, a minimum standard that must be met, or it violates the accepted standards. There needs to be a standard of care in veterinary medicine, and all pets should be entitiled to stabilizing care as people are at hospitals. The bickering over money should be secondary to saving life and alleviating pain. I look on my pets as my children, my babies, and will do what is necessary to care for them. The love they give me is immesureable. God help the foolish vet who mistreats my babies. All those who love their babies need to band together to expose and change the rotten attitudes displayed by these vets. Beaufort has some real winners in vets too. How many babies don't get proper care because of the awful fees charged, how many die because of negligent or withheld care. It bothers my soul to think of a babie suffering, these innocent souls, these beautiful creations from heaven.

  • anonymous posted at 6:25 pm on Sat, Jul 16, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I took my dog named Bailee Sue to the EV after she accidently got left in my car and called them to say I was on my way to be ready to help her because she was suffering from being over heated and she was doing better on the way there because I was cooling her off with water and the ac but when I got there they made me fill out paper work and pay $200 before they would even help her and a Beaufort vet was the one on call and while I was waiting for my debit card to be accepted my dog had a seisure and the vet nonchalantly said, she's having a seisure and still didn't help her. Then when she took her in the back she had to look up online what to do for her. All she did was give her a shot of valium and said she would observe her for the night. Around midnight I couldn't stand the thought of Bailee being in that cage all alone so I drove there and when I got there the vet opened the door and said, oh she died 10 minutes ago with a look at the assistant like don't you think? After paying $200 more they let me take my dead dog that already smelled like death, which doesn't happen in 10 minutes, 5 hours at the vet and one shot cost me $400 and a broken heart. They did nothing for her. I know how you feel Shawna. I still think of my Bailee Sue every day too and it has been over 3 years. Thank you Shawna for making the first step towards some justice in the money hungry, uncaring world of pet care.

  • anonymous posted at 5:20 pm on Sat, Jul 16, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I consider her lucky she did not get the Coastal Clinic to treat Baylee...money hungry and you have to state your case several times before you get met by the vet..a joke...they mistreated 2 of my pets and luckily I went to the reg vet in the daytime to get corrective surgery. This is a bad set of circumstances, and I would have risked my job to get to where I needed for my dog, cat or whomever first and foremost. That is where it all started...that work restriction. I worked with Hearn on a case, and we won. This man has been doing this for years, God bless him. But again, my job would not have held me back.....I could always get another would be my mindset, and I too am in the medical field.

  • anonymous posted at 6:46 am on Sat, Jul 16, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    So, I'm wondering here....if I needed emergency care for my dog or cat and went to the clinic...they ask me who my Vet is and I say that I don't have one yet. I tell them I just got the animal last week. Would they then find it in the kindness of their heart to treat my pet?

  • anonymous posted at 3:50 am on Sat, Jul 16, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    To a, how ignorant is your comparison! You make it sound as if you blame her for any/all problems you perceive with CGH. All hospitals have their fair share of issues, not just CGH. I doubt CGH has ever turned away a patient because their Dr. didn't opt in as part a "member" of their facility (aka paying them). This practice of turning away pets is unconscionable. I am appauled to learn that my vet is part of their little group and can support such discriminating practices. My neighbor has left the care of her pets to me for a couple of weeks while she visits her family elsewhere. When trying to ensure I knew who to contact in case of an emergency, she called EPH and was asked who her vet was. When she indicated it was Dr. Banfield, she was told by EPH this same policy. She was actually told she'd have to take her pet to Wilmington (not even Jacksonville). She asked, "so if my cat was hit by a car and it was life or death, you'd make me go to Wilmington?" The answer was YES! How appalling!

  • anonymous posted at 2:34 am on Sat, Jul 16, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    how ironic,,she worked for a hospital that kills people around the clock,and ends up at a pet hospital that does the same....

  • anonymous posted at 6:19 pm on Fri, Jul 15, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I think it's unconscionable that this turned out to be about "the almighty dollar" and who is or is not a shareholder. Ridiculous and callous, anyone who can do something like this and still think they are in the right should not be allowed to practice veteranary medicine ever again. It's terribly cruel to make an animal AND it's owner suffer like this because of money issues.....

  • anonymous posted at 6:04 pm on Fri, Jul 15, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Not only are many of the vets uncaring, but the fees are incredible. How many pets don't get treatment because of the awful fees. Just like human health providers, the vets are now greedy. No pet should have to suffer because of an uncaring or greedy vet. How much money is enough! How much pain and suffering is not enough. We love our babies (pets) with all our hearts, give us a break, at least show some compassion, and please all, expose the uncaring, and the greedy vets for what they are.

  • anonymous posted at 12:13 pm on Fri, Jul 15, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I took my golden "Thunder" of 12 years there (a 1 hr drive) because my Vet couldn't be bother to put her down as it was a few minutes after 5:00. A "Vet" came in, never said a word to me although I asked what to expect, stuck 2 needles in my golden and walked out without a word. That pup was my life and she had not a care at all at my feelings or that of my pup. I still call her the Nazi Nurse Vet. They are a horrible facility and I cry everytime I have to go by there. My pup deserved more dignity than that and no I don't get to the former Vet that turned us away after 6 years.

  • anonymous posted at 11:06 am on Fri, Jul 15, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I am glad that vets are being held responsible for their actions or inactions. It's about time. There needs to be several more emergency clinics in the area, not just one. It's sad when your baby's life hangs in the balance over the whims of a "shareholder". So sad. We almost lost our baby due to surgical negligence done at this facility. Luckily we were home and were able to rush her to the vet's office. It was later admitted that it was surgical error, but we still had to pay for it. When a ethical code is broken for greed, there is a problem and that person is no longer a true veterinarian.

  • anonymous posted at 7:04 pm on Thu, Jul 14, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Because Lucy, there is a little bit of a difference in there being something wrong with your phone lines (something you might not know about at the time and thus, have no control over) and willfully refusing to help a pet in need simply because of a "policy".

  • anonymous posted at 11:24 am on Thu, Jul 14, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Why is the Jacksonville clinic not under attack at all in this situation??? Their phone lines malfunctioned? Give me a break. You call and get an answering service and they call you back (or not) to come meet you(or not) at their clinic after hours. They are responsible for covering Banfield (Pet Smarts) emergency calls since Banfield declined to join the EPH facility. How about some accountablitly on their part instead of blaming all of this on Havelock. I've taken my animals to EPH and received wonderful treatment from the doctors and staff. We are lucky to have them there when we need them!!! If you don't want to take the chance of not being seen in Jacksonville maybe you should consider making your regular vet a vet that is a member of Havelock. Problem Solved.

  • anonymous posted at 8:20 am on Thu, Jul 14, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    This same thing happened to me when my 11yr old lab started having signs of heart distress abt 2 1/2 yrs ago...I called the Havelock clinic who said they couldn't treat him & I would have to call Jacksonville.... I told them all I need was him euthanized humanely---I called J'ville after hours clinic and was told that a vet could meet me but it would be over $400 just to meet...When I called the Havelock clinic back, they said they couldn't help me. My poor Murphy suffered all night with my husband sleeping by his side until first thing in the morning when we could take him to our Swansboro vet and send him on to the next world, with no pain.I am so glad you took this to court!! They shouldn't appeal..they should apologize!! and change any ignorant policy!

  • anonymous posted at 4:00 am on Thu, Jul 14, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    They really need to change there name to Member Only Pet Care, with a **Warning*** Non Members will be turned away!

  • anonymous posted at 3:06 am on Thu, Jul 14, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    To the grouchyone, the vet would not treat the dog because the owners vet was not a member of their little "club". Vet care is just like human care, worthless. Congradulations to Mrs. Zimmerman and don't let this jerk wear you down with appeals.

  • anonymous posted at 2:52 pm on Wed, Jul 13, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    IF WE CONTINUE TO WIN IN THE APPEALS PROCESS... WE PLAN ON DONATING TO "SMALL PAWS RESCUE" A BICHON FRISE RESCUE ORGANIZATION - MAYBE WE CAN STILL SAVE A BICHONS LIFE. A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU TO BRAD RICH FOR COVERING OUR STORY IN PERFECT DETAIL. I am humbed and grateful that others may now know of our struggles may no other Pet owner suffer the same fate as Baylee and myself. God Bless all the Good Veterinarians out there that don't work just for the money but clock in/ in order to save lives. Baylee I will miss you forever my lil Best Friend. Momma will see you in Heaven .

  • anonymous posted at 1:05 pm on Wed, Jul 13, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    My dog Chuckles was a biter, I admit that. I took him to the groomers and when I came back to get him his neck was broken in three places and he was dead.They told me he died while he was under.It was only later I found out they don't put dogs under to groom them.I still have Chuckles body in the freezer so I am considering a lawsuit of my own. Good job Shawna and Baylee you are an inspiration.

  • anonymous posted at 11:40 am on Wed, Jul 13, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Thank you to the Judge who made a good call.

  • anonymous posted at 11:19 am on Wed, Jul 13, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    I'm afraid I don't even understand what happened the way this news article is written. It sounds like a series of unfortunate turns to me. How was the dog "tortured?" Would the pet have died anyway? What did the vet do wrong?

  • anonymous posted at 10:24 am on Wed, Jul 13, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Havelock Emergency Vet should be ashamed of themselves. What type of policy is that anyway??? It is terrible what they did and there is no excuse. Hopefully someone with real compassion will open another ER vet and Havelock will go out of business. Shame on you Havelock ER!!!!!!

  • anonymous posted at 9:24 am on Wed, Jul 13, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    It is a shame that vets have become so money hungry and policy oriented that a family pet has to die. If they are not an emergency clinic then they shouldn't have it in their name. For pete's sake the dog was suffering it should have been taken care of regardless of some stupid policy. I am glad she won and if was any kind of man he would take his medicine and pay her the money for the uncessary grief she suffered for this family pet. It is bad enough when you have tp have one put down but when a vet don't give a rat about animals they should turn in their license. God bless you for pursuing this.

  • anonymous posted at 7:56 am on Wed, Jul 13, 2011.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Good for her!! I am glad she won. How dare this Vet Dr. turn away a pet in need. I hope that because of his actions he loses his business and people do not trust him with their pets. What a shame. he does not deserve to be in that position. Poor Balyee. Rest in peace sweete. I feel sorry for the owner. Godd for her! Hopefully she will make a small donation to the ASPCA for other pets.


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