Sunday, April 30, 2006

Vet Clinic Faked Dog's Death

Not long ago, a couple in Allentown, PA took their German shepherd Annie to the vet for euthanasia -- the dog was two years old and severely epileptic. But instead of putting Annie down, the vet faked her death, then found her a new home. Annie's owners found out and sued:
"Dana and Gary Ganyer said they cried while watching what they thought was the death of Annie ... But Annie was not euthanized ... Instead, the lawsuit says, the dog was given a sedative to make it appear she was dead. The clinic then gave Annie to a new owner, Gene Rizzo of northeast Philadelphia, who cared for the dog until he had her euthanized Nov. 2, the lawsuit says. "When I heard she was still alive I literally screamed and went into hysterics," Dana Ganyer said. The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, accuses Mill Pond Veterinary Clinic, Mill Pond Kennels and three of its employees of fraud, negligence and defamation" (AP).
I completely understand the temptation to fake a dog's death. I was a veterinary technician for more than ten years -- I worked in regular clinics, emergency rooms and animal morgues. I've euthanized many many animals. In most cases, this was actually a beautiful thing -- a peaceful end to suffering. But every once in a while, people turn to euthanasia for wrong reasons ... the dog is too much work, it sheds too much, they don't have time for it. When that happened, we'd try to convince owners not to do it. If we had kennels in the clinic, we'd take it and find it a home. If we didn't have kennels, we'd call an animal rescue group to take it. If the owner insisted on euthanasia, we simply refused to do it. No vet I worked for would ever fake a dogs death, but we talked about doing it every time.

This case doesn't actually sound like wrongful euthanasia: "On June 30, the Ganyers received a call from the former clinic employee, who told them Annie was still alive, and a few days later they drove to Rizzo's home. According to the Ganyers, Annie could barely walk and was ''bloated, her coat was grey, her eyes bulged and it appeared she had hip ataxia, all side effects of phenobarbital.'' A few days later, she lapsed into a coma after a seizure and was actually euthanized. It's hard to fathom how this vet could have thought keeping this dog alive was the right thing to do under any circumstances.

This isn't the only case of its kind: A similar lawsuit was filed in March by woman whose vet agreed to euthanize and cremate her cat, but didn't. I'm not surprised to hear that vets are doing this -- I've always assumed this happened, but few cases have actually been documented. To me, this doesn't mean it isn't happening, it just means some vets get away with it (and when it's wrongful euthanasia, it's hard not to say, more power to them).



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't see anything wrong with taking the client's money to euthanise a healthy animal and then not carrying out the procedure? The people may be scum, they may not have considered the ramifications of owning a pet. But they don't deserve to be the victims of fraud. A health care professional such as a vet needs to have the public's trust. If the consumer can't trust the vet to carry out the euthanasia as requested they might be tempted to take matters into their own hands. They might try and put the animal down themselves (inhumanely), they might dump the animal in the middle of nowhere or on the freeway. How is any of that good for the welfare of these animals?

Lots of people get a pet and don't know what they are in for. THey then try and give the animal up either by taking it to the humane society or to a vet for euthanasia. I don't know if that makes them completly evil people. But it is a measure of their character and sense of responsiblity toward a living thing. 9/10s of me hates them for it. The other 1/10 at least recognizes that they are trying to be responsible by giving the animal up in a manner where it won't suffer.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Skloot said...

I didn't say this vet handled the situation correctly -- this dog was sick and its owners wanted to euthanize it for humane reasons -- faking this dog's death was wrong on several levels. What I did say was, I understand the "temptation". Absolutely, I don't want people ditching or killing their dogs, but there are other options. As I said, instead of euthanizing healthy animals, the vets routinely offer to find them new homes or call rescue groups to take them.

When an owner would rather euthanize their healthy dog than let someone find it a good home, that's when I stop having much sympathy for the owners.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please keep track of the "Vet Clinic Faked Dog's Death" case. You should discover that the Ganyers used astounding levels of anthropomorphic license in their descriptions of Annie (not to mention outright fabrications). Oh, and the "former employee" - a disgruntled ex-employee with gift for fantastic levels of fabrication. Everyone should know to be careful about believing what comes out of peoples' mouths - the legal case results should enlighten all those who remain interested long after the media hype is over.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Rebecca Skloot said...

Thanks for the comment, anonymous. That sounds potentially interesting: I'd love to see more info. Definitely post links if you have them, or send materials to me directly (my address is available on my website).

1:17 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Did you ever happen to hear how this case turned out? I'm fairly interested to see what happened with this. Thanks!

7:43 PM  
Blogger someonewhoknows said...

I can see both ends of this arguement but ask yourself if the ex employee was trying to set matters right, why was it never mentioned that the same ex-employee was the one who went out and scrapped up road kill to hand over to the creamation company to creamate so they would have ashes to give the owners. I know I was there and I saw it happen.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in the middle of something exactly like this and it was my personal dog who was fake euthanized. I also happen to be a Breed Representative for a 501 c 3 Non Profit Dog Rescue. So i am well aware of the lame excuses people give for giving up and/or euthanizing their pets. It happens, don't for 1 second think it doesn't. My lawsuit is in the beginning stages. Vets are supposed to be compassionate and caring without trying to be God. It's not their right to supersede an owners wishes even if the owners intentions are self serving (no mine were not my dog was/is sick) a vet doesn't have the right to take it upon himself without first informing the client that they have no intention of euthanizing the dog. It's called ethics and vet clinics who have no ethics should not be in business. It is not ethical to let someone stand there and watch their pet die (supposedly) and go through a grieving process and months later find out they had been deceived. My dog was a very rare breed and quite valuable monetarily and this clinic decided rather than end my dogs suffering they could make a few bucks off of his life. Unethical and sick.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Christ's said...

To the "anonymous" person who commented that the Ganyers used "astounding levels of anthropomorphic license in their descriptons of Annie (not to mention outright fabrications)", I would like to know exactly what you are referring to. Or are you too gutless to explain yourself?

To "Daniel", the case has yet to go to court but is definitely heading that way.

To the person who also has received unethical treatment from their vet and mentioned that they also have a lawsuit pending, I would like to speak to you privately. You may contact me at

12:52 PM  

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