Suki's Safe Haven is exactly what it sounds like - a safe place for victims of veterinary incompetence, negligence, and abuse to obtain information about this disturbing but important subject. It's a companion site to The Veterinary Abuse Network, which grew out of a site founded in 2000 in memory of Suki the Cat, REPEATEDLY MISTREATED BY EDWARD J NICHOLS DVM, CRESTWAY ANIMAL CLINIC, San Antonio, and to alert the public of serious flaws in state board systems that routinely look the other way to protect the vets - and not our pets. You'll find original posts and articles as well as links to victims' stories, resources, other sites and blogs, and media coverage from all over the net. We'll also cover First Amendment issues for those of us who have been sued by the very veterinarians who mistreated our pets and then used the legal system in an attempt to silence us.

We will never forget. We will never be silenced.

This is an independent consumer advocacy blog and not associated with any government agency in any way.

April 26, 2018

Suki the Siamese, happily at work in happier times.

Nineteen Years: The Voice May Be Stilled, but It's Still a Voice

 

Veterinary licensing and regulatory board systems may not be much, but for most vet victims it's all we've got. On this 19th anniversary of Suki's passing (April 26, 1999), it's more important than ever to speak up and speak out to the government entities who are charged with protecting the public but may in fact be more concerned with protecting those who harmed and killed our pets. Below are my citizen comments for the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TBVME) submitted in January of this year with the hope that these words and the words of so many others devastated by the loss of their family members at the hands of incompetent, negligent and abusive veterinarians will someday, some how, some way, be heard by somebody at the state level who is truly interested in making a difference.--JC

January 16, 2018
To the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners:

When my cat Suki was killed by a Texas veterinarian in April 1999 I was plunged into a nightmare that not even the most imaginative horror writer could have conjured. Apart from having to live with the knowledge that a vet misused his education and skills to actually harm rather than help a family pet--which was horrifying enough--I also had to deal with a board system that ensured that there would never be Justice for Suki.

I refused to accept that fate, and instead chose to go public with Suki's Story that told chapter and verse, with supporting documentation from his own records, how Edward J. Nichols of Crestway Animal Clinic had mistreated my innocent cat so badly and for so long that to this day, not one veterinarian on this planet has ever been able to explain why this vet did what he did. Not even the vet himself. Instead he resorted to revisionist history, blame shifting, personal and professional defamation, threats and lies--all tactics that he has used for almost two decades, including filing an abusive SLAPP suit in 2005 in a years-long failed attempt to enforce prior restraint through a permanent (unconstitutional) injunction which was denied by the courts and affirmed at the appellate level.

Try as he might and despite his millions, Suki's killer cannot suppress the truth.

But it wasn't surprising that he thought he could. After all, he had had help from a system that deliberately looked the other way. Like so many BadVets before and since, he walked scot-free from all accountability despite a mountain of verifiable evidence ranging from repeated breaches of the Professional Standard of Humane Treatment to insanely egregious record keeping violations.  According to the then-reviewing Board Secretary (and now thankfully license-free vet due to his own problems with controlled substance record keeping), Suki was "an old cat."

Later, when I asked the Board attorney at what age is an animal patient no longer entitled to the Professional Standard of Humane Treatment--I really needed to know so that I could pass on that information to others who also needed to know--he was silent. He remained silent during all the subsequent times I asked him that question.

Maybe you, as a Board, can choose to be silent when tough questions asked of you are too uncomfortable or unanswerable, but we, as victims, cannot. The Texas veterinary board system failed Suki and me, and if the last almost 19 years are any indication, it continues to fail many people who had no idea that incompetent, negligent, and abusive vets can and do get away with inflicting pain, loss, grief and yes, horror, first on our pets and then on us, using a board system that has repeatedly proven its allegiance to its own industry instead of the public they are charged with protecting.

When vet victims experience the double whammy of 1) losing a pet to veterinary malfeasance and then 2) watching a state agency use their power to protect a veterinarian rather than the public, there's not much to reassure veterinary victims.

Except this. These are hopeful times. Real life horror stories of abuse of power that were once untold, unacknowledged, and carefully protected from public view are being exposed. You may have the power, but we have the truth. We will speak that truth to power forever and we will do it in the disinfectant of daylight, so that the veterinary consumers of Texas can decide for themselves which side is more interested in protecting their animal companions. 

Thank you for your time.

April 26, 2014

April 26, 2014: the 15th Anniversary of Suki's Death

"Suki's Sunflower," pastel.
Copyright 2011, Julie Catalano

Fifteen years. Fifteen years since my Suki was taken from me by a so-called doctor who had no right, reason, or permission to do what he did. 

Of the hundreds of fellow victims I have communicated with over 15 years, we all agree, almost to a person: My life will never be the same

But we keep fighting. 

We fight through the maze of state veterinary boards who frequently look the other way, letting a vet walk scot-free or administering not much more than a slap on the wrist, if that.

We witness endless frustrations with a legal system that gives little or no protection to our beloved family members who turn into worthless property once a vet has harmed or killed them. 

We shake our heads as we have to listen to the endless, disgusting filth spread by smug BadVets and their sadistic groupies who delight in taunting us, "Everything dies, get over it, get help" no matter how much documented evidence exists to prove negligence or malpractice. Sadists don't care. Their job is to inflict the maximum amount of pain, not to be bothered with facts. 

We slog through the death threats and hate mail (and after 15 years I must hold the record lol), along with sanctimonious preaching by a vet's friends, family, and fans who 1)  have no earthly idea what really happened, or 2) worse, know what happened but couldn't care less, because their friend comes before any laws, statutes, humanity, or decency. And BadVets love it, because they already know what they did; the fun part is watching the clueless fans buy into the lie. As one of the investigators in Austin told me: "For some of these people, it's a game." Believe me, I know exactly what he meant. 

But after 15 years I think I can say that things are slowly...slowly...getting better. Little by little, as victims find each other, tell our stories, file board complaints, and use our web sites, blogs, and social media to get the word out, there will be fewer places for the worst of the profession to hide. Increased media coverage on BadVets has accomplished two wonderful things: Documented cases of allegations, charges and/or convictions; and putting the vets' names and their own words, in writing, for public scrutiny, forever. Vet boards know they are being watched too. Some are handling it better than others. 

So we keep fighting. For better laws, better procedures and policies at the state board level, and better protection for companion animals who never deserved what was done to them. We don't this for our pets. For most of us, our pets are dead. We do this, as I frequently say, for the people who have not yet met the vet who's going to change their lives forever. May you never meet that vet. 

Thank you for your unflagging support, friendship, love, encouragement, and most of all for your own advocacy. We will make a difference. We are making a difference. 

-- Julie Catalano, Founder, The Veterinary Abuse Network and Suki's Safe Haven

Founded in memory of Suki the cat, victim of Edward J. Nichols, Crestway Animal Clinic, San Antonio, Texas 

Related: 

"Fifteen Years," The Veterinary Abuse Network, vetabusenetwork.com, April 26, 2014



March 30, 2014

Reporting a Vet and Filing a Board Complaint Against a Veterinarian: Why Do It?


It's easier than ever to report a vet -
many veterinary board sites have
forms to download and file electronically, or
mail the old-fashioned way.
UPDATE: Keep reading for news about disciplinary action taken against Martin E. Garcia, DVM, the unconscionable Texas board vet who looked the other way in Suki's case and let Ed Nichols of Crestway Animal Clinic walk even with proof of numerous incidents of negligence and incompetence. In 2011, the Texas board got Martin E. Garcia himself for "multiple years" of violations in controlled substance recordkeeping, including ordering 12 vials of Ketaset without establishing a veterinarian/client/patient relationship! 

People often ask me, “Why should I file a complaint against a veterinarian? Nothing will be done anyway. Look what happened to you and Suki.”

I can't argue. When I filed a detailed, fact-filled and documented complaint against Crestway Animal Clinic and Edward J. Nichols DVM, despite every piece of evidence of repeated and prolonged mistreatment – the jerk walked away scot-free. (You can read the timeline here at Crestway Animal Clinic – Who Did This to Suki and click on details and documentation from there.) Nichols was exonerated by one single board vet at a low level, off the record "meeting" - not an actual state board hearing. Your state may have an equally shoddy system. Here, nobody could explain the insane "exoneration" of a vet who had committed repeated and provable violations of the standard of care as later stated by expert vet opinions including a board certified anesthesiologist from Texas A&M.

So why should you file a complaint against a vet? It's true that the veterinary board systems are deeply and dangerously flawed. They routinely dismiss most complaints, some without even bothering to investigate anything. And even if you're lucky enough to get the vet held accountable, the disciplinary action is often puny and insulting: a small fine, some continuing education hours, possibly a suspension which will most likely be “stayed” (meaning it's on paper only – the vet can continue practicing during the suspension). If the vet is found to be practicing under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or is otherwise impaired by substance abuse, he or she is shuffled into a “peer assistance program” where “counseling” is provided by – wait for it – other vets.

Then there's the fear – of taking on rich, powerful, connected “professionals” who can and will use every available resource to try to crush, break, bankrupt, or destroy you; of the toll it will take on your life, work, finances, health, and sense of security; of what others will say when they find out you're going to all this trouble over “just an animal.” And the worst of all: having to relive the horror of a beloved pet's death as you attempt to get it all down on paper, knowing exactly what happened. And knowing without a doubt that the vet does too – and will lie and lie and lie. 

So why do it? Why bother? Here are my top five reasons why reporting a veterinarian is the best thing you can do – for yourself, your precious companion, your own peace of mind, and for all the lucky people and animals you might be saving from a vet from hell.

December 31, 2013

Is This the Worst Vet of 2013? Shirley Sara Koshi of Gentle Hands Veterinary Strikes Back with Bizarre Version Regarding Her "Theft" of Karl the Cat, Claims She Has "Sold Karl"

UPDATE: During the open NYS Board investigation and the pending lawsuit in the NYC courts, and reportedly uncooperative in both, Shirley Koshi committed suicide in her home in 2014. Karl was found safe and later taken with other cats to an NYC shelter. Karl was retrieved by Gwen Jurmark and placed in the forever home of a concerned advocate. Another cat was retrieved about a week later from the vet's locked clinic, weak and dehydrated but otherwise okay. After Koshi's death, a cybermob led by a longtime troubled vet with behind-the-scenes help from her friends and professional veterinary organizations began a years-long campaign of continuous attacks, stalking, and threats against citizen advocates, blaming us for "cyberbullying to death" an adult medical professional, licensee of the state, and keeper of public health and trust. This vet-led mob is made up of the same people who never uttered one word in Koshi's defense while she was alive, instead using her death to promote intimidation against anyone who dares to speak out against veterinary misconduct. They will not succeed.


According to Shirley Sara (or Sara Shirley) Koshi (or Koshy, if you go by her family spelling), Karl the Cat has been sold.

Dr. Shirley Sara/Shirley Sara Koshi/Koshy told the court at a preliminary hearing in December that she SOLD KARL to his new owner. This is a woman who has had veterinary licenses in five states and by her own admission has worked in about 30 different animal hospitals over her “career.” She just opened her hole-in-the-wall storefront on Johnson Avenue in July of 2013 and a mere one month later she had already taken Karl. Just the type of stable individual that we should all look to as a paradigm of veterinary virtue (NOT!) to make life and death decisions about animals. 

I just have two words for this creepazoid vet who allegedly stole a client's cat on the apparent basis that she 1) either doesn't have the capacity to understand how cat colonies and caretakers work, or 2) doesn't LIKE the idea of cat colonies and caretakers and has appointed herself the queen and ruler of the animal kingdom and simply took Karl as her own, which the evidence and the timeline--which Koshi has conveniently ignored in her various versions of what “really” happened—seem to support. In short, Koshi doesn't really give a damn about what happens to animals who are taken out of their usual surroundings—whether she personally approves of those surroundings or not. And that goes double for colony cats. 

November 10, 2013

What Happened to Karl the Cat? Only Dr. Shirley Sara Koshi, Gentle Hands Veterinarian NYC Knows; Owner Files Suit to Get Karl Back


First Amendment in action! Protesters call for the
return of Karl the Cat from Shirley Sara Koshi, DVM,
owner of Gentle Hands Veterinarian, New York City,
who "appropriated" Karl in August and refuses to
return him to owner Gwen Jurmark (center, standing).
UPDATE: During the open NYS Board investigation and the pending lawsuit in the NYC courts, and reportedly uncooperative in both, Shirley Koshi committed suicide in her home in 2014. Karl was found safe and later taken with other cats to an NYC shelter. Karl was retrieved by Gwen Jurmark and placed in the forever home of a concerned advocate. Another cat was retrieved about a week later from the vet's locked clinic, weak and dehydrated but otherwise okay. After Koshi's death, a cybermob led by a longtime troubled vet with behind-the-scenes help from her friends and professional veterinary organizations began a years-long campaign of continuous attacks, stalking, and threats against citizen advocates, blaming us for "cyberbullying to death" an adult medical professional, licensee of the state, and keeper of public health and trust. This vet-led mob is made up of the same people who never uttered one word in Koshi's defense while she was alive, instead using her death to promote intimidation against anyone who dares to speak out against veterinary misconduct. They will not succeed.

Re: Case Index Number CV-015676-13/BX

Civil Court of the City of New York

Gwen Jurmark, Plaintiff vs. Dr. Shirley Koshi; Gentle Hands Veterinarian at Riverdale, P.C., Defendant(s)



When you've reported on BadVets as long as I have, you think you've heard every bizarro vet story there is. Every inane, inexcusable, indefensible tale of an arrogant, egotistical, off-the-rails and over-the-cliff veterinarian doing something that he or she is just not supposed to do. You would think you'd have heard it all by now. And you would be wrong. 

The story of Karl the Tuxedo Cat of Yonkers, New York is a sad and scary one, and every pet owner/guardian needs to listen up, because this could happen to you.

It is your worst nightmare: a vet decides, for no apparent reason (except hearsay and so far undocumented and unverifiable allegations of owner hoarding, disease, and abandonment of animals in public parks, none of which would give a vet the automatic right to keep someone's pet anyway) and without benefit of going through proper procedural channels set up by the New York State Office of the Professions to enforce the statutes of the New York State Veterinary Practice Act—a veterinarian, acting entirely on her own with no authority from anybody, decides to just...keep...your...pet

You heard right. You go to a vet's clinic at the end of the vet's prescribed “treatment plan,” with a fistful of money (we're talking close to $2000) to reclaim your pet, and the vet refuses to deal with you, does not “accept” your proof of ownership in the form of previous vet records, refuses payment, tells you to come back later, and/or calls the police on you. Not only that – four days into a 10-day hospitalization, the vet changes your pet's name and parades him all over her Facebook page as the newest member of her family. At some point, she reportedly microchips your pet with her own information (still waiting for verification on this), meanwhile calling the police and keeping you physically out of her clinic with one allegation or another.

All of the above and more happened to Karl the Cat and his owner/guardian, Gwen Jurmark, who is pictured above in her November 9, 2013 protest of Shirlay Sara Koshi, DVM, Gentle Hands Veterinarian at Riverdale to free Karl and let him come home.

September 19, 2013

Tribute Site Spotlight: Spanky's Voice



This is a second in a series that spotlights veterinary victims' Tribute Sites that go beyond the story of their own tragedy to help educate others on matters of public concern, health, and safety.

The site: http://spankysvoice.weebly.com/
Site owner: Nettie (Sissy) Dunn
Veterinarian: Gary Brackeen, Anchor Road Veterinary Clinic, Angleton, Texas

I'll cut right to the chase: Gary Brackeen of Angleton, Texas, is a bad vet. A very bad vet. Don't believe me? Read what the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners essentially had to say about this “doctor” when they issued a formal reprimand against him on October 18, 2011 in their Agreed Order, which resulted in a two-year probation, orders to take continuing education, and to pay restitution to Spanky's owner.


Dr. Brackeen violated 5 (five) Rules of Professional Conduct and admitted to self-administering 3 (three) prescription medications
Dr. Brackeen did not use the proper care or humane treatment that is required by the Veterinary Code of Ethics
Dr. Brackeen allows his unlicensed help to perform and medically treat animals without his input
Dr Brackeen failed to record the required information that would be helpful in diagnosing why an animal died while in his care
Dr. Brackeen dispensed prescription drugs for his personal use

It's that last one that's the killer: As if a regular BadVet isn't bad enough, how about a BadVet prescribing drugs for himself? Brackeen admitted to self-prescribing Lasix (diuretic), amoxicillin (antibiotic), and methocarbamol (muscle relaxant). Like all BadVets everywhere, none of these creeps ever think the rules apply to them. But even for a BadVet, Brackeen is a real horror story--and for anybody who thinks cheap vet care is the way to go, you may want to rethink that decision.

August 19, 2013

Veterinary Abuse Network Marks Anniversary of Founding on August 19, 2000

Suki, victim of Edward Nichols,
Crestway Animal Clinic, San Antonio, TX,
and the guiding spirit behind VAN. 
It's our anniversary! We are either thirteen years old or ten years old, depending on how you count it. On August 19, 2000, two days after the monster who killed Suki was exonerated by a single board vet in Austin, I decided to start a site called S.A.V.E. Stop Abusive Vets Everywhere, to expose the travesty of injustice that took place in Austin when "Dr." Edward J. Nichols and Crestway Animal Clinic got away with prolonged, inexplicable, and hideous mistreatment of my most beloved companion. If a "doctor" this bad, this incompetent, this negligent, this stupid, arrogant, careless, sloppy, lazy and dishonest was allowed to inflict such medical horrors on an innocent animal, how many other "Ed Nichols" were out there putting pets at risk every day? 

Turns out way too many. When I began hearing from other vet victims from around the country and around the world, I decide that the site needed a bigger name to reflect what was obviously more than just one BadVet and one BadVetBoard. In 2003, S.A.V.E. evolved into The Veterinary Abuse Network, vetabusenetwork.com, and every year since then, more and more people are connecting with one another and mobilizing efforts. If we can't put an end to BadVets, then we can work at putting an end to the vet boards' protection of them, and to help foster laws that put a higher value on our animals as true members of our families--the very same human/animal bond that drives us to get our family members the best medical care possible. 

Many thanks to all of you who have written such wonderful messages of support and are fighting your own fights in your individual states. With every new victim I hear from who says they are filing a complaint, considering a vet mal lawsuit, putting up a blog, a site, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, organizing a picket, starting a petition, meeting with their elected representatives, attending their veterinary board meetings, fighting for their First Amendment rights, getting media coverage from investigative reporters, and spreading the word among their friends and neighbors about their own personal vet horror stories, I know that little by little, we WILL succeed. Our companions did not suffer and die in vain. We WILL hold more BadVets accountable--officially and unofficially, online and off--for their devastating, life-altering, unconscionably cruel and despicable mistreatment and deaths of our precious companions. As I say in Suki's Story:

"The monster can’t hurt Suki anymore. But he, and others like him, are still out there every day. Incompetent vets who “treat” our pets’ bodies, but can’t touch their spirits. They can steal our pets’ lives, but not their legacies. They can run away from the truth, but they can never escape themselves."

Together we will make sure that there is no place for BadVets to hide. Thank you for all you do for the animals, and keep fighting the good fight!