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.

December 24, 2012

On This Very Special Night, a Gift of Thanks from Suki and Me

Christmas Eve. For me it was always the most magical day of the year, especially as daytime turned to dusk, dusk turned to dark, and the dark would yield gloriously to twinkling lights everywhere, yummy aromas coming from the kitchen, and a friend stopping by for dinner and a movie. We would settle in for a night of wrapping presents, good food and conversation, hot chocolate, and – if Suki was very, very good, and of course she always was, even if her “help” at present-wrapping made more work for me – a tiny crumb of a Christmas cookie as a special treat. All was well with the world. 

Now that picture is like a yellowed image from an ancient, crumbling book, from a life I can barely remember anymore. The life “before” – as we who have been through this nightmare refer to it – our pets were lost to veterinary negligence, malpractice, incompetence, arrogance, stupidity, and yes, outright abuse, taking from us our pets, our trust, our money, our jobs, our peace of mind, our sense of safety, and in some cases, our futures. 

There is one tiny bright spot for me on this date. Guess which day Edward J. Nichols of Crestway Animal Clinic in San Antonio was notified by certified mail from the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners that he was under investigation in Suki's case? That's right – Christmas Eve. How's that for serendipity? I'd like to think one very special Siamese had a hand in that, with a little help from all the other defenseless souls harmed or killed by their own monsters. I think of that every December 24, and smile at Suki's last little gift to me for all those wonderful Christmas Eves that will be no more.

Of course I will think of Suki tonight, overseeing the decorating and cooking, yowling in the kitchen as she got a whiff of her special baked organic chicken, pacing in front of the oven, reminding me of those old Mervyn's commercials with a customer pressed against the glass saying “Open-open-open.” I'll remember her sitting in my lap, our eyes locked on each other's, with the Snow Pas de Deux from the Nutcracker Suite playing in the background. Remember this moment, I said to myself, etch this forever, take this picture. And of course, real pictures of her, countless of them, under the tree, by the tree, in the tree (Suki was a climber), sitting in her little condo, decorated with its own miniature tree and cat ornaments, cat toys, cat everything, everywhere. 

But most of all, tonight I will think of all the others I have met along the way, going through the same neverending nightmare – some for years, others just now arriving in a club that nobody would choose to belong to. I get sweet notes from them, these victims from everywhere. One writes, “Keep the faith. I will always have you and Suki in my heart.” Another says, “I am grateful to have you understand what it feels like to have your world shattered, your life forever altered and I do not feel so alone it in knowing you are out there.” And more, and still more. They keep me going on my darkest nights. 

I am so grateful for my longtime fellow advocates, plus a whole new wave of smart, savvy fighters putting up web sites, blogs, and Facebook pages to help make sure that someday, eventually, there will be no place for the monsters to hide. I started my site in 2000 so that nobody going through this endless hell would ever feel alone. I am here to tell you that you are not. Not ever. You and your precious companions – whose names would take up this entire blog – are always with me, every day, every night. Especially on this night. On this very Christmas night. 

Much love to you and your companions, and many thanks to all who work so hard to make sure that our stories are never forgotten.

Suki and Julie, our final Christmas Eve, 1998. Her tree was never put up again.

YouTube video: Christmas Canon - Trans Siberian Orchestra

November 6, 2012

The Secret Truth About Abusive Veterinarians

"We dance around a ring and suppose but the secret sits in the middle and knows.”
The Secret Sits,” Robert Frost

My friend and fellow advocate Barbara Albright has had this quote on her site, Pocket's Story from New Hampshire, for years, but it was only recently that I fully understood how it applies to incompetent, negligent vets. Here's how that happened:

At a public meeting of the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TBVME) in Austin, Texas, one of the board investigators and I had a conversation I'll never forget: He told me that whenever you see a vet reprimanded for violating recordkeeping statutes, it's sometimes because there were other, more serious violations, but the allegations were in effect “plea bargained” down to recordkeeping. Because disciplined vets sign an Agreed Order – vets have to “agree” to be disciplined – they and their lawyers do whatever they can to get the final results to an outcome they can live with – a little slap on the wrist, an "informal" reprimand, a “stayed” suspension (meaning the vet doesn't miss a day of work), and/or a puny fine.

Of course this board employee wasn't telling me anything that I and my fellow advocates didn't already know. Even if vets have directly or indirectly caused or contributed to the death of a pet, or great harm was done, their goal is to obtain the least amount of discipline to save face. Vets are rarely, if ever, disciplined only for sloppy, shabby, incomplete records, never mind that such records are a giant red flag as to what kind of truly inadequate, deficient vet you're dealing with.

October 17, 2012

Here's to the Crazy Ones...

I ran across this quote today -- part of an early Apple Computer advertising campaign, specifically a television commercial in 1997. It is reportedly a collaboration between Ken Segall and Rob Siltanen, with input and ultimate approval by then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Being a longtime copywriter myself for my corporate clients, I recognize and admire it not only as a thing of beauty and an iconic mantra for innovators and entrepreneurs, but also as an inspiring message for anybody fighting seemingly insurmountable odds. 

For all of us who work every day to bring awareness and education to a largely unaware public that unknowingly entrusts its pets to some unethical, incompetent, and downright abusive veterinarians, and for all who have been consistently defamed, attacked, and ridiculed by those same vets, their lawyers, family, friends, and supporters pronouncing us mentally unstable, sick, and yes, crazy, I have only this to say: I'd rather be crazy than a liar. I hope this legendary quote reminds all of us that no matter how insane it sometimes seems to keep fighting, we can never, ever, ever give up.

"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

- Apple Inc.

August 2, 2012

Five Ways to Protect Your Pet at the Vet

The following is a condensed version of an article I wrote for my site,, entitled “Going to the Vet? Ten Ways to Protect Your Best Friend.”

These were lessons I learned the hard way – by losing my beloved Suki to a despicable veterinarian who violated my trust in every way possible without a second thought. That completely unnecessary tragedy at the hands of a monster taught me that when it comes to protecting your pet, you must treat your visit to a veterinary facility as you would any other consumer setting. You must never, ever let your guard down, thinking that all vets love animals and would never harm them (you couldn't be more wrong). Or that a vet who does something wrong will do the honorable thing and own up to it (nope - some just love to use the word honorable while lying their sorry asses off in every way possible). 

I've narrowed down the ten ways to these top five, but they are by no means a complete list. There are probably 20 more I could list. I learn something new from every victim who contacts me, about how to avoid what I believe are mostly unnecessary tragedies at the vet's office. These are things that if you implement in the total picture of your pet's care, you might have a fighting chance against incompetent, negligent, and abusive veterinarians who take advantage of a trusting, unsuspecting public every day. I hope you find something useful here to keep your beloved companions safe.

June 15, 2012

Beautiful Lives, Gone too Soon: Vet Victims Lost to Vaccine Associated Sarcoma

Kes, a VAS Angel

One last post (for now) on the subject of VAS – vaccine associated sarcoma. 

And a favor to ask. Watch this short but beautiful slideshow tribute to VAS Angels on Jena Gonzalez' site, Educate Before You Vaccinate. She did a wonderful job of paying tribute to these innocent victims. 

There are no stories, not a word of copy. Just slide after beautiful slide of handsome, gorgeous, quirky, comical, much-loved family members of pet owners who likely never knew of the dangers of vaccination and overvaccination until it was too late. All set to the  heartbreaking "Don't Cry for Me." But I warn you: It will be hard not to. 

If it makes one pet owner demand more information from veterinarians about the risks of vaccination and over vaccination, if it keeps one pet somewhere from being yet another victim of ignorance, fear, and greed, then these cherished companions did not die in vain. 

Share it, Tweet it, Facebook it to every pet owner and guardian you know. It might save a life.

June 14, 2012

Stimpy's Journey: A Day in the Life of a Cat with Cancer (VAS)

Miss Stimpy, a sweetheart lost to VAS

I just love web sites that kick ass and take names. Stimpy's Journey is one of those. Stimpy the Cat was lost to vaccine associated sarcoma in November 2011. The site has a lot of information, photographs (warning: some are graphic), and a chronological account of the physical, emotional and financial toll that fighting a vaccine associated cancer takes.

In the impassioned words of Stimpy's human, left behind to grieve:

"Stimpy was killed by a Boehringer Ingelheim rabies vaccine....I want Boehringer Ingelheim to know that I have not forgotten what they have done to Stimpy and all the other victims." -- Stimpy's Journey

Unfortunately, Stimpy had lots of company on her tragic journey. And Boehringer Ingelheim has lots of company in their apathy, greed, and lack of accountability.

Check out more sites covering vaccine associated cancer and other disorders. 

Read what some vets have to say about how their formal education sometimes lacked in the area of vaccine dangers. 

Outstanding source of breaking news on new guidelines and other vaccine news.

And one of my favorite all around dog sites, Jan Rasmussen's stellar round-up of articles, videos, and blog posts, many on overvaccination risks and what you should know. Truth4Dogs

Tomorrow, a last look at some VAS victims. 

June 13, 2012

Vaccine Associated Sarcoma: Texas Victim Challenging the Court's Decision in Her Case Against Corpus Christi Veterinarian

Kitty Kat Gonzalez, Corpus Christi
Victim of Vaccine Associated Sarcoma

If you are one of those pet owners who never give vaccinations a second thought, think that nothing bad can happen to your pet because you follow your vet's recommendations to get your pets regularly vaccinated, or believe that veterinarians and state vet boards would never do anything to endanger the lives of our beloved companions – you better run, do not walk, to this excellent new web site, Educate Before You Vaccinate. 

Site owner Jena Gonzalez is a Corpus Christi, Texas, resident who found out the hard way (and don't we all when it comes to questionable veterinary practices) that vaccinations are not always the harmless panacea that they seem. In fact, they can sometimes be the cause of illness, injury and even death. And Jena is fighting back. 

June 12, 2012

Vaccinations: What You Don't Know About Them Can Kill Your Pet

I realize the subject of pet vaccinations is not a sexy one. But it's an important one – important enough to do a series of posts this week that I hope you'll read, even if you think they'll bore you to death. 

Some pets have been vaccinated to death because 1) their owners thought they already knew everything they needed to know and 2) they followed the vet's orders to get their pets vaccinated, no questions asked.

As one who dutifully followed a vet's orders all the way to the collapse and subsequent death of my cat, let me tell you that blindly following a vet's orders on any subject can be one of the biggest mistakes of your life. This goes double for the topic of vaccinations. Fortunately some pro-animal voices are making it easier on you to learn what you need to know about vaccination and overvaccination for Fido and Fluffy. Read on.

April 26, 2012

Life, Interrupted: Veterinary Victims Deal with the Aftermath of Loss

Suki and me and happier times,
before Edward J. Nichols, Crestway
Animal Clinic, took everything.

It was 13 years ago tonight that I held my Suki for the last time. It's funny how you can pinpoint the exact moment that your life changes – but not at the time it's happening. It sometimes takes years to realize the full extent of the damage and devastation the complete betrayal by a incompetent, negligent, and abusive veterinarian can cause. Only in hindsight can you see the wreckage – in many cases a hit and run.

Like most every other veterinary victim I've ever met, known of, or heard from, my life has never been the same since this happened on April 26, 1999. Actually, make that April 19, the day Suki collapsed and I made the biggest mistake of my life: trusting a “doctor” to not do anything to harm or kill her. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish I could turn back the clock and never allow the monster anywhere near her, or me.

Think There Are No Cruel Vets? PETA Exposes Texas Vet Gene F. Giggleman, DVM, and His Smashing Squirrels Video -- and What You Can Do


Maybe you'll think this is okay because it's about squirrels, rats, and snakes. You know, those “unfuzzy” creatures who always seem to get the short end of the stick – or in this case, their heads against a cinder block – but I hope not, because it's tough to watch this very disturbing video caught by a PETA undercover investigator at U.S. Global Exotics, Inc., in Arlington Texas.

Because you have to wonder – if USGE attending veterinarian Gene F. Gigglemen, DVM, of Grapevine, Texas, inflicts such cruelty with such nonchalance to these "lesser" beings, what else is this freak doing to other animals behind closed doors? If he's like some other coldblooded vets out there, my guess would be...anything he wants.

Baltimore Sun Investigates State Veterinary Board Policies and Disciplinary Actions

Stefani Olsen (Bad Vet Daily, The Toonces Project) sent us links to recent coverage in her state on the veterinary board system:

Reporter Yvonne Wenger of the Baltimore Sun did a great job with two recent articles covering what Maryland pet guardians need to know about their state veterinary board. Be sure to check them out.

April 3, 2012

Mattie's Story: Pet Guardians Entitled to Informed Consent and Consumer Information Sheets (CIS) on Veterinary Drugs

One of the topics I get the most mail about – next to complaints about unauthorized procedures and how to find a good animal law attorney – is the subject of informed consent, especially on veterinary drugs that are prescribed to our companions.

I often think of Mattie, beloved dog of Ohio journalist Kelly Kaczala, who took her grief over what happened to Mattie in 2005 at the hands of veterinarians Robert (Bob) Esplin, DVM and Ross Mahowald, DVM at Sylvania Veterinary Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, and used her journalistic skills to help others avoid tragedy.

March 28, 2012

Barbara A's Blog: Pocket's Story from New Hampshire

No single event in a beloved pet's life is as heart-wrenching as a guardian's decision to humanely end it. When that moment is tainted by suspected veterinary negligence or incompetence, it becomes unbearable.

Veterinary victim Barbara Albright of New Hampshire took her eyewitness account of her beloved Scottish Terrier Pocket's inhumane euthanasia, along with some interesting public record information she located, straight to her lawyer – and to the Internet. Refusing to bow down to the vet's counterclaim for defamation and attendant legal demands, her suit settled last year. She bravely continues to write and blog about a variety of subjects, including Pocket's case, no matter what is thrown at her. One of her recent posts, March 17, 2012, addresses the most recent threat from vet John M. MacGregor's lawyer, to which Barbara replied with documents she received as a result of a FOIA request.

March 27, 2012

Bad Vet Daily: We Are Not Making This Up!

It is a brilliant concept: Highlight a bad vet every day of the year. Heaven knows there's more than enough to go around. While veterinary victim Stefani Olsen's initial plan didn't quite work out that way -- blogging is very time-consuming and emotionally draining when dealing with accounts like these -- the result is no less stunning. The Bad Vet Daily blog showcases an astounding array of some of the most despicable, incompetent, and arrogant vets imaginable.

There's a Reason It's Called 'Safe Haven'

This is probably a good time to tell you that this will not be an interactive blog. Sad to say, I will not be accepting or publishing comments. While the vast majority of people are understanding and supportive of victims of veterinary abuse, you can't imagine some of the vile, cruel, abusive, and downright threatening statements that “fans” of vets (i.e., staff, techs, family, friends, and of course, the vets themselves) will say and do, and the unending flaming, taunting and ridiculing that takes place of those who dare to speak out for those who have no voice.