"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.