Local News

State Cracking Down On Unlicensed Veterinarians

Posted November 12, 2002

— Would you trust an unlicensed person to perform medical care on your child? What about your pet?

North Carolina investigators have started cracking down on fake veterinarians -- people practicing veterinary medicine without a license. WRAL investigates the practice that is putting pets at risk.

Sadie Jones looks back on a dark time for her 2-year-old miniature pincher named Missy. To avoid a $150 vet fee, Jones paid a family friend $20 to clip Missy's ears.

"She was just bleeding, pouring blood," Jones said.

Jones said Dennis Davis held the dog down and cut the dog's ears without using anesthetic, stitches or antibiotics.

"He thought it was funny. He looked at it and started laughing and said, 'It'll be all right.' She didn't get all right. She [almost] died," Jones said.

Jacksonville veterinarian Charles Franklin stepped in to save Missy's life. Franklin said, "I asked her, 'Who did this butcher job on this dog?'"

Franklin said he has seen many cases over the years where untrained people try to do the job of a veterinarian, but he said this case is one of the worst.

"There's probably one person in every county practicing veterinary medicine without a license," said Tom Mickey, of the N.C. Veterinary Medical Board.

The Veterinary Medical Board now has a investigator whose sole purpose is to track down offenders.

"Last year we prosecuted no one for unlicensed practice of veterinary medicine. This year we have filed criminal charges against 16 [people]," Mickey said.

In many of those cases, Mickey said untrained people gave illegal vaccinations, sometimes during parking lot adoptions. That was the case in Davidson, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union, Warren and Yancey counties.

In two cases in Stokes and Pitt counties, Mickey said laymen performed dentistry on horses. In Cleveland County, Karen Peterson was caught declawing and neutering cats.

Investigators said one of those cats became infected and nearly died.

"Blatant misrepresentation to the public," Mickey said. "The public thinks they're getting a service and they're paying for a service, and these gentlemen or individuals have never been to a day of veterinary college."

Under North Carolina law, owners can do just about anything to their own pets, as long as it is not considered cruel. They can vaccinate, except for rabies shots. They can even spay and neuter. Unless they are licensed, they cannot provide medical services to anyone else's pet.

Violation of the law is a misdemeanor, which typically carries no jail time.

"I'd like to see the state do more of this -- crack down on these people who pretend to practice veterinary medicine. In fact, to us, it's a slap in the face," Franklin said.

In Missy's case, her untrained surgeon was ordered to serve community service and pay close to $1,500 in vet bills and fines. That is little consolation for her owner.

"Having something done to her, it's like having something done to one of my children," Jones said.

If you have questions about someone you are considering to treat your pet, call for advice.

The North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board keeps track of licenses and disciplinary action. The board also handles complaints. For information call (919) 715-7720.


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