CSI Miami: Everyday veterinary forensics in practice
It happens everywhere, not just in Miami. Every day, veterinarians are asked to be arbiters of disputes between family members, spouses, neighbors, puppy park dwellers and other veterinarians’ theoretical malfeasance.
The words “law,” “legal,” “police,” and “evidence” are bandied about, making us extra-cautious about everything that enters the medical record—how we say it and in what detail gets special attention. Photographs are attached. Extra tests are ordered to cover our butts in the case of legal backlash. The expenses rise.
Here’s a short list of last week’s unusually heavy forensics schedule:
1) A cat attacked by neighborhood dogs who suffered a flailing chest wound and a huge vet bill I’ll likely never get paid for.
2) A Jack Russell attacked by a neighborhood shepherd with a checkered past and a predilection for growling at neighborhood children.
3) A poisoned dog visiting a friend’s yard who had inadvertently gained access to the neighborhood’s “kill the cats” antifreeze font.
4) A small vaccine reaction in a tiny Pom the supposed result of another vet’s negligence—or something even more sinister, according to the angry client.
5) A young feral cat with a joint infection supposedly inflicted by a BB-gun wielding neighbor who despises cats.
Though not all cases will have any legal staying power, all required the intensive workups many clients would normally choose to avoid.
For example: Yep. I know you don’t normally OK every single line item when it comes to your pet’s care but this time you’re out of luck. If you’re talking legal, I’m not going to skimp. That’ll be a culture and sensitivity on every wound, full bloodwork, full-body X-rays and a biopsy while we’re at it.
Don’t like it? Go to the specialist across the street. I really don’t need this kind of stress so a complete, no-hold-barred workup is your only option.
Too many of these cases come back to bite me in the backside if I’m not 100% thorough at the outset. (Here’s one example from my past posts where my lack of legal savvy led to much angst in the end).
To be totally honest, I love these cases. I enjoy knowing that what I do will help keep one more potentially dangerous dog from wandering the street in violation of the leash law.
It might help give neighbors ammunition against the unacceptable actions of one eccentric fool with a BB gun.
It might help change the intensive vaccine protocol of a chain of veterinary hospitals.
It might even lead to the animal cruelty prosecution of a misguided neighborhood coalition too lazy to TNR (trap-neuter-return) their ferals. (Using antifreeze to kill cats is an increasingly common Miami neighborhood thing).
But I’ll no longer enter into any of these cases half-a$$ed. I’ll cover my posterior in any way I need to because without my extreme diligence, not only am I not doing my best for my patients, I’m opening myself up to the fury of a backlash only the US court system can provide.