Letters for the week of July 2-8, 2003 

Vets profit from hypocrisy; pet owners have selves to blame; Eliza Higgins -- Shaw would approve; and don't mess with Metallica fans.

"The $50,000 Mutt," Feature, 6/21

Vet oath: hypocritic
The veterinary profession is assuming a very tenuous position when it claims its primary responsibility is to its animal patients. If this is the case, how do we explain the blatant disregard for the well-being of these animals when the profession routinely performs so many unnecessary cosmetic surgical procedures such as tail docking, ear cropping, and declawing to the same patients they are declaring allegiance to?

Unfortunately, we as a society view all animals as property, to do with whatever we please. Companion pet owners are as guilty as veterinarians in this regard. As owners of this "living" property, we overbreed, so that five to eight million animals are euthanized each year. We abandon and mistreat our pets with impunity, for in our self-centered society very few really care about the animals.

We create genetically misfit dogs who can't breathe properly, dogs whose spines are too long for their short legs, dogs who are born to a horrible fate of orthopedic trauma because they are bred too big for their joint structure. All this in the name of what we want -- not what is in the best interest of the animal.

What hypocrisy for the veterinary profession to proclaim themselves animal ombudsmen when it conveniently serves their self-interest. Vets should be in the forefront of compassionate treatment of all animals. Too bad there is no veterinarian equivalent to the Hippocratic oath, whose primary tenet is "do no harm."

There are two veterinary organizations that truly represent our animals: In Defense of Animals (Mill Valley, www.idausa.org) and Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (Davis, www.avar.org).
Barry Schenker, Berkeley

Fido is your responsibility
The general population that takes their dogs/cats to the vet needs to wise up and ask questions, express their concerns, ask for other options, etc. And, specific to this article, the owners need to be responsible for not seeking a second opinion two years ago if they had reason to believe there was something that still didn't make sense.
Clarice Cruz, Antioch

Bite bad vets' wallets
I loved my dog, Abbie, with all my heart. Over twelve months of repeated visits, my San Francisco vet never could figure out what was wrong with her. Abbie was a six-year-old Airedale. It breaks my heart to remember that the vet kept her overnight for "observation" (nobody was in the clinic with her that night). The next day, I demanded Abbie's medical records and took her to UC Davis, where the veterinary specialists found advanced cancer that could have been treated earlier if diagnosed correctly. Abbie died that evening on the operating table.

Since then, I consulted with two veterinary specialists who agreed that Abbie might still be with me if her condition were accurately diagnosed early on.

I spoke with lawyers and was willing to pay for a lawsuit, but they cautioned that the chances of winning were slim, and that the courts might force me to pay the vet's cost of defending the suit if I lost. If I won, any judgment would be minimal. I told the lawyers that I would rather have Abbie back than any amount of money, and my suit would be a lesson to this vet and others that they must treat their patients more carefully and listen seriously to the owner's description of the pet's health problem. The lawyers said that even if I spent a lot of money in the action, the worst the vet would get is a slap on the wrist. In February, I filed a complaint with the Veterinary Medical Board, which acknowledged receipt of it in March. I haven't heard from that board since.

Your article went straight to my heart, as I'm sure it has to everyone who has loved a pet and lost it to veterinary malpractice. I hope the public will urge their legislators to provide the Veterinary Medical Board with the funding, staffing, and power to evaluate and remove incompetent veterinarians. I also wish that our legislators would give pet owners the right to compensation for pain and suffering when their beloved companions are lost due to the negligence or malice of others, including veterinarians.

The fine does not have to be exorbitant. After having to pay legal fees and a few thousand dollars for each incident, an incompetent vet would be out of business in due time. How many animals' lives would be saved by more careful veterinary attention, and how many owners would be saved from the pain and suffering of losing a loved one too soon?
Diane Felsch, San Francisco

"His Fair Lady," Theater, 6/11

Shaw-shank redemption
I wish to express my appreciation to Lisa Drostova on her critique of George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion. It was a delightful read. However, I think she was too harsh on Alan Jay Lerner, who "waited until George Bernard Shaw was good and dead before he mined Pygmalion for his own My Fair Lady." Drostova, of course, refers to the musical's ending of having Eliza marry Professor Higgins instead of Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Esq.

However, there was no need for Mr. Lerner to wait until GBS was good and dead. In 1938, when Shaw was very much alive and kicking, he agreed to have Eliza marry Professor Higgins in the movie Pygmalion (Leslie Howard as Higgins, Wendy Hiller as Eliza, Wilfred Lawson as Alfred "I'm one of the undeserving poor" Doolittle, and Scott Sunderland as Colonel Pickering).

I think that the interview of GBS by Dennison Thornton in 1939, to which Ms. Drostova refers, is Shaw's reason for acquiescence to the change in the ending.
Leslie Dale, San Leandro

"Master of Muppets," Music, 6/4

Not in Cleveland anymore
Not only was your review of St. Anger factually incorrect in its analysis (it is a guitar line played by Hetfield on "Frantic" that Mr. Freeman finds disagreeable, not bass), suggesting that the author hadn't even heard the album, it was published in the Cleveland Scene the week before. Metallica has roots here; the least you could have done was publish an original review.
Kelly Dickinson, Berkeley

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