Animal Extremist Vet Reports Her Client to the Cops
Take home message for patient: "I'm not your friend, and I will kill your cat."
Think your pet hates the vet now? Just wait.
Here's the sequence of events, per the Albany (New York) Times Union: When the FIV positive cat Guilderland resident Gerard Sagliocca and his sister obtained from a rescue stopped eating, they took the cat to the vet.
The vet recommended euthanasia. They rejected her recommendation, saying that the much-loved cat gave no indications of distress and had a good quality of life at home.
Sagliocca and his sister took the cat home to the duplex they share.
The vet called the cops.
The cops went to the Sagliocca home, seized the cat and took him back to the vet's office.
Judge. Jury. Executioner.
And then the vet killed the cat.
Just like that.
At the vet's insistence, Sagliocca was then charged with cruelty to animals. The vet believes Sagliocca belongs in jail, even though the cat lived with his sister and he rarely saw the cat.
In Albany County, New York, animal cruelty is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $1000 fine, plus a mandatory ten years as the target of PETA vigilantes and other nut cases, public scorn, discrimination and humiliation through placement of the offender's home address, photo and other personal information on the county's brand-new online Animal Abuser Registry.
Remember: Sagliocca did not injure the cat. The cat had ample access to food, water, and shelter -- along with toys, a loving home and all the other perks of life as a house cat.
Sagliocca's "crime" centers around a refusal to kill. Instead, he and his sister wanted to take the cat home.
Criminal intent? I'm thinking not so much.
Like other crimes, the concept of "cruelty to animals" hinges on the presence of malice. The person must have made a decision to bring about a prohibited consequence. In this case, the prohibited consequence would be cruelty to animals. Accidents and bad outcomes caused by ignorance, or despite our best efforts? However disturbing, tragic and difficult to accept they may be, they are not criminal.
The cat was already FIV positive when he was adopted, and was cared for to the best of their abilities. Sagliocca and his sister brought him to a veterinarian when they suspected there was a problem.
I wonder if all those Albany County legislators who voted for that "animal abuser registry" thought the first person listed would be a cat lover whose "crime" revolves around taking a beloved cat to a veterinarian ?
|Cheever, 2009 Humane Lobby Day at NY State Capitol. |
Photo by HSUS NY State Director Patrick Kwan.
Unfortunately for Sagliocca, the vet he and his sister chose is an well-known animal rights extremist.
A vegan who lives on a "farm sanctuary," in addition to her private veterinary practice in Voorheesville, Holly Cheever is also. . .
. . .the Chair of the HSUS-satellite Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association's "Leadership Council."
. . .vice president of the New York State Humane Association, an organization responsible for the "education" of hundreds of New York public servants and law enforcement personnel on animal cruelty.
. . .a veteran militant in the drive to ban carriage horses from the streets of New York City.
. . .an advocate for the summary death of other cats in a hospice with "active feline AIDS."
. . .the author of a treatise attributing moral dilemmas on the order of "Sophie's Choice" to a Swiss Brown cow.
. . . an apologist for a regrettable instance of an animal control officer forced to shoot a dog menacing livestock on the grounds that, after all, "Siberian huskies are wonderful dogs, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists them as the breed fourth-most responsible for dog-bite fatalities." [and Cheever, I don't have your alleged "30 years of animal cruelty expertise" but I am willing to bet that even if huskies are not the sensitive souls that you believe Swiss Brown cows are, they still know the difference between a goat and a human being.]
Cheever opposes animal ownership, and is an outspoken critic of animal agriculture.
Whose cat was it, anyway?
How the hell does Cheever get to kill someone's cat over their repeated objections?
Who put her in charge ?
As Sagliocca pointed out, there is no "mandatory euthanasia" requirement in New York State.
While Cheever insists on using "guardianship" language, pets are the responsibility of their owners. Despite the voices in Cheever's head, veterinarians who make unilateral and drastic care decisions for other people's animals are walking on very thin ice.
When vets snitch out their patients. . .
In Cheever's haste to kill that cat, she, and the Guilderland cops who acted on her instructions, killed a number of other things, too.
Among the other bodies on the floor:
-- the family's ability to seek a second opinion from another veterinarian
-- the family's ability to seek palliative treatment for the cat
-- the family's opportunity to prepare for and accept the cat's demise
-- the family's right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, as well as the right to due process. The cat was seized and killed without consent and without the niceties of a hearing, or a court order.
Also worth noting: when Cheever killed the cat, she effectively destroyed the evidence. The family's ability to demonstrate that the cat did not appear to be suffering? Dead at the hands of Dr. Holly Cheever.
White Coat Syndrome: when pet owners fear the veterinarian
Mostly, though, Cheever's animal rights activism will kill the faith and trust pet owners have in their vets.
The AVMA's oath emphasizes the key role veterinarians play as members of society, placing their professional duty to society first.
And with good reason.
How many pet owners struggling to care for aging or terminally ill animals will think twice about bringing their pet in for treatment, fearing an accusation of cruelty to animals?
Must they always agree to immediately euthanize their pets, in accordance with vet's timetable ?
How many will hesitate to open their homes to an FIV positive cat?
How many will decide, ultimately, that -- screw it, who needs the risk -- they really don't need a pet?
Throw Cheever to the
The good news is that Cheever faced a pretty tough audience. In response to scathing criticism on the Times Union's blog, Cheever sounded more than a little defensive.
And what she said is pretty damn scary:
". . .my views on what constitutes animal cruelty and the veterinarian’s responsibility and relationship to his/her patients are not unique. I am well-respected by my alma mater and by my colleagues overall, even those who may act differently, and am a frequent lecturer to veterinary students from the east coast to the west since I am considered a mentor and leader in the field of the veterinarian’s role in animal cruelty. . .. In my opinion . . .the failure to provide any care to companion animals until they are too close to death to save them constitutes cruelty in NY State. "
So there you have it.
Taking a sick pet in for treatment can be a very, very risky proposition in Cheever World. If the animal is too sick to save--in her estimation--she believes that you've committed animal cruelty.
Happily, and despite the chest-beating about her credentials and the support of her [fellow extremist] peers, it is Cheever's behavior that runs afoul of the law. It also runs afoul of the guidelines for veterinary professional behavior laid out by the New York State Office of the Professions. At the very top of the list:
"The veterinarian or licensed veterinary technician should not willfully harass, abuse or intimidate a client or patient either physically or verbally."
Dropping a dime on the client, much?
The New York State Board of Regents includes veterinarians who perform "professional services which have not been duly authorized by the patient or client or his or her legal representative" in their definition of unprofessional conduct. Sagliocca contends that Cheever asked for $150 to kill this cat.
Also unprofessional: "exercising undue influence" and "filing a false report." Hmmmmm.
Vets in private practice are not judges. Nope.
Setting aside all the self-promotion, Cheever is a vet in private practice who has far exceeded her professional responsibilities. She's not a prosecutor, not an officer of the court. She's not an elected public official. Not a public servant. Not a part of any law enforcement agency. Her opinion on what is and is not "cruel" is not law.
So Cheever's got a lot riding on this one. Let's hope she gets her just desserts.
Caring pet owners should be able to take their pets to the veterinarian without worrying about getting snitched out by an animal rights whack-job, having their sick pet seized and killed by strangers, and then, icing on the cake, being prosecuted for animal cruelty.
The Times Union reporter called Sagliocca and his sister's problems a "worrisome precedent." He doesn't know the half of it.
Blogger's note: July 16, 2012
Early this morning I received a response from Holly Cheever, or at least a person claiming to be Holly Cheever. Once I figure out how to present the comments without further contributing to the tradition of personal interpretations of New York State law by animal rights extremists, I'll publish them.