In 2002, we (Dr. Suzanne
M. Valente and Stephen R. Golub) received the worst possible news—our cherished dog, Sally, had a brain tumor. In the days that followed, our attempts to save her life led us through a nightmare
where we found ourselves fighting not only her disease, but her doctors as well. Because
we don’t ever want to see another person and their beloved pet experience what we did in an effort to obtain proper
health care for their pet, we have put this web site together. It is intended
to serve as an educational source to inform the pet owner as to what their healthcare rights are with respect to veterinary
care, and as a warning to let the public know that UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (UCD VMTH) does not consider
itself bound by ANY of the consumer protections afforded by the California Veterinary Medicine Practice Act. UCD VMTH does not consider itself bound by the rules that dictate the
conduct of every other veterinarian in the State of California. In
short, UCD VMTH has advised the Superior Court of California of the following (a link to actual court transcripts is below):
§ UCD VMTH veterinarians caring for your pet do not have to be licensed in the
State of California.
§ UCD VMTH is not held to any cost estimates they provide you—they can exceed
those estimates without limit and without notice to you and you must pay or expect to be sued by them. (applicable transcript excerpts)
§ UCD VMTH is not bound by the provision of the California Veterinary Medicine Practice Act that describes the minimum standard of care that must be met by a veterinarian treating your pet. Specifically in our case,
the paperwork they wrote up stated they would do a “craniotomy” on our dog which they explained to us was opening
her skull, removing her brain tumor and then closing her back up. In pre-trial
arguments, they stated that a craniotomy meant opening her skull only—so they could just open up her skull and close
her back up and they would still be entitled to their money—they didn’t have to remove her tumor based upon the
paperwork. No other veterinarian in the State of California would dream of making such an argument.
§ UCD VMTH can recommend a surgery and never tell you about the risks involved in the surgery.
§ UCD VMTH believes they are exempt from the informed consent rules that govern all other veterinarians in the State of California as evidenced by the following lines from the trial transcript:
So you're saying that the VMTH
doesn't have to abide by normal rules that provide for
informed consent , if I understand you correctly.
MR. CUNNINGHAM (UCD VMTH attorney):
I'm saying they are exempt of
all the rules under the California Medical Veterinary
Practices Act. That's what I'm saying. They don't even
have to be licensed in California.
But does that mean if someone takes
their animal to the VMTH and they are not told any risks
at all of surgery that that's okay under the statute?
Under the statute, that's okay.
§ UCD VMTH is not required to follow the recordkeeping regulations that bind every other veterinarian in the State of California.
In summary, UCD VMTH believes
they are not required to provide you the same information any other California veterinarian would be required
to provide in order for you to legitimately “consent” to treatment of your pet.
The government agency which provides Rules and Regulations (as well as enforcement) for
the practice of veterinary medicine in the State of California is
the California Department
of Consumer Affairs (DCA). The single exception to this oversight is UCD VMTH.
DCA shares our concern with respect to what information should be provided to pet guardians
by UCD VMTH as a part of "informed consent"
when treatment of their pet at UCD VMTH is contemplated. Unfortunately, DCA has absolutely no
ability to mandate recordkeeping or control the standard of care at UCD VMTH.
The DCA believes the consumer should be advised
by UCD VMTH that DCA rules, regulations and oversight are not applicable at UCD VMTH.
To that end, DCA is looking into a legislative solution to mandate this disclosure.
Please click here
to see a copy of DCA's correspondence regarding this situation.
With respect to how your pet is treated, UCD VMTH does not believe they must provide the same competent care that is required of every other veterinarian in the State of California.
Furthermore, UCD VMTH believes they can exceed
cost estimates for their services with no limit and without notice — even if
those services provide no medical benefit (and they have shown in this case they will sue
you if you dispute the charges!). Please click here
to view the applicable transcript excerpts.
For more specifics as to what actually happened in our case, please click here.
To view the entire NBC Bay Area Investigative Report on UCD VMTH, please click here.