Staggering Allegations Made Against CT Veterinarian

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In the United States of America, all new veterinarians take the following oath:

“Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.”

But apparently some of them don’t take it seriously.

According to a recent news report, Dr. Amr Wasfi, a Bridgeport, Connecticut, veterinarian, was supposed to appear in court on Wednesday. He is facing animal cruelty and third-degree larceny charges based on his “treatment” of a dog named Monster.

The accusations are detailed in an arrest warrant and shared on an NBC affiliate’s website. As set forth in the warrant, Monster’s owner took him to the vet when he noticed Monster limping. That was on February 14, and the initial diagnosis was a sprained knee. Apparently, Wasfi prescribed some pain medicine and sent the dog home.

But when Monster hadn’t improved a week later, his owner brought him back to Black Rock Animal Hospital, where Wasfi again assessed the dog’s condition. This time, the diagnosis was a fractured pelvis. Monster’s owner learned that surgical intervention would be required, and Monster would have to stay at the hospital for five days (until March 7).

A stunning revelation

As NBC’s Connecticut affiliate reports, Monster’s owner told the authorities he contacted the vet that day, only to be told his dog couldn’t come home — yet. Instead, he was allegedly told, Monster had to “stay a few more days for monitoring.” Apparently, Monster’s repeated requests to see his dog after that were denied.  According to the warrant, he finally contacted Animal Control and retrieved Monster on March 25.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

According to the warrant, Monster’s owner then discovered that his dog, who 63 pounds prior to his stay at Black Rock Animal Hospital, had lost 17 pounds.

Monster’s owner then took him to the Emergency Room at Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine. That’s when he learned that Monster never had a fracture and he never needed operation, which included putting a screw in Monster’s pelvis. One of the veterinarians that treated Monster at Central Hospital For Veterinary Medicine also told police that Monster was being treated for “refeeding syndrome” and dehydration. Police then learned that the treatment is warranted when “an animal is without proper food or water for at least 10 days.”

To make matters even worse, Monster’s owner also told police Wasfi charged him more than $3,000 for Monster’s operation.

An emerging pattern?

As NBC Connecticut also reports, that wasn’t the only complaint lodged against Wasfi. A former Black Rock employee apparently reported that she “witnessed Wasfi hit a kitten that was under anesthesia so hard that the kittens intestines popped out of an incision.” As documented in the warrant, the same complainant  also said that Wasfi was “agitated” and threw surgical tools around the room.”

The warrant also indicates she confided in a co-worker and said she planned to file a complaint. She also told police she planned to resign the next day, but when she showed up for work the employee with whom she shared her concerns greeted her at the door, in gave her a box of her belongings, and informed her she had been fired.

At this point, Wasfi also faces an uncertain fate. In addition to the criminal charges he is currently facing, he will likely face disciplinary action by the Connecticut State Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Sec. 20-202(2) of Chapter 384 of the Connecticut General Statutes specifically states that the board can discipline a licensed veterinarian when there is proof that: “the holder of such license or certificate has become unfit or incompetent or has been guilty of cruelty, unskillfulness or negligence towards animals and birds.”

Sec. 20-202(3) of CGS Chapter 384 also authorizes the board to take disciplinary action based upon: “conviction of the violation of any of the provisions of this chapter by any court of criminal jurisdiction.”

However, the board cannot take any disciplinary action as long as the appeal of such a conviction is pending, or if the conviction is overturned on appeal.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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Addressing The Controversial Decision Not To Have Pets Vaccinated

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It’s something every pet parent has experienced at the veterinarian’s office. A dog in the lobby cowers at the end of its leash — shivering with its tail tucked between its legs — and stubbornly refuses to walk into the exam room. A cat in a carrier yowls to make its feelings known, and anyone brave enough to take a closer look is most likely confronted by the sight of a decidedly unhappy feline, complete with bristled fur, a lashing tail and bared teeth.

No, it’s not a secret that most of our pets hate going to the vet, especially if they need shots. Luckily for some, their human caretakers don’t seem to think vaccinations are necessary. But is that really a good thing? Well, it depends on who you ask.

To vaccinate or not: that is the question

Personally, I must confess that I wasn’t aware there was a controversy about pet vaccinations until I read about it on time.com. I mean, it never occurred to me not to have Eli’s shots done. And now that I am thinking about it, I have mixed feelings.

In Brief Legal Writing Services Mascot, Eli.
Eli The Cat. Photo By Alexandra Bogdanovic

On one hand, my life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to take him to the vet for shots. He is an indoor cat, so I could easily justify the decision not to. On the other hand, the thought of him getting some horrible disease — like rabies — is enough to make me glad I’m following the rules.

Even though Eli is an indoor cat,  his penchant for eating the mice he catches puts him at risk for picking up all sorts of nasty bugs — and passing them on to me. His penchant for biting when he’s feeling threatened, scared or mad, is also plenty of incentive to make sure his shots are up to date.

My dog doesn’t need any shots, thank you

But I digress. The point, according to the time.com article is that so-called “anti-vaxxers” are refusing to have their dogs vaccinated based on  misguided fears. Specifically, their opposition seems largely based on the belief that  vaccines are “unnecessary, dangerous and that they can cause a form of (canine) autism, along with other diseases.”

While it says evidence about opposition to pet vaccinations in the United States seems mostly anecdotal and highly localized, TIME reports that “anti-vax activists” in some states are pushing for the loosening of mandatory pet vaccination laws. TIME also reports that some states, including Connecticut, have entertained measures that would do so. So far, those measures have not garnered the support needed to become law.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, there is more concrete information about growing reluctance to have pets vaccinated. As cited by TIME, the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report for 2018 indicates that:

  • One quarter of owners report that their dog wasn’t vaccinated when it was young.
  • The total number of young dogs that weren’t vaccinated is approximately 2.2. million.
  • The number of owners who say they didn’t have their young dogs vaccinated “has levelled [sic] off after a significant increase last year.”
  • Twenty-three percent of dogs “have not received regular boosters.”

Furthermore, 20 percent of owners said initial vaccinations are unnecessary; 19 percent cited cost; and 11 percent said they “haven’t thought about it.”  Dog owners gave similar reasons for not ensuring that their pets get annual shots. Fourteen percent stated that their vet “hasn’t recommended annual vaccinations,” and 13 percent said they disagree with the practice.

My cats don’t need any shots, either

Low vaccination rates in the U.K. are not unique to dogs, however. According to the same report:

  • Thirty-five percent of owners said cats never had an initial course of vaccines when they were young.
  • Forty-one percent of cats haven’t gotten annual shots.

The top reasons owners gave for failing to ensure that their cats were vaccinated as youngsters were cost, that they find it unnecessary, and that the cat has no contact with other animals. Owners also gave those reasons for failing to have their cats get annual shots. Sixteen percent of owners also said their cats didn’t get annual shots because the cats are too stressed out by vet visits.

“Clearly, more education is needed to impress the importance of regular vaccinations to prevent
potentially fatal diseases in cats. Equally, ways of reducing cat stress in veterinary clinics could also be a way of encouraging more cat owners to take their pet in for vaccinations,” the report states.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that our pets count on us to keep them safe and keep them healthy. As far as I’m concerned, making sure they get their shots is a crucial part of that. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

ASPCA vet offers insight into forensic veterinary science

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Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Sometimes, the most interesting information on the Internet can be found in another blog. So when I came across this Q&A on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website, I thought it was definitely worth sharing.

In the post, the ASPCA’s director of veterinary forensics shared a glimpse into the world of forensic veterinary science and explained its importance.

Animal CSI

I suppose you could think of it as crime scene investigation in animal cruelty and similar cases. Of course, that’s not what Dr. Rachel Touroo said. But I think it’s the best way to sum up what she does.

Here’s how she explained it.

“A Forensic Veterinarian’s job is to identify, collect and assess evidence from animals and their environment.  I use veterinary medical knowledge to put together the pieces of a puzzle to try to answer the questions asked of me by law enforcement and the courts in an unbiased and objective manner.”

Because her responsibilities are so varied, Touroo said she faces different challenges every day. One day she might be in the lab, the next day she might be in the field and the day after that she might be teaching.

“Frequently, I can also be found in my office drafting a forensic veterinary statement of my findings from the latest case, or in a classroom teaching third-year veterinary students how to look for signs of intentional cruelty,” Touroo said. “I’m also called upon to testify as an expert witness in cases across the country.”

Rewarding and important work

Touroo has a background in “animal welfare” and got involved in forensic veterinary science when she took a brand new job in Virginia. As she recalls, the state needed a veterinarian to “specifically address puppy mills and animal fighting in the state due to recent undercover puppy mill investigations and a highly publicized dog fighting case.”

“I had no idea what veterinary forensic sciences was when I accepted the position, but I quickly found myself immersed in the discipline,” Touroo said.

For Touroo, the work is rewarding and important. Citing the link between violence committed against animals with violence committed against people, Touroo says by doing her job properly she can not only prevent further cruelty to animals but keep people safe, too.

“While I love what I do, it is disheartening to know this job is necessary. I choose to focus on the impact we have and the positive outcomes. It’s incredibly uplifting to see an animal rescued from abuse and neglect find a loving home,” Touroo says. “If I had my way, I would put myself out of work, but until that time comes, I’m proud to be a voice for these victims.”

That’s enough

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“I’m beginning to think that the definition of a healthy cat is one that has never been to the vet.”

– My mother.

My poor cat.

Until recently, Eli went to the vet for his shots and a check-up once a year. He also went to get his nails trimmed every three months.

Since January 15, he’s been to the vet three times. A fourth visit – this time for surgery – has been scheduled for sometime this week. Needless to say, he’s not very happy about this turn of events. And it should go without saying that neither am I.

By now those of you who have been following this saga know that I initially took Eli, who just turned 10, to the vet for his regular appointment and nail trim. I also mentioned the small lump I’d found on his back, and agreed that the vet should take a sample of it as a precaution. Three days later I learned that the little lump that hadn’t changed color or size since I discovered it was, in fact, a tumor.

In Brief Legal Writing Services owner Alexandra Bogdanovic's cat, Eli.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli under the Christmas Tree. Christmas 2013. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

The vet then recommended an ultrasound to make sure that the cancer hadn’t affected Eli’s liver or spleen. Again, I agreed. I also agreed to let the vet get a blood sample while she was at it. Later that day, I was relieved to learn that the ultrasound didn’t show anything horrible; it seemed that after all the drama, a simple operation to remove the mass was all that was necessary.

But, no. It couldn’t be that easy for poor old Eli. The vet did an about-face, saying the surgery we’d initially scheduled had to be postponed until the results of his blood analysis came back. And when they did, it turned out that some of the indicators for kidney function were within the higher end of the acceptable range.

So instead of bringing him in for surgery last Friday, I had to bring him in for more blood work and a urinalysis, instead. The only reason I agreed to those procedures is because the doctor said the results could determine whether they have to take any precautions with the anesthesia when he does have surgery.

I told her that I was kind of concerned that all of this traveling back and forth was taking a toll on Eli. Not to mention what it was doing to my nerves. We’ve both had enough — or to be brutally honest — more than enough.

He’ll have his surgery, and that will be that. Even if the blood work and urinalysis do show some other issues, I am not subjecting him to any more invasive procedures, and I will limit future vet visits as much as I can.

I take pride in being a responsible pet owner; I love Eli more than life and I want him to be healthy. More importantly, I want him to be happy.

He and I have had a great eight years together, and I pray we will have many more. Having said that, I know  I can’t control the future, and I have no idea what it holds.  But I can promise this: as long as Eli is alive, I will do everything in my power to make sure he has the best quality of life possible.

In the end, can anyone ask for more?

Oh, no! Not the vet!

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Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

So I had to take Eli to the vet today. Actually I was supposed to take him on Wednesday, but luckily for him (or maybe for both of us), it was freezing and I was still recovering from the stomach flu so I decided to reschedule.

Of course that was simply delaying the inevitable.

It doesn’t matter whether he has to go to get his nails trimmed or whether it’s time for his annual shots. He does not like the vet. And, being a cat, he makes his feelings on the subject “purrfectly” clear.

Here’s what always happens: An hour or so before the appointment, I go down to the car and hit the control lever for the front passenger seat until the seat is flat and as far back as possible. Next I go into the basement, grab his carrier and stash it in the upstairs hallway. If I am lucky, I will then find my 15-and-a-half pound cat on my bed so I can easily apply a generous dose of herbal calming gel to his paws.

By this point, there’s usually about 30 minutes until the appointment. Assuming Eli has actually ingested some of the salmon-flavored calming gel (he should theoretically do so when he licks his paws) it is fairly easy to wrangle him into his large blue carrier. Of course the phrase, “fairly easy” is relative… after all, he is a cat.

Getting him into the carrier is one thing. Taking the carrier down a steep set of stairs without breaking my neck is another challenge altogether. By the time I finally get him situated in the car both of us are completely frazzled. By the time I start the engine, a pitiful mewing is sounding from his crate.

Fortunately the trip itself only takes five to ten minutes, depending on the traffic. I drive with one hand on the wheel and one hand on the crate, speaking softly the whole time. I know he’s upset and scared, and I want to offer all the comfort and reassurance I can. After all, I don’t like going to the doctor, either…

When we finally arrive, I wrestle the carrier into the lobby and put it on the floor while I sign in. By now, Eli knows where he is and makes his displeasure known — loudly. With paperwork completed, I take a seat, put the carrier on my lap and give Eli a pep talk — or a lecture, depending on how badly he’s behaving. I breathe a sigh of relief when the vet or vet tech finally takes him into the back room.

But the relief is short-lived. As the minutes tick by I glance between the wall-mounted TV and my cell phone, hoping that Eli is OK and praying that he’s being good. He’s a sweet boy — most of the time. But he has been known to bite, and he fought his old vet so much that she’d have to sedate him just to trim his nails.

Back in those days, Eli would emerge from the clinic looking miserable — and I would leave with a hefty bill.

I shared Eli’s history and my concerns about his behavior with his new vet when we moved back to Connecticut from Virginia. She said in her experience, cats seem to do better when they are not restrained during exams. She also asked whether Eli acts up more when I stay in the exam room — which he does.

Given that, we agreed that Eli would be treated in a separate area while I wait in the lobby. Because I haven’t witnessed any of the procedures, I can’t say exactly what transpires. Apparently it’s working though. To date he hasn’t been sedated and he hasn’t bitten anyone — that I know of. I’ve actually been told that he’s been a good boy.

Perhaps Eli (who just celebrated his 10th birthday) is mellowing in his old age. Or perhaps he’s simply decided to tolerate this new vet and her staff. I can’t say for sure.

I do know that there’s a growing trend towards making vet visits less stressful for pets. You can learn just how they’re doing so in a report on the subject that was recently published on abc.go.com.

Now if only they could do the same for people…