Mulan's Horror Story
Let's start at the beginning....or for the condensed version visit: Ripoff report
Pet Malpractice is but one kind of animal abuse. This whole nightmare with Mulan brought to my attention the need for better dog laws and the number of ways an abuser can work the system. Michigan law is essentially useless and harmful to the very people and pets it proposes to protect. Veterinarians use these laws to hide behind when they make a mistake. There is no accountability. Criminal abusers and Police use the law to shoot dogs indiscriminately and without prosecution. And it's not just Michigan law - virtually every other state in the union has laws based on a an old federal law written in 1919 - back when dogs roamed free, lived in the barn, and got fed whatever the farmer had left over. They weren't living in our homes, were not part of the family (if they were, the family happened to be quite unusual), weren't loved and pampered like children and certainly and could expect little vet care, love or attention beyond an occasional kick or pat on the head. Dogs were not family members as they are today, nor were they surrogate children - they were animals to be used and sometimes abused for the benefit of humans. The law did not acknowledge that they have feelings, or even feel pain. Dogs were farm animals - like sheep, goats, cows. If it died, oh well, get another. Even today we acknowledge that farm animals actually do feel pain - and attempt to be humane in our care of them - but the dog law still stands - covering dogs as if they are the same as it did in 1919. Years later they amended the ancient laws and added provisions for basic care, defined abuse and sometimes number limits...but generally the law is the same as it was more than 100 years ago. Most of the current dog laws are available online at the Michigan State University website if you'd like to look for yourself.
The laws currently on the books do not help dogs, cats, their owners and those caring for them. In many ways, they are used by unethical and egomanic veterinarians to hide behind when they get sloppy or lazy. They are used by abusers to get out of taking responsibility for their actions. While your veterinarian will refer to you as "pet parents" in his office, let something go wrong and suddenly your pet is nothing more than a piece of furniture with a set "value" (determined by dubious "experts") under the law. The veterinary profession has made it so difficult and financially prohibitive to fight a malpractice suit, they are betting you'll give up. Most owners do because it's hard to be abused over and over again, when you are already the victim. Read my story about Mulan and how Dr. S and his CNA Attorney dragged this out for almost 5 years just by manipulating the legal system. They have taken foot dragging and intimidation to an art form.
Not only that, but did you know that if your dog is harmed by a veterinarian and the problem is so severe or expensive you decide to euthanize the dog to ease its suffering - they are then "immune" from having to pay ANY damages whatsoever! Even if THEY caused the damage. Just get another Fluffy - they are all the same aren't they? Makes me wonder what would have happened had I brought Mula BACK to Dr. S when she got sick? Would I even have known what really happened or would she have just conveniently died on the operating table?
On top of that, if your dog is harmed by a veterinarian or any animal professional they are merely liable for the vet bills under Michigan law - anything more is difficult to prove. The victim becomes the one "on trial" and is harassed and badgered to take a settlement much lower than it should be. If a $35 prescription kills your expensive show dog, they only have to pay $35 - even if there is proof of extreme negligence. If a $100 procedure kills your $10,000 seeing eye dog, they pay $100. I didn't pursue the complaint I had about Dr. S when he killed Star with a $20 prescription - because it would have gone nowhere and I wanted to think it was just an honest mistake. Perhaps I should have, and it would have saved me and probably many others a lot of heartache. Even if you can prove your dog was killed or maimed by negligence - the law protects the veterinarian. If your dog produces income (such as a breeding dog, or a service dog) that doesn't matter either - the dog laws still protect the veterinarian - costing you thousands to pursue and all he is liable for is the $20 prescription. If you file the complaint as a tort in civil court, the dog's actual value, it's intrinsic value as a service dog or breeding dog or even family companion will be belittled and not considered. They will pay "experts" to say your dog is worthless (even experts that are totally aware of the dog's real value) but money talks and even top breeders and other kinds of experts are not immune to being corrupt and will do what they are paid to do. When the case involves malpractice, you must first find yourself an expert veterinarian witness ($5,000 minimum and good luck because one vet will never testify against another vet). They will then manipulate the court system to make your expenses more than you'll ever recover - even if your damages are in the thousands. It's a system weighted for the "professional" - who can even negotiate with the licensing commission to get his license back when the evidence is so damaging that he would have ordinarily lost it. Courrupt? You bet.
This applies equally to service dogs, dogs for the blind, purebred show dogs, and other animals that cost thousands of dollars to purchase/breed/train that the owner may depend on for his/her livelihood. Valuable dogs. They get no special treatment - in fact, should something happen - they are even more likely to be screwed by the system! While your pet Fluffy may have a value of $25 because she was rescued from the shelter (but be worth millions to you)- a service dog may be providing invaluable service and cost thousands, perhaps even generating income for the owner. But it's still only worth the vet bills or what was "paid" for the dog under the law. If you paid $1,500 for a service dog, then put $150,000 into training that dog - and your vet kills the dog through pure negligence - under the law he is only obligated to pay you a nominal amount as the "value" of the dog in some states (including MI), or the vet bill. But try and get it from an unethical vet! Meanwhile, you must pay around $1,500 for filing fees, thousands for "Mediation" (ours was $1,800 and court ordered it - each party typically pays half!), and that's before you even get to court, attorney fees, hours and hours of lost work time. Their attorneys will do their best to run up your attorney's fees in wasted time (after all, yours is being paid for out of your pocket, while an insurance company has "on staff" attorneys). Even if you can train another dog at $150,000 and that still doesn't address the bond, the caring, the trust that was inherent in the relationship - or the pain and suffering, or perhaps even the painful death the dog endured because of the negligence. That is blithely swept under the rug.
The Michigan 1919 Dog Law was dreamed up and agreed upon by politicians, bureaucrats, veterinarians, farmers and a handful of organizations with established relationships - not people that love and care about their companion animals. For them it's BUSINESS. All work was done "behind the scenes" through lobbyists and politician's staff members. It's still that way. The animal rights people have had their own lobbyists for a long time, veterinary associations theirs, Insurance companies have lobbyists, and dog groups are getting up to speed and hiring lobbyists too. But who is not represented? The pet owner. The person who feels his dog is almost on par with a child. Recent research even proves that our dogs are like children to us. The person that spends thousands a year on training, treats, premium foods, vacations, time, and more. His dog under the system is valueless. He can't recover its value (at least fairly), nor can he recover for the dog's pain and suffering, nor for loss of income, or for damages. The system is skewed in favor of the professional, you are just a "previous pet parent" who is emotional and being unreasonable. No matter that the pet was an autistic child's link to the outside world, or an elderly person's best friend...doesn't matter. Under the law your dog has a value of almost NOTHING - comparable to a table lamp that can be replaced. One state has moved to change that, Texas.
There needs to be change to companion animal welfare laws. I'm going share my dog Mulan's story here so you can see how corrupt and twisted the system actually is - how it is construed in favor of the "big guy" (whether that is the insurance company or the "big name" veterinarian). My dog, Mulan, was one of the lucky ones - she didn't die. But even if she had, it wouldn't have made any difference. The veterinary justice system in Michigan is corrupt and wrong. Contact your MVA or Licensing and you'll find they do nothing but lip service. The Better Business Bureau is a joke. Contacting representatives is fruitless. Dogs and cats are dying every day because of incompetent vets who only get a slap on the wrist and go back to killing more pets. Perhaps you're one of those people who think it won't happen to you - my vet is great! Well, I thought this vet was great too. I told everyone about him - talked him up and bragged to everyone I knew how good he was (and ignored the voices out there that said they'd heard bad things about him) because it had never happened to ME. Well, now it has. My eyes have been opened to a system that rewards incompetitence and kills pets with no repercussions. I will never feel the same after 5 years of fighting for Mulan.
This page has had its fill of opposition from some with vested interests (such as the insurance company and the veterinarian involved), but fortunately the game has changed and a bottom up approach is now possible. Honest vets know there is a problem and question the system. Look on Facebook and you'll see groups forming to improve the welfare and circumstances of pets and abandoned animals. The recent spate of Law Enforcement shootings has brought attention to the deficiencies in the laws regarding dogs. They are discovering they are protected under the 4th amendment because they are property. You'll also find pages and pages of pet owners whose companion animals have been killed or hurt by neighbors and strangers. Seek out opportunities to use your skills, your ideas, your experience and your passion to further these efforts and demand to be involved! Don't let bad vets and insurance companies bully and manipulate the system. You can make a difference.
Want to know more?
About the 1919 Dog Law Why the antiquated 1919 Dog Law affects YOU and your pets negatively
Mulan's Horror Story Why I made this page....how the legal system, lawyers and insurance companies work together to screw you
Aspects of Michigan Dog Laws Legal terms, case studies
Links & Making Changes Links and resources for help