June 7, 1999
Dr. Robet C. Barney, DVM
Dr. Bo J. Rog, DVM
Dr. Lori A. Koenig, DVM
Lakewood Animal Hospital
14572 Madison Ave.
Lakewood, OH 44107
Dear Drs. Barney, Rog and Koenig:
On the afternoon of Friday, June 4, 1999, around 5:40 p.m., my wife and I entered your establishment with an injured bird. The bird was a pigeon I had discovered attempting to seek cover against the corner of a building. It appeared unable to fly, and as it was a particularly windy day, it was being blown around the pavement, at one point being blown onto its back and barely able to right itself. At one point, it became in danger of being blown into the street and being crushed by traffic.
While preventing the pigeon from blowing into the street, I called my wife at work, asked her to get a box and leave her office early to meet me. Meanwhile, a passerby offered me a paper shopping bag for the bird. I met my wife, having placed the bird in the bag for safekeeping. We placed the bag into the box for added support and hailed a taxi. The pigeon appeared otherwise healthy and alert, but was simply unable to fly or walk. There were no visible injuries or blood.
We brought the bird to your office because it is close to our home, and we had had our youngest cat spayed there and found your staff at that time helpful and compassionate. Upon entering the office, we told the woman at the counter that we had an injured bird and asked if anyone could look at it. The woman replied, "We don't do birds here." We asked if she knew anyone who did, and she said she did not. At that point, another woman approached the counter from the back of the office. The first woman told her we had a bird, and again, the second woman said, "We don't treat birds." We asked her also if she knew anyone who could look at it or treat it, and she said she didn't.
The second woman then said there was a nature and science center place somewhere in the Metroparks that might deal with "wild animals," but she didn't know where it was. "Someplace in the valley," was the only direction she could give us. We told her we didn't own a car, had taken a cab to your office, and asked if she might give some more detailed guidance. She replied that she didn't know where it was, and didn't know if they would pick an injured animal up. She wrote the phone number down on a Post-It note and handed it to us.
Preparing to leave, we then asked if she had a pet carrier or at least a larger box we could use for transporting the pigeon and offered to pay for it. She went in the back for a moment, came out and told us no, she didn't have anything like that for us. Both my wife and I have had pets all our lives and have never known a vet's office not to have at least cardboard dog and cat carriers on hand.
We left your office and walked to the nearest pay phone--by the Musician's Swap Shop. Upon calling the center in the Metroparks, we discovered it was already closed. We decided to take the pigeon home and give it food, water and find another container while we trying to locate an emergency-services veterinarian. Unfortunately, much to our chagrin, the bird, which for the better part of the trip had been calm, began to panic in the make-shift carrier during the walk, and in that panic broke its own neck and died.
We, both being dedicated animal lovers, were heartbroken, especially in light of the fact that the bird was alive when we walked into and out of your office, where your staff had refused us any kind of help. Sadly, no one showed the least bit of interest or concern for the small animal we wanted to help. Words cannot convey how utterly unhelpful and, in fact, counterproductive your office's staff were when we asked for assistance. A few salient points:
- Despite your own advertisement in the phone book stating that you treat "Cats, Dogs, Birds and Exotics," we were told by two staff members, "We don't (or can't) handle birds." Note, they did not say "wild animals," but "birds."
- Your staff also did not even take a look at the pigeon to see what it was, nor even offer, at the very least, to euthanize the animal.
- Amazingly, despite our offer to pay, your office apparently did not have a single pet carrier, or indeed a box of any kind.
- Your staff apparently did not know of any other veterinarian offices with late hours, any offices with emergency animal treatment facilities, or any offices that treat wild birds. They also did not know the hours or location of the one place they suspected might be able to help, nor did they offer to call and find out, nor offer the use of your phone. This strongly indicates that your office has no procedures for treating stray injured and/or "wild" animals, nor even for recommending any place that might. I find this surprising and disstressing.
We did not enter your office looking like lunatics--panicked, demanding assistance or looking for a handout. We had a small injured animal that we were seeking treatment for and were willing to take full responsibility for; we intended to pay for any treatment and planned to then find and take the bird to the appropriate game or wildlife personnel for proper rehabilitation and release afterwards. And, had it been determined necessary, we would have paid for euthanizing the pigeon to alleviate needless suffering. Instead, your staff was unable to offer a single suggestion, helpful or otherwise. Whatever your policy on treating strays or wilds, I can't help but wonder if the lateness of the hour (it being 20 minutes to closing) affected their actions.
As I am certain you would not be in this profession if you did not love and care about animals, I hope that, in the future, you implement policies designed to help people who enter your office with injured animals that they don't own, especially those considered "wildlife." [I know that my wife and I have already begun researching steps and measures and locating and documenting appropriate care-givers for injured animals should we find ourselves in this or similar circumstance again.]
I also recommend you instruct your staff to be specific about what animals you do and don't treat; "We don't do birds" is beyond misleading--it contradicts your own advertising. Finally, please be aware that as a result of this experience we do not intend to utilize your facility for our own three cats.
Philip & Leigh-Anne Dennison