K-9 Endy ~ Left In A Hot Patrol Truck Nearly 12 Hours…

K-9 Endy ~ Left In A Hot Patrol Truck Nearly 12 Hours…

K-9 Endy suffered an excruciatingly painful death because his handler left him in the patrol truck, parked in full sun, while the handler participated in July 4th activities for nearly 12 hours.

Please take a moment to reflect on K-9 Endy, an 8 yr old officer with the Cache County Sheriff’s Office in Logan Utah. K-9 Endy, a Belgian Malinois, died on July 3, 2017, when his handler, Deputy Jason Whittier, left  K-9 Officer Endy in the patrol truck after he arrived home from his shift at 12 pm. He parked the truck in an area with direct sunlight and exited the vehicle. Deputy Whittier then left his home and participated in family July 4th activities for the day. When he returned from the festivities at 11:30 pm, nearly 12 hours later, he realized that K-9 Endy was not in his kennel. Upon checking the truck Deputy Whittier discovered his partner deceased. The cause of death was heat exhaustion. The temperature on July 3 was 95 degrees. Deputy Whittier was reassigned and placed on unpaid administrative leave pending an investigation. On July 19 Whittier was charged with a Class B misdemeanor aggravated cruelty to an animal and scheduled for a court appearance on August 28. The community was extremely upset that Deputy Whittier’s  suspension placed such a burden on him; no income yet bills and a family to provide for so they established a fundraising page to help him in his hour of need. They empathized with Deputy Whittier’s terrible plight and many wrote that he was a kind and noble man who simply made an honest mistake; an innocent mistake that could happen to anyone. Many posted comments under media articles sympathizing because he was understandably distracted by the July 4th festivities and being away from his home for nearly 12 hours. I’ve included the link to his fundraiser even though it ended August 22. Life is not always fair and hopefully, goodness and mercy will prevail for Deputy Whittier.

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 3.10.31 AM

The above of course is sarcasm. Police K9s are not “just dogs“, they are a vital part of a crime-fighting team whose work should be celebrated alongside their human handlers. K9s are the unsung heroes of any police department plus extremely loyal companions. Most importantly, they are the human officer’s partner. How can a man who took an oath to protect and serve fail to keep his partner, a sentient being, safe? How can we as a society trust an officer who is sworn to protect and serve us when he FAILS to protect the life of his K9 partner? Because he forgot? The first rule in law enforcement ~ never abandon your partner! Whittier wasn’t on a 3-hour foot pursuit; he was enjoying family activities away from home on a holiday weekend. He disgraced the badge and failed the people of Cache County Utah. Most of all, he failed his partner K-9 Endy by leaving him to die in oppressive heat inside a vehicle, parked in direct sunlight, in 95-degree weather, for nearly 12 hours.

HKheatrise2

K-9 Endy was Cache County Sheriff Department’s first K9 officer. He joined the department in September 2016 at age 7. Born in September 2008, K-9 Endy had been in law enforcement since April 2010 when he joined the Logan Police Department where he participated in more than 200 assignments ranging from drug and suspect searches to public demonstrations.  A Belgium Shepherd, his commands were in Dutch and his former Logan handler Eric Johnson said how much his children loved speaking Dutch to him. K-9 Endy had two handlers while with Logan PD. His second one, Logan police officer and K-9 handler Eric Johnson was involved in a serious motorcycle accident in September 2015 with a lengthy recovery time. Because Endy was a working dog, he needed a job to do and was subsequently sold to Cache County Sheriff’s Department where he was paired with Deputy Whittier. The Herald Journal did a feature on the new 4 legged officer in April 2016 in which Deputy Whittier described the one month bonding period he and the canine spent: “It was during this time that the pair truly transitioned from being merely a master and a dog to being buddies, he said.”

K-9 Endy continued to participate in school demonstrations which I think you’ll agree, he appeared to relish.

The Northern Utah Critical Incident Task Force, under the auspices of the Cache County Attorney’s Office, investigated K-9 Endy’s death.

Originally suspended by the Cache County Sheriff’s Department pending an investigation, Deputy Whittier was terminated by the department on August 18. He appeared in the First District Court in Logan on October 2 where he pleaded no contest to one count of aggravated cruelty to an animal, a class B misdemeanor. The probable cause statement says Whittier returned home from his shift around noon and parked his patrol vehicle outside his Cache County home, leaving K-9 Endy inside. Whittier returned home around 11:30 p.m. and realizing Endy was not in his outside kennel, discovered the dog dead inside his patrol vehicle. Experts at the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Lab analyzed K-9 Endy’s remains and their findings “suggest fatal heat stroke as the cause of death,” according to the affidavit.

Whittier’s sentencing is scheduled for November 13 where he could face a sentence of up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. I find it interesting that this media and video reports that Whittier pleaded guilty. Without going into great detail, there’s a difference between the two pleas.

A memorial service for K-9 Endy, which was open to the public, was held Wednesday, August 2 in front of the Cache County Sheriff’s Office. It was a beautiful service and many people paid tribute to this remarkable dog. There’s a video in this article that shows how much the community, his former department, and handlers along with the Cache County Sheriff’s Department, respected and honored him.  The entire service was paid for by a private donor who wished to remain anonymous. Such a touching and kind gesture to close a tragically dark time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After reading and researching K-9 Endy’s death, I must admit that I admire Cache County Sheriff Chad Jenson. Unlike many departments, he never attempted to circle the wagons around the handler but rather, he launched a proper investigation, followed by naming the deputy and announcing his suspension. He explained that the K9 vehicle had a temperature safety unit but like most systems, only worked if the vehicle was running. He added that the systems were being upgraded to the type that alerts the handler. 

But it was these words by the sheriff that gave me a glimmer of hope that departments across America are finally realizing that these magnificent K9s are team members and not a disposable commodity:

“I say to all of you and I say to Endy: that your life was not lost in vain,” he said. “As I pledge to you Endy: We will be better. We will do better.

If only I was assigned to investigate a K9’s hot car death because my Fact-Finding Investigation would be as follows:

Fact – You were issued a K9 to train and work with.

Fact – You carelessly allowed the K9 to die in your issued vehicle.

Fact – You’re fired!

Fact – I’m recommending you be charged with injuring a police service animal, a third-degree felony in Utah punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

If I could ask former Deputy Whittier one question, it would be if his daylong festivities was worth his partner’s life?

K-9 Endy
EOW July 3, 2017
Cache County Sheriff’s Department
Logan UT
He has gone home to rest for the final time
Officer Kilo Endy is 10-42 … Good Boy Endy

K9

The first to sense the hostility of a suspect,
The first to react to protect his master.
The first to enter where danger lurks.
The first to detect the hidden intruder.
The first to take action against violence.
The first to sense his master’s joy.
The first to know his master’s sorrow or fear.
The first to give his life in defense of his master.
The last to be forgotten by those who work with others like him.
They know him as a “Partner,” not just an animal.

 

 

Endy's Tennis Ball
K-9 Endy’s Tennis Ball

 

 

 

 

 

K-9 Freckles ~ A Senior Beagle’s Unnecessary Death…

K-9 Freckles ~ A Senior Beagle’s Unnecessary Death…

Okaloosa Correctional Institution is located in Crestview Florida, which is part of Okaloosa County and under the direct supervision of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. The correctional facility can house approximately 900 inmates and employs a variety of staff including K9s. One of them was K-9 Freckles, an 11-year-old beagle who, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, was “a great dog with a great nose who set the bar high for her counterparts.”

AR-160519398

Law enforcement had been looking for an alleged car thief, Eric Russell, since May 7, 2017, when he fled after officers attempted to pull him over for a traffic stop. On May 11 several agencies along with K9s took part in the manhunt for Russell. The OCSO utilized Okaloosa Correctional K-9 Freckles in the search and tragically she died. On their Facebook page, the OCSO said Freckles “either overheated or suffered a heart attack“.

Okaloosa County is located in the Northeast part of Florida close to the Alabama border. The weather on May 11 was approximately 85 degrees.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office announced  they captured Eric Russell around 10 pm that same night. 

Beagles are mostly used in airports, harbors and correctional facilities to sniff out narcotics and any illegal substances. Because of their size, they are easy to lift into areas which a person otherwise can’t access. They can also be fast, swift and great for tracking. Beagles are also used as cadaver dogs to sniff out bodies or substances.

I kept reading comments by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office that K-9 Freckles died “doing what she loved best”. On their Facebook page, where you can also view K-9 Freckles procession, many people posted that Eric Russell killed K-9 Freckles. This really bothered me for several reasons. She was 11- years old and as seen in this photo, a bit overweight.

IMG_4854

I started to do a bit of research and learned that the average life expectancy of a beagle is 12 to 15 years, with a median of 13.5 years. In this informative article by the National Beagle Club, a beagle is considered a senior at age 7. This also addresses the problems seniors develop such as the decrease in their ability to regulate their body temperature, arthritis, and excess weight. Still curious, I emailed a long time handler friend and asked his opinion. He was kind enough to allow me to use it in my post as long as I removed any personal information.

Honestly, I’ve only seen them used as narcotic dogs and they excel at it. Beagles can be used to track but it’s not very realistic to have them actively track in a manhunt despite their great noses. Scenario – we’re tracking a suspect that may or may not be armed and he runs into the woods ok? The beagle would be able to track him fine but when he located the suspect what could the beagle do for me? Whereas if I’m using a Mal or GSD whose also certified in tracking, I can send him in on the suspect. Chances are he would comply more with what I’m saying with an aggressive sounding/looking Mal or GSD standing there as opposed to a beagle. And if the suspect resisted, a Mal or GSD could easily subdue him where a beagle can’t.

I reached the conclusion that there was NO excuse for this. This senior K9 officer was used to track a man who stole “Donnie’s truck” (found in one of the comments on the Facebook page) among other vehicles.  K-9 Freckles was a “jail dog” and as such would have been used to detect contraband inside the facility. I  don’t understand why they felt the need to utilize her for a car thief. Eric Russell wasn’t being hunted because of a violent crime such as rape or murder so why risk the health of a senior dog? Part of the responsibility that goes with being a K9 handler is to use common sense when utilizing them. One of the biggest considerations while working with a K9 is their health, fitness, and welfare. According to the National Police Dog Foundation, the average retirement age is approximately 10 years which is contingent on their health status. 

Chances are OSI has younger German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois to handle out of control inmates, riots and so forth. At age 11 K-9 Freckles should have been retired or strictly limited to inside the jail. Instead, she ran after a car thief till she died. Despite the Facebook posts calling K-9 Freckle’s death a LODD (line of duty death), I don’t see it that way. She died because either her handler or someone within the OCSO made the decision to take an 11-year-old dog carrying extra pounds on a small frame and have her track a car thief in 85-degree weather. This was not a line of duty death nor a death doing something she loved. It was a grievous and senseless death due to a poor decision and complete lack of judgment by whoever was in charge of K-9 Freckles. 

Several Florida handlers have made heinous blunders the past few years resulting in the death of their dogs. Even with the death of K-9 Freckles, there are more to come for the Summer of 2017.

K-9 Freckles

EOW  May 11, 2017

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office FL

She has gone home to rest for the final time

“Officer  Kilo Freckles is 10-42 … Good Girl Freckles”

K9

The first to sense the hostility of a suspect,
The first to react to protect his master.
The first to enter where danger lurks.
The first to detect the hidden intruder.
The first to take action against violence.
The first to sense his master’s joy.
The first to know his master’s sorrow or fear.
The first to give his life in defense of his master.
The last to be forgotten by those who work with others like him.
They know him as a “Partner,” not just an animal.

 

💙Next up ~ another Florida K9 dies while trapped in a hot car🖤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

K-9 Doki ~ Have You Forgotten Him?…

K-9 Doki ~ Have You Forgotten Him?…

Heat-related K9 deaths ~ and so it begins for 2017.

HKheatrise2

K-9 Doki, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois with the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, Ridgeland, SC, died on April 20, 2017.  According to the Jasper County Sun Times, K9-Doki’s death was attributed to heat exhaustion when the K-9 vehicle he was in experienced a “malfunction causing the temperature to rise to an unsafe level,” the JCSO said. He was rushed to a veterinarian hospital where tragically he died. According to Accuweather.com, the outside temperature in Ridgeland, SC on April 20 was 85 degrees F.

Doki 2 year old Belgium Malinois

How long K-9 Doki was in the vehicle is unknown. Very little is known about K-9 Doki except that he had been with the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office for approximately one year. This article refers to the announcement of his death on the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page but I wasn’t able to locate it.  They have two Facebook pages but the first one says it’s their official page whereas the second doesn’t.

In either case, neither page mentions K-9 Doki nor are there any photographs, almost as if he’s been forgotten. 

I  was also unable to find any mention of a funeral, memorial service or tribute of any kind. It is as if he never existed which is truly heartbreaking because Doki’s life did matter. Perhaps The JCSO should read this and take heed.

A Working Dog’s Oath
I will lay down my life for you
and expect nothing but love in return.
I protect my officer with my life,
and would gladly take a bullet in his place.
I am sent in to find lost children
and fugitives on the run.
I find drugs and weapons and even bombs.
I am the first sent in  

and sometimes the last to leave.
I am the nose and ears of my officer.

I will protect and serve him.
I would die for him and for you.
I only ask for compassion and a kind word

K9

The first to sense the hostility of a suspect,

The first to react to protect his master.

The first to enter where danger lurks.

The first to detect the hidden intruder.

The first to take action against violence.

The first to sense his master’s joy.

The first to know his master’s sorrow or fear.

The first to give his life in defense of his master.

The last to be forgotten by those who work with others like him.

They know him as a “Partner,” not just an animal.

doki-jpg-1492714144

Your Life Mattered Dear Boy…

 

🖤Next Up ~ The return of a monster.💙

Maine’s New Drug Law: Veterinary Visits Get Complicated….Part 2

Maine’s New Drug Law: Veterinary Visits Get Complicated….Part 2

Why are the legislators in Maine including veterinarians in a bill that is geared towards stemming the opiate epidemic?

The nation has an opioid abuse problem and it’s naive to think some animals owners have never diverted their pet’s medication or sought drugs for the animal when it’s really for them. To vet shop, however, requires more than doctor shopping. When doctor shopping one much be a very good actor. If you have a history of chronic pain even better. Veterinarian shopping requires a prop; your animal. It means establishing a profile for your pet at numerous veterinary practices. It means paying multiple veterinary bills to get drugs which A. aren’t really the type an addict wants and B. could be obtained cheaper on the street or through friends.

It’s not uncommon for veterinarians to prescribe painkillers to animals that suffer from chronic pain or that have undergone surgery. In some cases, these painkillers can be opioid-based. But what our legislators fail to take into consideration is the dosing difference between humans and animals; the dosing difference between felines and canines. And unlike a human who can “act” the part of a person in pain and verbalize their symptoms, animals can’t. Because they cannot communicate, non-verbal cues are the best way to determine the severity of a pet’s pain regardless of what the owner says. The veterinarian listens to the owner describe what Pup or Kitty are doing but then does a physical assessment of the animal. The last two decades have seen a huge change in the way veterinary medicine addresses pain in an animal. Whereas the previous line of thinking was Animals don’t feel pain” or “Keep them quiet and it will speed their healing because they won’t move around much”. Thankfully the veterinary profession has embraced the idea of pain management for both large and small animals and several pain scales are currently in use. Colorado State University Veterinary Medical Center uses this scale to evaluate acute pain in kittens and this one to evaluate acute canine pain.

A November 2015  publication from JAMA  gives an excellent overview of how pain is assessed and evaluated in animals whether it’s acute as in surgical or chronic like osteoarthritis. And if one is fortunate to live in a progressive area, there are even pain management clinics for animals like the one at Cummings Hospital which is part of The Veterinary School of Medicine at Tufts University in Massachusetts. More than ever, veterinarians are aware of the pain in animals whether it be a broken leg, advanced arthritis or cancer. This excellent article, The Hurt Unlocker, by Genevieve Rajewski, Editor for Tufts Veterinary School, gives a great overview of pain in animals and how it’s best managed.

PL 488 requires the following parameters for veterinarians:

  • All veterinarians who prescribe opiates or benzodiazepines must register as data requesters with the PMP
  • All veterinarians must check the records of the individual seeking care for the animal, and if appropriate the owner, prior to prescribing opiates or benzodiazepines. A valid state or federal photo ID should be checked, and a birthdate and the full name must be acquired in order to check the PMP of an individual. This would also apply to anyone you had to drop off or pick up Fido.
  • All written prescriptions must include a DEA number.
  • All prescriptions intended for use by an animal must indicate such use on the prescription.
  • Diagnosis and exemption codes are not required for veterinary prescriptions.
  • As of July 1, 2017, veterinarians with the capability to prescribe electronically will be required to do so. In April 2017 a waiver is expected to be released that will allow veterinarians without the capability to apply to be exempt.
  • The Aggregate Morphine Milligram Equivalent for the person who either owns the animal or is transporting.  The 100 MME/daily limit would include the anticipated new prescription.
  • The number of prescribers currently prescribing controlled substances to the individual.
  • The number of pharmacies currently filling prescriptions for controlled substances for the individual.
  • Veterinarians will be required to complete three hours of CE (continuing education) related to the prescription of opioids by December 31, 2017, and subsequently every two years. **

The Maine Veterinary Medical Association has even “helped” veterinarians by preparing a presentation  plus consent form for the humans to sign which gives the veterinarian or his designate permission to access the person’s drug records. What exactly does that mean? If narcotics are being prescribed, the human bringing the animal in or picking the animal up must consent to have their drug records accessed by someone in the veterinary practice. Let’s think about this for a minute. Your dog has surgery and because of the postoperative pain, the veterinarian wants to prescribe tramadol, a Schedule III narcotic as of 2014. Because of work hours, you ask your neighbor to pick Fido up. Imagine their shock when they have to fill out the consent form, show their driver’s license or another form of photo ID and wait while their drug profile is accessed and evaluated by a veterinarian, highly trained and skilled in animal medicine. And if the veterinarian calculating the human dosage determines your neighbor is at the top of the 100 MMEs daily allotment and the tramadol for your dog would exceed that amount, legally they can’t prescribe it. Also, a veterinarian had no way of knowing why a person is on the controlled drugs; only that they are. Based on numbers found in a database, a highly skilled veterinarian is being ordered by the State of Maine to practice veterinary medicine but use human protocols. In short, they are being mandated to practice outside their scope which is a violation. To ask a veterinarian who as I outlined in my previous post has extensive knowledge of animal physiology to prescribe pain medication for an animal based on how much of the daily allotment a human already has prescribed for them by a medical doctor is absolutely ludicrous.

Then there is palliative care for an animal with an end-stage disease that is painful. The State has not set any exemptions for veterinarians but has for human doctors.

Prescribers are exempt from the limits on opioid medication prescribing established in this rule if:

  1. Pain associated with active and aftercare cancer treatment. Providers must document in the medical record that the pain experienced by the individual is directly related to the individual’s cancer or cancer treatment. An exemption for aftercare cancer treatment may be claimed up to six months post remission

  2. Palliative care in conjunction with a serious illness;

As someone who had a beloved dog diagnosed with canine lymphoma in October 2015, I would have been beyond furious if her oncologist couldn’t prescribe opiates for her as she neared the end ~ simply because my daughter or I were at the top of the daily allotment. 

Addiction is an epidemic that can no longer be ignored. However the welfare of innocent animals should not be impacted, veterinarians mandated to operate at best, on the fringe of their scope of practice, nor our guarantee of privacy under HIPAA violated because neither veterinarians nor their staff is bound by HIPPA regulations.

Yet the State of Maine is doing all of these things.

IMG_2608 (1)

Maine: Passed A Law That Could Harm Animals And Their Veterinarians…Part 1

Maine: Passed A Law That Could Harm Animals And Their Veterinarians…Part 1

Like nearly every state, Maine is dealing with an opiate and heroin epidemic. In 2015, Maine experienced 272 overdose related fatalities.

In an effort to combat the opiate epidemic, the Maine Legislature enacted   P.L. 2015, ch. 488 (An Act to Prevent Opiate Abuse by Strengthening the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program) which became effective January 1, 2017. PL 488 affects nearly all facets of healthcare by establishing specific rules for prescribing and dispensing controlled medications. It defines the protocols that must be followed and sets prescription limits on how much opiate a patient may legally be prescribed to take per day. This is called the Aggregate Morphine Milligram Equivalent and the total daily amount allowed is 100 Morphine Milligram Equivalents (100 MMEs).

PL 488 mandates that whenever a medical provider prescribes a controlled substance, they first check the PMP (Prescription Monitoring Program) to review the MME for the patient, what controlled drugs the patient is currently taking, who prescribed them and the pharmacy that filled the prescription. They must calculate if the drug they want to prescribe will, when added to the patient’s current daily MMEs, increase the allowed 100 MMEs and if so, not prescribe it. They must note if there are multiple prescriptions, providers or pharmacies. If the provider notices anything in the patients PMP profile that raises a red flag, they are required by law to report it to the PMP Coordinator. There are of course many other components to PL 488 but I only want to touch on the highlights and how it impacts Maine residents who are pet owners in addition to veterinarians. Yes, that’s correct ~ veterinarians because Maine’s Legislatures have determined that the inclusion of veterinarians in PL 488 will help reduce the opiate epidemic. I disagree because including veterinarians in PL 488 creates two major violations. First, however, I’d like to walk you through a veterinarian’s education.

If a young person thinks they want to become a veterinarian, they should begin preparing in high school by paying attention to their performance in science courses, such as chemistry, biology, and physics. This same attention applies to math courses; trigonometry, geometry, and algebra. After high school graduation the student attends a 4 year college to earn their bachelor’s degree where they take the prerequisite courses for admittance into veterinary college.These consist of many advanced science courses, such as biochemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, and physics. They are necessary to prepare the student for the vigorous coursework in veterinary college. Prospective veterinarians must complete a doctor of veterinary medicine degree. Typically, a doctorate in veterinary medicine takes four years to complete. Of these four years, three are spent on classroom training where students take courses in animal anatomy and physiology. They also take courses on disease diagnosis, prevention and treatment. After completing three years of classroom training, students take another year left to complete their degree in veterinary medicine. The fourth year is typically spent getting practical, hands-on training. This takes the form of a one-year clinical rotation in a veterinary medical center or veterinary hospital to gain experience in a variety of areas of veterinary medicine. After graduating with a doctorate in veterinary medicine, veterinarians are not yet able to open a practice. Before practicing veterinary medicine, graduates must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination and any applicable state exams. Their path is definitely not a short one but throughout it is focused primarily on one thing ~ animal anatomy, physiology and wellness. 

Maines’s new PL 488 and its impact on veterinarians is such. If an owner takes their pet to be seen and the veterinarian feels it necessary to prescribe a narcotic or benzodiazepine for your pet, they must first do a check on the owner with DHHS to determine if the owner is taking a controlled substance. As I previously mentioned I still need to clarify the parameters but the fact that a veterinarian or perhaps his staff has the power to access a person’s prescriptions is a huge HIPAA violation. But I digress. Let’s use a hypothetical situation. The owner has an anxiety disorder for which he takes Valium on a daily basis. He also has a severe back issue (long-term) so is on hydrocodone for pain control. His cat is hit by a car and taken to the vet where she undergoes successful emergency surgery but because her injuries are severe, the vet prescribes a pain medication; hydrocodone. Would the fact that the owner is on hydrocodone prohibit the vet from prescribing it for the cat’s postoperative pain? If so, would he be allowed to prescribe a different pain medication such as tramadol which also falls in the opiate category? Is he is prohibited from prescribing any narcotic because the owner is on two (2)?  Or is it only if the owner is on the same drug? If his prescriptive powers are limited because the owner is taking a controlled substance, what criteria is used to determine if the animal can or cannot get a prescription?

Whilst I understand the opiate epidemic our country is tackling, how can a veterinarian or anyone for that matter be absolutely certain that a person who is taking several controlled drugs is abusing or trafficking? Plus the thought that an innocent animal might have to suffer needlessly because his owner is on a controlled substance is not only abhorrent but inhumane.  I want to know if it’s possible for the check to be done during non-business hours when DHHS is closed. Does the veterinarian’s office have to speak directly to a DHHS employee or is the information accessible online? And if it is accessible online, how can we, the human patient, be assured it’s secure? If the drug check on the owner can’t be done when DHHS is closed, then what happens to the animal who is in pain?  Any pet owner knows that many accidents happen at night, weekends or holidays when government agencies like DHHS are closed; what then?  Going back to HIPAA, who has authority within the veterinary practice to request the DHHS information? Can a receptionist do it? A vet tech? Or only the veterinarian? Finally, I do not understand how PL 488, a state law, can override HIPAA, a federal law enacted in 1996 by Congress and signed into effect by then President Bill Clinton. Under HIPAA an individual’s medical and other health information including prescriptions is private and protected. The Privacy Law sets limits on who can look at and receive our health information such as covered entities and their business associates. As a nurse and former Union representative, I am extremely familiar with HIPAA. In light of PL 488, however, I reviewed it once again and nowhere did I find where veterinarians, veterinary technicians, or veterinary employees of any type are entitled to our records in any form. Additionally, PL 488 is, in essence, requiring veterinarians to understand human medication dosages compared to animals which often differ greatly.

I chose a veterinary team for my German Shepherd based on their reputations and expertise in animal physiology, not human. I value all members of her team despite being in different practices because of their knowledge. Having said that, I expect they keep current with the newest modalities of treatment for my dog. They work long hours yet now the State of Maine expects them to undertake additional training in order to understand and monitor the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP)?  A program historically used only for humans?

This is ludicrous. There has to be a middle ground, a way the government, human healthcare providers, and law enforcement can work together in an effort to reduce the rampant drug abuse without violating a person’s rights or including veterinarians where there is potential for an animal to suffer because “something” raises a red flag when in reality it could be legitimate.

Veterinary Visits In Maine Just Got Complicated…

Veterinary Visits In Maine Just Got Complicated…

Like nearly every state, Maine is dealing with an opiate and heroin epidemic. In 2015, Maine experienced 272 overdose related fatalities. In January 2017 one of Maine’s media outlets, WMTW, did an outstanding feature entitled Goodnight moon, goodnight mum,’ ‘Chronicle’ investigates Maine’s heroin epidemic. Anchor David Charns did a phenomenal job detailing the pain and heartache of addiction through a series of interviews and videos including one with Oxford County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Matthew Baker Sergeant who, moments after arriving home from work in February 2015, discovered his 23-year-old daughter Ronni near death in the upstairs bathroom. Despite CPR from her father and several doses of Narcan by paramedics, she died, leaving behind an 11-month-old daughter Claire. Ronni’s daughter, now 2, lives with her grandparents and is the source of the name of the WMTW article:

When Claire asks for her mother, she and her grandfather look up, past that second-floor bathroom, to the sky. “I’ve always told her that that full moon is mum,” Baker said. “We go outside, and she says, ‘Goodnight moon and goodnight mum.'”

In an effort to combat the Maine opiate epidemic, the Maine Legislature enacted Public Law 488 which became effective January 1, 2017. PL488 affects nearly all facets of healthcare except in this law, veterinarians are included. I didn’t have all the exact data on PL488 so reached out to my State Senator, Thomas Saviello. I must tell you, he is the only government official to respond during the two weeks I called and emailed various agencies, elected officials including the State House. A sad indictment against them but a huge kudos for Senator Saviello. 

What I do know about PL488 and its impacts on veterinarians is such. If an owner takes their pet to be seen and the veterinarian feels it necessary to prescribe a narcotic or benzodiazepine for your pet, they must first do a check on the owner with DHHS to determine if the owner is taking a controlled substance. As I previously mentioned I still need to clarify the parameters but the fact that a veterinarian or perhaps his staff has the power to access a person’s prescriptions is a huge HIPAA violation. But I digress. Let’s use a hypothetical situation. The owner has an anxiety disorder for which he takes Valium on a daily
basis. He also has a severe back issue (long-term) so is on hydrocodone for pain control. His cat is hit by a car and taken to the vet where she undergoes successful emergency surgery but because her injuries are severe, the vet prescribes a pain medication; hydrocodone. Would the fact that the owner is on hydrocodone prohibit the vet from prescribing it for the cat’s postoperative pain? If so, would he be allowed to prescribe a different pain medication such as tramadol which also falls in the opiate category? Is
he is prohibited from prescribing any narcotic because the owner is on two (2)?  Or is it only if the owner is on the same drug? If his prescriptive powers are limited
because the owner is taking a controlled substance, what criteria is used to determine if the animal can or cannot get a prescription?

Whilst I understand the opiate epidemic our country is tackling, how can a veterinarian or anyone for that matter be absolutely certain that a person who is taking several controlled drugs is abusing or trafficking? Plus the thought that an innocent animal might have to suffer needlessly because his owner is prescribed a controlled substance is not only abhorrent but inhumane.  I want to know if it’s possible for the check to be done during non-business hours when DHHS is closed. Does the veterinarian’s office have to speak directly to a DHHS employee or is the information accessible online? And if it is accessible online, how can we, the human patient, be assured it’s secure? If the drug check on the owner can’t be done when DHHS is closed, then what happens to the animal who is in pain?  Any pet owner knows that many accidents happen at night, weekends or holidays when government agencies like DHHS are closed; what then?  Going back to HIPAA, who has authority within the veterinary practice to request the DHHS information? Can a receptionist do it? A vet tech? Or only the veterinarian? Finally, I do not understand how PL488, a state law, can override HIPAA, a federal law enacted in 1996 by Congress and signed into effect by then-President Bill Clinton. Under HIPAA an individual’s medical and other health information including prescriptions is private and protected. The Privacy Law sets limits on who can look at and receive our health information such as covered entities and their business associates. As a nurse and former Union representative, I am extremely familiar with HIPAA. In light of PL488, however, I reviewed it once again and nowhere did I find where veterinarians, veterinary technicians, or veterinary employees of any type are entitled to our records in any form. Additionally, PL488 is, in essence, requiring veterinarians to understand human medication dosages compared to animals which often differ greatly.hipaa_violations_by_type_-_pie_chart

I chose a veterinary team for my German Shepherd based on their reputations and expertise in animal physiology, not human. I value all members of her team despite being in different practices because of their knowledge. Having said that, I expect they keep current with the newest modalities of treatment for my dog. They work long hours yet now the State of Maine expects them to undertake additional training in order to understand and monitor the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP)?  A program historically used only for humans?

This is ludicrous. There has to be a middle ground, a way the government, human healthcare providers, and law enforcement can work together in an effort to reduce the rampant drug abuse without violating a person’s rights or including veterinarians where there is potential for an animal to suffer because “something” raises a red flag when in reality it could be legitimate.

Once I have all the specifics, I’ll revisit this in a future post.

funny-dog-pictures-your-dog-has-a-tummyache

Update on Luke Stribling, Puppy Killer…

Update on Luke Stribling, Puppy Killer…

Ever since I launched my petition something has bothered me  ~ the media discrepancies in some Florida outlets. It didn’t make sense (yes I’m one of THOSE people who needs an answer) that two media reports would give a completely different version than other media sources about a single event; the first time Luke Stribling took  his puppy Julian to a vet for a broken leg on June 12. Since I wrote the petition, it was extremely important that it be accurate. So I went back the other day to look at the two original  media articles and to my shock they had been changed. Gone was all the damning indictments against both the first veterinarian and animal services for allowing Luke to take an abused puppy home. If I hadn’t archived the original stories I would have thought I definitely lost my marbles. So I emailed each reporter to subtly ask why the change yet neither responded. Hmmmmm.

I contacted Orlando Animal Services to put in a records request under FOIA. They hit my in box the next day. Impressive! Then I reached out to the first veterinary practice and was finally able to connect with the practice manager. You see, the two media reports said that when Stribling brought his puppy in for a broken leg the treating vet became suspicious, did an MRI which revealed even more fractures. Both stories went on to say that the veterinary practice notified authorities but there was “insufficient evidence to seize the puppy” so little Julian went home with Stribling. Not sure if it was over zealous reporting, misinformation, or misconstruing information received but the first veterinary practice never became suspicious because the story Luke told was plausible; Julian caught his leg in the dock slot as he was being walked. They didn’t do an MRI and in fact the practice doesn’t even have an MRI machine. No additional fractures were found and they never called animal services. It bothered me that the two initial media reports gave such detailed yet erroneous information because  what they reported is the type of thing that can tarnish reputations. So I edited my petition today and explained why.

Sadly, everything that occurred when Stribling brought his dead puppy to the vet on June 26 is true. In fact, its even worse than reported.  Reading that poor baby’s necropsy report was difficult for I could actually visualize his last minutes of life and it was disturbing. Forget that I’m a nurse who’s seen more than my share of “gruesome”. Forget that I’m a volunteer disaster nurse with DHHS and have been activated to several equally gruesome disasters. Sitting in a chair reading that report brought tears to my eyes ~ a lot of them

anger-ed84dd3c-7d62-439a-bd2d-7be57a04ec15

Even though I’ve survived brutality, I’ve never understood why people feel the need to inflict harm. Do they have mutated chromosomes? Or is their gene pool deficient? And how the hell did this pollutant of life, Stribling, manage to reach age 20 without anyone noticing his low frustration tolerance  or propensity for anger? Anger that in an innocent puppy’s case led to a violent death? Frustration and anger are related emotions, but they’re not identical. Some people are able to control anger or frustration and channel these feelings to nondestructive outlets. I get angry sometimes with automated phone systems that seem like an endless merry go round i.e. press this for that, press that for this only to wind up reaching the persons voice mail, leave a message and never get a callback. Frustrating and invokes anger. Yet I don’t throw the phone at the wall or scream when I finally reach a human. Well ~ there WAS that one time after I’d hung up that I threw the phone at the fireplace mantle but we’ll chalk that up to cabin fever as I was homebound. Alone with a broken leg in a wheelchair. In Maine where there’s still snow in April. I actually broke my leg in a terrible snowstorm on wait for it………….April 1!

But all joking aside, why did I toss a phone in an isolated event rooted in frustration while others, like several of the gunmen who committed mass murders, kill people?  Why does someone like Luke Stribling  exhibit a frightening lack of control because his little 7 1/2 pound puppy tinkled on the floor? Such a loss of control that  he punched, kicked and slapped Julian and till he eventually killed him. The necropsy report indicates the severity of the puppy’s injuries and that they’d been going on for some time. He lived in virtual fear of his owner yet no one noticed? No one saw that Luke had anger management issues? Well that is other than Luke’s friends who told investigators AFTER Julian’s death that Luke punched and kicked the puppy for tinkle accidents.

luke-s