Last month, Maine Veterinary Medical Center (MVMC, a hospital of Rarebreed Veterinary Partners group), treated and saved the life of Jaxx, a 4-month-old German Shepherd Dog. Jaxx was in critical condition and required emergency surgery for accidental ingestion of a skewer that penetrated his stomach and diaphragm. The owner was given options for payment plans, but, at the time, the owner did not have finances available. Rather than euthanize Jaxx, MVMC offered what many pets do not have the opportunity to receive – full medical care if the owner relinquished ownership to the hospital and allowed him to be rehomed. The owner agreed to surrender Jaxx to MVMC, and they proceeded with emergency surgery, saved his life, and found him a new home. Jaxx survived due to the options offered by MVMC and their excellent medical care.
This story received significant attention from the public after a local Maine newspaper reported from the owner’s perspective. The owner expressed concern and disappointment of the cost of emergency care and that MVMC would not give her dog back to her after treatment was performed, after she could provide funds.
Since the article was published, MVMC has received abundant backlash from the public, including repeated phone calls with threats to burn down the hospital, as well as death threats to their employees and their families. The severity and frequency of threats have forced MVMC to have guards 24/7 and have left the hospital unable to take all the phone calls from clients who need medical care for their patients.
While we appreciate the outpour of support that has been shared online, we are all saddened by the abhorrent reactions placed on the MVMC staff and the veterinary profession. MVMC allowed Jaxx the opportunity that many do not have – a chance at a full life after life-saving medical care. We veterinary professionals work hard to get where we are; we endure years of education/training as well as years of family/financial hardships so that we can give pets the best medical care. All of us are driven by the deep emotional attachments we have to our patients and our incredible concern for the well-being of our patients.
We now have specialized support groups and veterinary social workers to help veterinary professionals work through challenges we face in our professional and personal lives. For many of us, our wellbeing is compromised since we are faced with life/death decisions for our patients, the need to process the emotions of clients and our own emotions, pandemic-related staffing challenges, and financial debt from our education. Threats of violence against us and our families add to a growing list of challenges veterinary teams endure to provide medical care for their patients.
We support MVMC and all our veterinary colleagues who face the typical challenges in our everyday line of work. We also support our clients who may not be able to afford – or may not want to proceed with – available treatment options. Our job is to offer options that minimize suffering and maximize the quality of life to all our patients, which is exactly what MVMC provided. I could not be prouder of what our veterinary profession provides for our communities.
As an organization – and as a human being – SAGE and I condemn any abuse (verbal or otherwise), personal attacks, blame, or threats directed at our employees or our veterinary colleagues. If you have concerns regarding the care of your pet, kindly reach out to your medical team to discuss. Know that we have the same goal as you do: to help your pet get better.
We love what we provide for the community. We love serving our patients. As MVMC wishes of everyone: Please be kind.
Wendi Velando Rankin, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Oncology)
Chief Medical Officer