West Justice Center
8141 13th Street
Westminster, CA 92683
Small Claims Case No. 00WS01209
Filed: March 10, 2000
Animal Critical Care Center Inc.
DBA: All-Care Animal Referral Center
Oct. 24, 1999 through Oct. 29, 1999. Gross negligence in the
handling, treatment, care, and withholding medication for the
treatment of Alex, resulting in his death.
Judgment for the Plaintiff in the amount of $3,607.92 plus costs
Plaintiff does not owe defendant any money on defendant's
OTHER: Claim of defendant DENIED.
Below is a
written account of the events involved:
This letter is in regards to All Care Animal Referral Centers
fraud, misrepresentation, negligence, and mistreatment in the
care of our Shetland Sheepdog, Alex Hayslett, which resulted in
On the night of October 22nd 1999 at 8:00 pm Alex's heart
rate was low, it was at 60 beats per minute. Since Alex was on
Thyroid medication I often took his heart rate.
We were very worried. So I repeatedly took his heart rate
with my stethoscope and his heart rate was jumping around from
60 beats per minute to 50 beats per minute for over 30 minutes.
Normal heart rates range from 90 to 150 beats per minute. My
husband rushed Alex to the Kern Emergency Animal Clinic at 4300
Easton Drive, Bakersfield, California, where Dr. Bielak was on
Dr. Bielak asked if we would allow him to give Alex an
injection of Atropine to make his heart rate go up, which we
decided against at that time, this was approximately 9:00 pm on
October 22nd 1999.
We brought Alex home and continued to monitor his heart rate.
At approximately 11:00 pm that night (22nd of October 1999)
Alex's heart rate dropped to 40 beats per minute.
I called back and spoke with Dr. Bielak and he said to bring
Alex in and he would keep him over night and run some tests. We
took Alex back in at 12 midnight and let Dr. Bielak do what he
thought was best. Blood Test and EKG where conducted and he gave
Alex some Atropine to help speed up his heart rate.
Dr. Bielak also gave Alex his Thyroid medication because he
thought we might have gotten a bad batch of Thyroid medicine
from our Veterinarian. Thinking that maybe this was why Alex's
heart rate was so low. The extra Thyroid medication did nothing.
Alex's Thyroid medication had been changed a week prior to this
because he was having fainting spells and Dr. Sherri Hughes said
Alex's Thyroid levels must be low.
That was on October 16th 1999 and Dr. Sherri Hughes changed
Alex's Thyroid medicine (Soloxine) from .3mcgs/day to 3.mcgs
Dr. Sherri Hughes is Alex's long time Veterinarian and the
only one who took care of him except in Emergency situations.
Dr. Bielak at the Kern Emergency Animal Clinic gave Alex the
Atropine and Alex's heart rate went up some but not enough. Dr.
Bielak said Alex's EKG did not look good; Alex had a lot of
P'waves which indicated heart problems. Dr. Bielak said the
blood work came back and Alex's potassium was a little too high.
Dr. Bielak said he could not get the Sodium Levels because the
machine was not reading them at the time. He also stated to me
that Alex needed a pacemaker right away and that he thought this
would save Alex's life.
Dr. Bielak put Alex on an IV Solution and added Sodium to get
his potassium down. He told us to pick Alex up before 8:00 am on
the 23rd, which we did, and he told us to take him to our
Veterinarian and check Alex.
Dr. Bielak said we should get Alex down to All Care Animal
Referral Center immediately to get a pacemaker as soon as
possible. He told us that was Alex's only hope with a heart rate
that was so low.
So my husband picked up Alex at approximately at 7:45 am on
the 23rd of October 1999 and took him immediately to our
Veterinarian, but Dr. Sherri Hughes was on vacation and the
doctor that was filling in for her told us he knew no real
history on Alex and could not help at this time. That was at
8:30 am on October 23rd 1999. He saw the low heart rate and said
he may need a pacemaker.
We brought Alex home and called All Care Animal Referral
Center and asked them if they could take care of Alex's problem
needing a pacemaker and they said yes, no problem at all. They
install pacemakers quite often. We faxed all of the blood tests,
EKG, and all of what Dr. Bielak had done to All Care Animal
Referral Center so they had a copy of everything that was done
to Alex. All Care Animal Referral Center said taking care of
Alex's needs were not a problem, the sooner the operation the
better and they would be looking to do the surgery Sunday the
We were concerned as to what kind of life Alex would have
after the Surgery. They assured us that Alex would have a
fruitful life, bark and run as usual but not quite as long as
before. A pacemaker would control his heart rate not letting it
get too low.
So, thinking that Alex was going to be taken care of we sent
him down to All Care Animal Referral Center on a van that they
provide here in Bakersfield. John, of All Care Animal Referral
Center, picked him up at 1:00 pm at our Vets Office (Olive Drive
Hospital) on October 23rd 1999. John indicated that a prepayment
was required so a check was made out to All Care Animal Referral
Center for $250.00, which they subsequently cashed.
Alex got to All Care Animal Referral Center at approximately
5:00 pm on the 23rd 1999.
I had to call to make sure he got there alright, although
John told me All Care would call the minute that Alex got there,
they did not.
Later that day I received a call from Dr. Krawiec of All Care
Animal Referral Center. He asks if he could shave Alex's chest
to do an Ultrasound of Alex's heart. I said "yes",
that was fine and he told me he would call me back with the
Dr. Krawiec called back about an hour later and told me that
Alex really needed a pacemaker right away so they would be doing
surgery first thing in the morning on October 24th, 1999. He
told me it would cost approximately $1,400 dollars to $2,400 to
do the pacemaker surgery and we agreed on that amount.
Waiting for a call on the morning of the 24th of October 1999
thinking Alex had the Surgery and that they were calling to tell
us it was all done and that Alex was all right. But, instead we
got a call telling us that they had a pacemaker but not the
correct leads, so the surgery was cancelled, to our dismay and
added grief for our poor Alex.
Dr. Krawiec then said Alex had a bloody stool and it was a
good thing he did not do the pacemaker surgery. He said no
pacemakers would be available until later in the week. We were
worried that if Alex did not receive the pacemaker right a way
(as they had previously indicated was necessary), he may not
survive. They assured us that they would take good care of him
and he would be OK until they received the necessary parts to
complete the surgery. He told me that they had Alex on Atropine
and that seemed to be keeping Alex's heart rate up a little, at
least 60 or more beats per minute. They would be testing him for
what was causing the bloody stool, and had put him on
Amoxicillin (for the bloody stool).
Dr. Krawiec was only there for that week-end of the 23rd and
24th of October, and said that other doctors would be taking
care of Alex from then on until he returned the next weekend.
This led us to believe that other doctors would be doing the
surgery. Dr. Krawiec had told us right from the start when Alex
first got there, the sooner they did the pacemaker the better.
Dr. Krawiec told us that there was a doctor, a Cardiologist from
UC Davis that was there at All Care Hospital that week-end of
the 23rd and 24th 1999 that could do the pacemaker surgery. They
lead us to believe that pacemaker surgery was needed immediately
to take care of Alex's problem, even before John from All Care
Animal Referral Center picked Alex up.
We believe they mislead us from the start by impressing upon
us the urgency of the pacemaker surgery and then not having the
correct equipment to do the surgery. We wonder if they ever had
a Cardiologist there at All Care Animal Referral Center that
They constantly came up with one excuse after another. First
they scheduled surgery for the 24th of October on Alex for a
pacemaker, then saying they had no leads to a pacemaker, also
leading us to believe that a Cardiologist would be there to do
the pacemaker. When in fact there was no Cardiologist present
that could do this pacemaker surgery, nor did they have the
proper equipment to install a pacemaker.
They did not tell us at any time during that whole entire
week to take Alex to a Cardiologist, or refer us to someone who
could have done the pacemaker surgery immediately. Not ever once
did they do this. Had All Care Animal Referral Center done so,
our Alex would have gotten a pacemaker right away, there would
not have been a delay and Alex would still be here. They
informed us at All Care Animal Referral Center that Alex's
chances were excellent if he had pacemaker surgery right away.
There are several Cardiologists close by All Care Animal
Referral Hospital that could have done a pacemaker immediately,
but we were never ever told.
Dr. Kwawiec of All Care Referral Center said it was quite
clear that Alex had 3rd degree heart block. If Atropine does not
speed up the heart rate, the only procedure to correct a 3rd
degree heart block is to install a Pacemaker immediately or the
animal will die. Alex should have been given the pacemaker
surgery right away. It was delayed for so long that Alex did die
an unnecessary death. He died on the 7th day after we were lead
to believe he needed pacemaker surgery immediately.
They continually delayed the surgery because they had no
Cardiologist there to perform this pacemaker surgery. They did
many unnecessary procedures that made Alex even weaker day by
day until he died on October 29th 1999.
On the day of the 25th of October 1999 I spoke to Dr. Hess
whom was taking care of Alex, he said Alex had no more bloody
stools, but that now Alex had fluid on his lungs, this was after
they took an x-ray.
They put Alex on Lasix to get rid of the fluid on his lungs.
They kept Alex on Lasix, IV fluids and Amoxicillin the whole
time that he was there.
Dr. Hess indicated that they were doing many blood tests and
would run an ACTH for Addisons Disease. I told Dr. Hess that Dr.
Bielak, the Emergency Veterinarian, had indicated that he
thought Alex may have Addisons Disease, but the more we
discussed that, the more we both knew that Alex did not have
Addisons Disease and did not need a ACTH test.
I called on the 25th and told them NOT to run an ACTH test on
Alex because I knew he did not have Addison's Disease. Alex had
never had any of the symptoms of Addison's Disease in all the
time we had him. The reason I know this is because I use to have
Addison's Disease for 17 years and I know what the symptoms are
for that disease. Alex had never had bloody stools, or throwing
up spells, nor any loss of appetite. Alex was a good eater and
had always been healthy, but Dr. Hess ran the test anyway, it
I continued to call many times a day checking on Alex.
On the 26th, Dr. Hess told me that Alex had thrown up 3 times
that day. Later that evening the attending doctor or assistant
told me that Alex had threw up twice because it was noted on
Alex's chart. They also told me they would be doing a liver
biopsy to see how Alex's liver was because of the vomiting. Alex
just needed a blood test to find out if he had Hepatitis liver
infection, no biopsy was needed.
Dr. Hess told me that he had ordered some special medication
to help Alex's heart do better and beat faster than the
Atropine, and it seemed to keep his heart rate at 60 or more
beats per minute.
Alex still had not been given any food all this time; he was
still on the IV fluids. I told Dr. Hess that Alex gets very
nervous when he is at the Veterinarians; he said no he was very
calm, not nervous. At that time I knew Dr. Hess would not listen
to anything I told him, I knew Alex as well as I know my own
children. I tried to explain to him that with a low heart rate
Alex was not active but that he was still very nervous. Dr.
Sherri Hughes knows just how nervous Alex gets, he hides under
chairs and shivers and shakes badly at the Veterinarians office.
On the 27th the liver test came back that afternoon early.
Dr. Hess said Alex had a Hepatatic liver infection. So, Dr. Hess
said he was adding a new Antibiotic to Alex's medications.
Dr. Hess also told me that he took Alex off the heart
medication because it did not work that good, although it seemed
to me that it keep his heart rate up. I had asked Dr. Hess
repeatedly why they were not doing the pacemaker surgery because
I felt that Alex was getting weaker and weaker. They had told us
from the first, the sooner the better. Dr. Hess said they were
waiting for Dr. Rooks to get back from vacation to do the
surgery on Sunday, October 31st 1999. I was taken back by this
and I told Dr. Hess that Alex would die and he said maybe he
would. This is the first time that they indicated to us that
Alex might not have a chance. Dr. Hess seemed to know at this
point that Alex may not survive without pacemaker surgery, but
still their solution was to wait.
Dr. Hess told me that the bill for the pacemaker and Alex's
care would now be about $3,500. This was told to me on that day
of the 27th right before Dr. Hess left for the day. Dr. Hess
directed me to their Accounting Department, which told me they
needed $1,550 right away. We mailed two checks, one for a $1,000
and another to be cashed later for $550.
On the afternoon of October 27th, 1999 I called a Dr. Mark
Kittleson at U C Davis in Sacramento and left a message
concerning pacemaker's for animals. Dr. Kittleson called me back
and I asked him as to why one would delay a pacemaker operation.
He said you would not want to wait but do it immediately or the
dog could die even if he had a liver infection. He referred me
to Dr. Lesser in the Los Angeles area.
I called Dr. Lesser and he indicated that he had talked to
Dr. Hess the day before on the 26th of October, and that they
had discussed Alex's situation. I asked Dr. Lesser if there was
any reason to hold off doing a pacemaker and he said no.
Dr. Lesser is not a Staff member of All Care Animal Referral
Center and cannot do pacemaker surgery there. He offered to do
the surgery at his hospital, but we were all very concerned
about moving Alex since he had gotten so weak from waiting for
All Care Referral Animal Center to do the pacemaker surgery.
Later on this day, the 27th, I called and spoke with either a
Doctor's Assistant or Tech assistant at All Care Animal Referral
Center. I asked her again why they were waiting to do the
pacemaker surgery, she told me that they had no pacemakers, nor
did they have a Doctor that could do a pacemaker surgery?
Approximately 5 minutes later she called me back and said Dr.
Hess said they had pacemakers there. What was I to believe after
all this time, it seemed like forever to me and surely to Alex.
I was not too sure that they knew what they were doing.
Dr. Hess asked us to bring Alex some food by the hospital, we
are approximately 3 hours from All Care Animal Referral Center.
We asked if one of the hospital staff could pick up some cans of
Alpo Prime Cuts (commonly found pet food) on their way to work
or when they went shopping and they said no one could go get
Alex his food. Later on they indicated that they would pick up
some food, but never did (I asked if they had). I contacted a
pet supply store nearby and a kind lady brought Alex his food.
Alex finally had his food to eat and ate it well as I was told.
On the 28th of October I was told Alex ate well again. I was
calling at least 4 or more times a day checking on Alex's
condition. I talked to many staff members over this period of
time. On the evening of the 28th, at 10:30 pm, I talked to one
of the Doctors there and he told me that Alex had urinated on
himself in his cage. He had never done this before. I ask the
Doctor how Alex's heart rate was, he told me it had now dropped
to as low as 25 beats per minute. I was totally appalled when I
heard this. Even today I still wonder why they took him off the
heart medicine, because it had been shown that it kept his Heart
rate at least at 50 or 60 beats per minute. Why did they not put
Alex back on the Atropine or other medication that would help
Alex's heart rate improve, or keep his heart rate higher than 25
beats per minute? We felt like we had sent our poor, frightened
Alex to an evil, incompetent organization to be tortured.
The Doctor told me that Alex was having trouble breathing so
they put him in an Oxygen tent (because it was available I was
told) at approximately 12:30 am on the 29th.
At 9:43 am on the morning of October 29th, 1999, I received a
call on my answering machine telling me that Alex was having
some trouble and to call back immediately. I received the
message at 10:30 am and immediately returned their call. Doctor
Hess said that Alex had gone into full cardiac arrest and died.
At this time I was totally devastated as to the incompetence
of Dr. Hess and All Care Animal Referral Center. They had led me
to believe that my Alex would be all right with the placement of
a pacemaker. They had led me to believe that they had a
pacemaker available and that they were going to perform the
surgery. They had led me to believe there was a Cardiologist on
staff there at All Care Animal Referral Center. They constantly
came up with one excuse after another delaying Alex's surgery.
They were not even compassionate or concerned to acquire Alex's
food that he needed. They took Alex off of Atropine or other
heart medicine and wondered why he started going down hill, they
did not have enough common sense as a professional Veterinarian
to administer the Atropine or other heart medicine that was
keeping him alive until they could perform the operation for the
pacemaker. They admitted that Alex may die without the pacemaker
and yet did not proceed with the surgery or the medication to
sustain his life. They intentionally removed the life sustaining
medication and delayed the surgery.
At this time I was so upset at the loss of Alex and the
incompetence of All Care Animal Referral Center, that we stopped
payment on all the checks. This was not done because of the lack
of sufficient funds in the account, it was done because All Care
Animal Referral Center failed to provide Alex the life saving
surgery that they told us was necessary and that they could
provide. The surgery that was constantly being delay due to the
incompetence and neglect of All Care Animal Referral Center.
They knowingly and willfully withheld treatment that would
have saved and prolonged the life of Alex and therefore they are
grossly negligent in their actions.
We were surprised to receive a bill from All Care Animal
Referral Center for letting Alex die. We are disputing many of
the charges on the billing that we received from All Care Animal
Referral Center. How can this bill be $2,874.17 when a pacemaker
was never installed, and we were quoted $3,500 just one and a
half days earlier that included the pacemaker and the surgery?
Our belief is that our dear Alex was tormented through this
whole ordeal. We have been traumatized. This has been a
nightmare for each and every one of us, but most of all for our