Superior Court of California
West Justice Center
8141 13th Street
Westminster, CA 92683

Small Claims Case No. 00WS01209

Filed: March 10, 2000

Barry Hayslett

Animal Critical Care Center Inc.
DBA: All-Care Animal Referral Center

Plaintiff's Claim:
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 of $48.00.

Plaintiff does not owe defendant any money on defendant's claim.

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 his death.

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 duty.

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 twice daily.

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 24th.

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 results.

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 weekend.

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 was negative.

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 beloved Alex.