Sunday June 10, 2001

Suspicions and doubts
by M. Kropp

Many of us at one time or other have walked away from a veterinary hospital with doubts in our minds, a dead animal in our arms and, for the most part, a feeling of helplessness in our pursuit of closure.

The subject came up in a case ongoing for several years in Southern California. Many allegations have been pointed at All-Care Animal Referral Center and at the head hospital, Robert L. Rooks.

There are charges of expensive treatments and allegations of delays in treatment and unnecessary treatments. Some people claim that specialists in veterinarian medicine may have been at the facility in name only.

The Veterinarian Medical Board had [has] been investigating complaints against Robert L. Rooks and his Fountain Valley veterinary hospital for a long time- a bit too long for any pet owner who had bad experiences at the facility.

By January 2000 the unresolved questions and complaints that were presented to the state attorney general were coming to a head.

I was fortunate enough to be able to speak to some of the individuals who suffered from one ordeal or other. One of them had spent $10,000 with the facility trying to get medical help for one animal. Another spent $21,000, according to a press report. Neither enjoyed any positive result.

Many of the cases required a neurologist. The hospital did advertise having one on staff. But customers said they later discovered that the veterinarian at the hospital was not a board certified neurologist. 

In July 1999 a letter was sent by Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl to Ellen O'Connor, chairwoman of the Veterinary Medical Board in Sacramento, urging that an investigation be launched.

We, as pet keepers, seldom if ever can prove that something went wrong or that unnecessary treatments were done to our animals. Many times we have walked away after paying big bills, only to be disillusioned and sad.

As I read material on some of these cases, I realized that, in general, series of tests ordered are often unnecessary because the health problem is such that medicine will help the animal.

I have a veterinarian I trust. He has never prolonged treatments when we knew there was no hope. The animals were spared no pain. However, I also know of veterinarians who do abuse the love we feel for the animal. They do exploit our emotions by prolonging the life of the animal.

The investigation at Fountain Valley animal hospital [All-Care Animal Referral Center] continues. Let's hope that final closure comes to the pet owners involved. If Robert L. Rooks has not practiced his profession with impeccable and ethical manners, maybe he just should retire.


The column today is dedicated to the memory of Shane, a sandy-brown mutt adopted from a pound, and  to Gata, the cat I found under my car several years ago, and to Louie the sharpei whose death after 18 years I still question. And many others.

The author is the founder of H.K. Foundation, a non-profit organization that operates a permanent refuge for abused animals. Write her at PO Box 5112 Vacaville 95696 or via e-mail at