Sunday April 27, 2003

By: Maite Kropp


Vet rightly faces loss of his license

When in June 2001, I wrote what had been going on at Fountain Valley's All Care Animal Referral Center, there was some doubt from those who saw the complaints as too far-fetched. A newspaper man who has a publication related to animals told me that the percentage of bad cases was low compared with the number of animals treated at this hospital.
I was taken aback when he said how many humans suffer from error in their treatments from their medical helpers. To me that was the rationalization of a businessman.

If one human or animal suffers neglect from a caregiver, and we remain silent or look the other way, it only encourages the culprit. It never helps prevent the neglected.

The alleged complaints were against Dr. Robert Lee Rooks, who obtained his veterinarian license in July 1978.

Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl took a stand by sending a letter of concern to Ellen O'Connor, chairwoman of the Veterinary Medical Board in Sacramento. The process began a straightforward action. The California Veterinary Medical Board filed additional charges of negligence and deceit.

I have read about 22 separate cases of pet owners alleging deceit, overcharges for services and unnecessary treatments on their animal companions. Some clients ended up with no companion animal. Several cases have been settled out of court.

I spoke with several of the parties involved. The case against Dr. Rooks is important. He will face a formal hearing on Monday. It is expected to last through May. After two years of investigation, it has to be very serious for state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to file a formal charge to revoke his license to practice in California and to revoke the hospital's permits.

Many individuals involved in the medical field, when involved in scandals in one state, often move to another to practice. Readers from outside California must remember this.

The state, from documents filed Oct. 25, 2002, seeks to: 1. Revoke or suspend Dr. Robert Lee Rooks' veterinarian license. 2. Revoke or suspends the permit issued to All Care Animal Referral Center. 3. Asses a fine not more than $5,000 for each cause for disciplinary action specified in Section 4883, if respondent is found guilty. 4. Order respondent to pay investigation and enforcement costs. 5. Take such other or further action as the board deems necessary and proper to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

This column is on behalf of those who are having to deal with questions of animal negligence in our own communities. The author is the founder of the H.K. Foundation, a nonprofit organization that operates a permanent refuge for abused animals in Allendale. Write her at P.O. Box 5112, Vacaville, 95696, or e-mail her at