Patterico's Pontifications


Would You Operate on Your Pet?

Filed under: Crime,Health Care — DRJ @ 9:49 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Where is the dividing line between a pet owner’s rights and the government’s ability to stop animal cruelty? This Rhode Island case may be straddling the line:

“A Rhode Island man who says he couldn’t afford veterinary care for his dog has been charged with illegally operating on the pet.

Alan MacQuattie recently removed a cyst from the leg of his 14-year-old Labrador mix. The dog was operated on again by professionals to deal with an infection from the first surgery.

MacQuattie, 63, who says he is disabled and living on Social Security, said Friday he used local anesthetic to operate on the cyst and removed it on his own since he doesn’t have money for a veterinarian.”

MacQuattie said he was trying to help his pet, not hurt him, but veterinarian and State SPCA President E.J. Finocchio thinks he crossed the line:

“[Finocchio] said the procedure was medically unnecessary since the cyst was benign and did not appear to be hurting the dog, though MacQuattie said she was irritated by it.

“The dog was not suffering, the dog was not in pain,” Finocchio said. “We know that from the nature of the cyst and the condition of the dog that we looked at.”

Finocchio said the procedure would probably have cost less than $200, and that his organization could have helped foot the bill.”

I suspect people frequently engage in self-help when it comes to pets, and perhaps the dividing line is when it involves surgery or a similar procedure. But most people diagnose and treat their own health conditions and those of family members if the problem seems minor — including deeply embedded splinters, serious cuts that some might take in for stitches, and more. Thus, if it’s cruelty to do this to a dog, isn’t it just as bad for humans?


39 Responses to “Would You Operate on Your Pet?”

  1. Think I’ll have to watch this discussion. My wife just spent $1,200 for an operation on one of our pugs’ nasal passages.

    Virtual Insanity (d93c26)

  2. what a great guy… I think he’s very America and the SPCA vet needs to get a life I think.

    happyfeet (713679)

  3. Rhode Island.


    happyfeet (713679)

  4. he goofed, like anybody could, and brought the dog in when he thought the dog needed help.

    One thing is for sure: prosecuting people for this is going to scare people from taking their pets to get treatment. I’ve pulled splinters out of my dogs. Stuff happens. Intent it pretty damn relevant.

    The SPCA is probably hurting animals by warning people that their vets are an agency of the police or something.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  5. He was also ordered to make restitution

    insane Rhode Island fascists

    happyfeet (713679)

  6. I know a whole lot people will take this the wrong way, but I’m just glad I live in a country where this is an issue.

    It would not have been not too many years ago.

    Ag80 (1592cc)

  7. Farmers do surgery on their animals all the time. Cut nasty growths off the cows and such.

    j curtis (5126e4)

  8. Was it a ‘heinous crime’. I think we need to reserve that word for more severe crimes. I do not think he should have cut open the dog, however well-intentioned he may have been. Now he has to make ‘restitution’. To whom? The dog gets extra treats? Our dog has had a fatty tumor on his side for as long as I can remember. He is now 15 with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin, and it does not bother him at all. BTW, JC, I respectfully submit that farmers might have a kittke more experience than this guy. He meant well, but he is wrong.

    Gazzer (583345)

  9. “Thus, if it’s cruelty to do this to a dog, isn’t it just as bad for humans?”

    I would not use crazy glue and duct tape on a pet. There are some lines I will not cross.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  10. the average dog i meet is worthy of a higher standard of care than the average human i meet….

    this says much about both species.

    (either that or i need to meet a better class of people. %-)

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  11. I think this is an urban versus rural issue.

    nk (db4a41)

  12. daleyrocks, I’ve fixed up more than one injured hunting dog with duct tape and crazy glue.

    (BTW, surgeons often use a medical version of crazy glue to close lacerations ).

    SPQR (26be8b)

  13. I’m a farmboy. My father would birth and geld our stock and shoe our horses himself. He and my mother did the butchering too. I remember the veterinarian only when there was a case of rabies in the area.

    nk (db4a41)

  14. I understand this guy wanted to help his dog, but if you don’t have the training for surgery you shouldn’t be doing it.

    JEA (23ad1f)

  15. We’ve allowed the SPCA and HSUS people to get too nuts. These are pets, not people. And you can’t punish people for not spending thousands of dollars on vets. Its just another contemptible form of rent seeking.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  16. In one way I could say the vet and SPCA president should find something better to do and leave it at that. What the person did may have been poor judgement, but it was not intended to be “cruel”, it was iontended to be responsible care of one’s pet.

    Unless there is a law in RI against practicing veterinarian medicine on your own pet without a license, this sounds like people who love animals and have no perspective.

    On a more serious note, there must be quite a few issues in RI more important than this that would be worthy of these people’s time and energy- like walking down a street and spend 30 minutes with the owner of the first dog you see that seems to nedd some better care.

    “Restitution”? To who, for what? To the Vet or SPCA for getting them upset? Taking the dog to “Pluto’s Disneyland” where all the entertainment is aimed for dogs?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in this story was a vet who told him the operation was necessary, and the quoted cost was a shock; pure speculation and perhaps not, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    MD in Philly (d4668b)

  17. Compassionate souls, these SPCA freaks are. Which group euthanizes more animals every year than any other group?

    Answer; The compassionate souls at the ASPCA of course.

    peedoffamerican (7783d2)

  18. I’m with SPQR on this one~growing up ranching and farming, we treated our own livestock and pets. I don’t remember ever going to a vet for anything as a kid. (I may be misremembering, but it seems to me that we did our own rabies vaccinations as well.) I think MD in Philly has it nailed:

    somewhere in this story was a vet who told him the operation was necessary, and the quoted cost was a shock

    making the pet owner feel guilty for not having it treated.


    Which group euthanizes more animals every year than any other group?

    Is it SPCA, or the even holier than them PETA?

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  19. It could be EW. But if I remember correctly from an independent article I read (sorry no link at this time), It is actually the SPCA that does euthanize more due to the fact that they run more shelters. If I remember correctly, PETA actually euthanizes more per capita for animals they handle.

    peedoffamerican (7783d2)

  20. Maybe higher percentage of animals that PETA handles is a better way to phrase it.

    peedoffamerican (7783d2)

  21. “I respectfully submit that farmers might have a kittke more experience than this guy. He meant well, but he is wrong.” Gazzer @ #8

    Yes, it is certainly important that the neighbors get to weigh in on who is qualified to take care of their own stuff. That’s why I don’t dare trim the hair out of my dog’s ears to save him an ear infection. The dog groomer is more qualified to do that. All those times I treated my kids’ boo-boos were probably illegal, since I’m not a pediatrician. For that matter, I used to cut their hair, which was obviously a crime since I could have exposed them to ridicule if I made a mistake. And I’m not licensed to do that.

    In fact, now that we’ve gone that far, they license people to teach and to care for infants and toddlers, don’t they? Maybe parenting should be left to the professionals.

    What is it with these people who think that we can require a license (that is, govt permission) to do everything? Lousy collectivists.

    Hey Gazzer, have you done any little electrical projects around your house without a license? Fixed your car lately? Voided your warrantee by opening that little door that says, “Product should be repaired by qualified personnel only”?

    Gesundheit (6acc51)

  22. We had a house guest from Panama a few months ago. He was amused to see all the tools in the garage. He said that his father had told him that Americans do all kinds of things themselves.

    I’ve built furniture – moved walls – run new electrical circuits – repaired plumbing – built extensive landscaping, decks, waterfall – fixed major appliances – replaced floors – installed carpet. But in Panama you pay someone to cut your grass and clean your house. You pay someone to fix things (if you can get them to come out).

    In America we believe that individuals can try things themselves. They can teach themselves new skills. That’s why we have Home Depot. And I’ll bet that DIY websites are used mostly by Americans, Canadians, and Germans. And as a nation, when we have a disaster, we handle things ourselves as best we can without asking for help from the French or the British.

    And we need more of it – not less. And we need to remember it’s an achievement – not a crime.

    Gesundheit (6acc51)

  23. #20 peedoffamerican:

    Maybe higher percentage of animals that PETA handles is a better way to phrase it.

    That sounds about right.

    Unlike PETA, I think some at ASPCA may actually care about animals.

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  24. I think this is an urban versus rural issue.

    Argeed. My in – laws are fourth – generation farmers in Peoria, and they’ve looked on bemused as we’ve spent thousands of dollars on our elderly cat over the past few years. It’s not that they’re judgemental, but they definitely look at animals as much more of a utilitarian feature of their lives, and not as pets. My wife well remembers when she had to pluck chickens after they had their heads cut off before they all sat down to sunday dinner. She doesn’t look back on those memories too fondly, btw.

    Dmac (539341)

  25. I don’t have any tolerance for people who mistreat animals out of maliciousness or torture them for amusement. I despise dog fighting and cock fighting. But where and when I come from, if you had a dog that was terminally ill and suffering, the humane thing to do is you took it out and shot it. You took care of your responsibilities to pets and livestock yourself. I’d done it on more than one occasion for myself and others who couldn’t bring themselves to do it. Wasn’t something one enjoyed but it was a duty.

    Recently, someone did that to take care of their dog in the local area and was charged with a crime of animal abuse. That’s f’ing lunacy ( and I suspect rent seeking from vets to be paid to euthanize pets ).

    SPQR (26be8b)

  26. SPQR @12 – I’ve fixed myself up with crazy glue and duct tape on more than one occasion. As you point our the medical equivalent is not that different. I’ve never been faced with the decision whether to have to do it with a pet, so I guess my comment is more statement of what I think I would do in the situation. I’m not typically in back country situations with pets.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  27. daleyrocks, many years ago, I was hunting quail in Arizona with my uncle when his dog got its paws cut up on the volcanic rock in the area.

    I had seen the same problem on a hunting show on TV so I copied the solution. Wrapped the dogs paws with duct tape in the form of booties. He walked funny with an odd look on his face for a few minutes then took off at a run looking for more quail.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  28. I think this is an urban versus rural issue.

    And a practical v. impractical. While I would never mess with cyst that didn’t appear to be causing a dog pain, we have treated oodles of wounds and drained them too with an endless number of dogs over the years. We have one now that cut himself while we were hiking. While a tad deeper than the average cut, it doesn’t appear to need stitches, so we clean it regularly, dress it, and most importantly, watch the progression of healing.

    The vet is not the first resort, practicality is. But we are responsible pet owners and know what is beyond our scope of knowledge and experience.

    I watched a wonderful talk by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs, speaking to an well heeled crowd in Silicon Valley about the ethics of work and working hard.

    In his speech he told of going to a ranch in Colorado and helping castrate the young males. He watched, transfixed, as the rancher took a young male, held him down just right, swabbed the area, took out a small sharp knife and in seconds, the deed was done, the wound cleaned, the calf scooting back to the pen.

    Rowe was shocked and said that sure wasn’t how PETA said it should be done. The rancher scoffed and said he’d show Rowe how PETA wanted them to do it: He took the next youngster and wrapped essentially what was a rubber band around the testicles , tightly, and put him down. The youngster could hardly walk and just lay there. The rancher said in about two weeks, the procedure would be complete.

    Practical v. impractical.

    Dana (1e5ad4)

  29. Nice summary, Dana. That’s essentially what PETA (and people like the veterinarian in this story) are doing to the rest of us. Wrap us up tight in rules and regulations until our manhood falls off.

    should be complete in about another decade.

    Gesundheit (6acc51)

  30. I helped castrate pigs when I was little.

    The screams. Their little piggy screams will be with me always I think.

    And also the smell of that bucket what we dropped the nads into. Gack.

    happyfeet (713679)

  31. This story incensed me when I read it.

    I grew up in RI and I’ve had dogs my entire life. Every vet I’ve ever used would simply say “sorry, too bad” if you can’t pay for whatever procedure your dogs need. Less than $200? Yeah, on what planet? The last time I took my dog for routine shots it came to $268 and that was more than 6 years ago.

    This is a case of a self important vet who is using his “power” to punish an old man who loves his dog. If anyone should be arrested it’s the vet for criminal arrogance.

    Jaynie59 (18e5d1)

  32. This reminds me of my now gone German Shepard. About 15 years ago when he was around 2 years old he started developing cysts on his back, a common occurrence in GS dogs I believe. They bothered him and sometimes bust open. If I couldn’t get him to the vet right away he would lick them and get them infected. The vet told me to use a sterile X-acto knife to lance them, squeeze the cheese-like mass out, and treat with antibiotic cream. Sounds like he advised me to operate on my GS dog doesn’t it?

    Dave in OC (f951dc)

  33. My wife is pretty sure neutering the dog would be easy…. while I’d like not to encourage the development of those skills

    SteveG (11baba)

  34. I know a doctor who gave himself a vasectomy while reclining on the kitchen table.

    I don’t know why that’s relevant, but I just wanted to share.

    In this case, I think police are so happy to find something that has absolutely no racial overtones so they can make an arrest and not worry about it. I think the old guy should be exonerated.

    Patricia (e1047e)

  35. Patricia…

    Uh…nevermind. 😉

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  36. gave himself a vasectomy while reclining on the kitchen table.

    Like the same kitchen table where the family eats their meals? That kitchen table???

    Dana (1e5ad4)

  37. Back in the 70s, there was a very well known malpractice plaintiff lawyer who supposedly tried to fix his own hernia because he was afraid to go to any surgeon in the LA area. It may have been an apocryphal story but I knew someone who said he fixed when the guy came in with a mess.

    A guy I knew, another surgeon, used to fix the umbilical hernias on his quarter horses. Apparently they were fairly common. His ranch foreman gave the anesthetic. Long endotracheal tube.

    I can’t look in the door of my vet for less than $600.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  38. But most people diagnose and treat their own health conditions and those of family members if the problem seems minor

    All I know is that underaged single girls in California can seek an abortion without the consent of the parent or guardian. So if a relationship between two humans (ie, the parents and their daughter) can be that laissez faire, then why the heck should a relationship between humans and their pet be suddenly so sacred and touchy-feely? Even more so since it wasn’t like MacQuattie was out to hurt or torture his dog.

    It would really irk me — but not be too surprising in this age of ass-backwardness — if SPCA President E.J. Finocchio happens to be a “lefty,” or one of those philosophically squishy people who, in contrast to their “I’m so humane” principles about animal care, take a c’est-la-vie approach to young girls and fetuses.

    Mark (411533)

  39. To All:

    First of all I would like to introduce myself to all of you who have shown concern about the recent situation that took place in the state of Rhode Island involving a 63 year old man who decided to operate on his own dog. My name is E.J. Finocchio, I am a 66 year old retired equine veterinarian who became the President of the RI SPCA in 2002.. Our society is a 140 year old private non-profit shelter located in East Providence Rhode Island. We have been authorized by the state of RI to enforce the laws pertaining to animal cruelty but have no local, state or federal affiliation with either, nor are we associated with the ASPCA located in New York. All of our funding is by donations and revenue received at the shelter and from interest derived from our endowment.

    It is amazing how a story can be disseminated with only one side told but that is the way of the media in our society today. All of you know that light travels faster than sound and that is why some people appear to be bright until you hear them speak. I usually do not respond to the emails I received from those of you who wrote and are so passionate. It is usually a losing battle but I enjoy a good battle and if I enlighten just one of you then I will have succeeded.

    As Paul Harvey would say,” and now you know the rest of the story,” so here goes.

    I need to first apologize for using the word ‘heinous” which was defined by Lisa Comstock in her email.
    ( heinous, adjective outrageously evil or wicked; abominable a heinous crime)
    The word that best describes the event should have been barbaric.
    (barbaric,adjective having a bizarre, primitive, or unsophisticated quality)

    I have never met Mr. MacQuattie who claims to be a Viet Nam veteran but this cannot be verified because he claims all his records have been lost and that he is having issues with the VA. That is neither here or there in the story.

    At 63 years of age I do not find that to be elderly in our present day society which also is of little importance in the story.

    Mr. MacQuattie’s dog is a 14 year old yellow Lab mix in very good condition and a bit overweight. She is truly a very nice dog. The tumor, cyst, growth, pimple whatever one wishes to call it was located on the inner side of the left hind leg. The growth was a little larger than a nickel and had been there for some time with no change according to Mr. MacQuattie. From this veterinarian’s point of view and you have a right to question it since I never practiced on dogs in my life but some of the race horses I worked on were called dogs by some? The growth was in NO WAY interfering with the dog’s mobility and CERTAINLY was not LIFE THREATENING nor did it seem to even BOTHER the dog. In asking Mr. MacQuattie why he decided to remove it, his answer was because he wanted to. He preserved the growth in a jar for safe keeping.

    From our conversation with Mr. MacQuattie, he NEVER CONTACTED a veterinarian nor did he contact the RISPCA or any other organization that would have provided help. Unfortunately we are not clairvoyant and therefore became involved after the incident had taken place. As a side note, not that it may matter to the majority of you. The RISPCA through the Marvin Fund, has assisted over 1700 elderly, disabled and low income individuals keep their pets that otherwise would have lost them because no one else would help. I am sure many of you are shedding a tear with that tear jerking story. All of the records are recorded and the monies dispersed accounted for. Not to bring up the past but in my first two years as head of the RISPCA, the RI veterinary community asked that I be removed from my position because I was asking veterinarians to step up to the plate and reach out to those who needed help and claimed I was casting a bad image on the profession. Understand I was a horse doctor and had no dog in the fight. I am still here and guess what, many veterinarians are helping, you just don’t hear the stories of who they help, you hear the stories of who are not helped. There is only so much money out there. If you can reflect for one moment, when was the last time you made a donation to a humane society?

    Mark S wrote, “He did what he thought he had too to save his animal.” There was nothing to save Mark S. other than a few bucks.

    In regard to Charlie Ruetsch’s remark, “I will drive my dog to RI” from West Monroe, NY “for those prices nex time for his annual check up.” We look forward to seeing you Mr. Ruetsch, just call for an appointment before you head down.The above was in reference to my statement that the veterinarian would have removed the growth for less than 200.00. Yes, less than 200 and if that veterinarian would not have we would. Only one problem, we are told as veterinarians to do no harm. The growth was not a medical issue and 50% of veterinarians would not have touched it with a ten foot scalpel.

    C Simpson from California writes that our actions were taken “for trying to keep vets in business at everyone else’s expense by preventing pet owners (notice the word “owner”) from doing anything.”

    A Georgia news reader wrote, “obviously E.J. Finocchio is an ignoramus, some kind of pompous ass, and someone who does not know much about the human condition.” Get the handkerchiefs out again. I am involved in a program called Pet Partners whereby I visit nursing homes, children’s hospitals, day care centers, schools, summer camps, inner city troubled children and children that are challenge mentally, emotionally and physically with my dog Marvin, In the year 2009 the both of us where selected as the Pet Partner team of the year in the United States. Do I know about the human condition, I will leave that up to you in Georgia to decide.

    Mr. MacQuattie primitive attempt to interfere when he should not have did put his faithful companions life in jeopardy and did cause pain and suffering which is something all of us will have to determine. My grandmother once told me only the sufferer feels the pain. As a result of his actions, his 14 year old dog was subjected to two surgeries to correct what he created. The dog had to be fitted with an Elizabethan collar which is not tolerated well by dogs. He was told to keep it on the dog so it wouldn’t get at the wound but Mr. MacQuattie felt bad for his poor pet, took the collar off and you got it.

    I sit here wondering what kind of response I would have received had we not charged this poor elderly Viet Nam vet down on his luck with animal cruelty and unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine, both violation of the law as written in Rhode Island. I guess we could have just swept it under the rug. Can you begin to imagine the response from the radical off the wall humane organizations? I rather deal with you than them, believe me. We are in the position that if we charge we lose and if we do not charge we lose. Following the law is our job, we didn’t make them we try to follow them.

    In conclusion, the vet bills totaled over $800 and the court cost totaled over $750 for a grand total of over $1600.00. As a jester of good will the Marvin Fund will match whatever donation you send to us addressed to Mr. Alan MacQuattie to pay for his expenses. Everything will be recorded and once we receive $800 from those of you who are so concerned about this elderly Viet Nam vet’s plight we will return all funds over and beyond back to you. We will copy all checks, post marks etc. which will be posted to this select group and to any other emails we receive.

    And now you know the rest of the story. Who will respond???


    EjFinocchio, D.V.M.
    President RISPCA

    The above was in response to some emails I received concerning the sace of Mr.MacQuattie

    Ej Finocchio, D.V.M. (996c34)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.4294 secs.