When I adopted Nefi in 1995, I had very little money. She was a stray and I took her home minutes before a neighbor planned to shoot her for eating his minnow that he intended to use for fishing bait. I tried to find her owner but couldnít. I couldnít really afford another cat at the time, but I saw no other alternative than to keep her. She was unexpected and I could not afford to pay full price to have her spayed. I called the humane society in my own county, hoping they would be able to help. I was told they couldnít help unless my income was under $1,000 a month. It wasnít. I callled the humane society in the next county and was thrilled to find they offered spay/neuter certificates for only $27. We bought one and found that we couldnít use our regular veterinarian because she wasnít on their list. We picked one off of their list. I thought from the beginning something might have been odd, because they told us sheíd be going home the same day. When we had Cleo, Madelynne, and Tuesday spayed, they had all stayed overnight. Still, I went along with it.

My husband took her to be spayed and stayed in town until she was ready to come home since itís about an hour drive. He brought her home that night. He mentioned that the veterinarian's staff was rude to him when he went to pick her up. They seemed interested in selling him pet products and became aggressive when he said he wasn't interested. They also didn't allow him to go in the back to get Nefi, they brought her out to him.

She seemed to be acting funny, but I thought maybe she was uncomfortable from the surgery and traumatized from the car ride. Then, I turned her over.

She was shaved all the way up to her chest. Strange, since none of my other babies were done this way. I donít know what they shaved her with, but her entire underside was covered with niches and scratches and one of her nipples was hanging off. The worst part was that she had only three stitches in her, with very large spaces in between. I knew this was not right. Cleo, Madelynne, and Tuesday had their stitches close together. While Madelynne and Cleo are dogs, Tuesday was a cat, so there was no question of it being a difference between dogs and cats. I found this alarming, because I recalled Madelynne and Cleo both pulling out a couple of their stitches. If Nefi pulled out just one, her incision would have been gaping open.

I was alarmed and more than a bit angry. I called the vetís office and asked why they done such a sloppy job. The woman on the phone first pointed out I had used a certificate from the human society. So? They accepted those certificates, so obviously they agreed to it. Then she told me more stitches werenít "necessary". I pointed out that both my dogs had pulled out some stitches when I had them spayed. Her reply was "If it pulls out a stitch, you can call us back". I got extremely angry. This woman referred to my baby as an "it". As if she was an inanimate object and not a living breathing creature, I had grown to love. I lost my temper and she hung up on me. If she had pulled out a stitch, it would have been an emergency situation. I live an hour from this hospital. Luckily she didnít. But I learned my lesson about researching vets, and other animal caregivers. I complained to the Humane Society about this vet and when I called back a few years later to get Cosette spayed, I found this vet was no longer on their list.

You should use the same care in selecting groomers, veterinarians and other pet caretakers as you would use in selecting a baby-sitter for an infant. Like an infant, our pets cannot speak and tell us what happened in our absences. There have been many cases of veterinarians and groomers abusing animals. There have also been cases of pets escaping from careless groomers and veterinarians, never to be seen again.

Here are a few guidelines and warning signs in selecting a caretaker for your pet.

Get a reference from someone you know if possible. Ask other pet owners you know and trust to recommend a veterinarian or groomer if possible.

Ask for a full tour of the facility. Ask the following questions:

Are the cages and kennels sanitized after each animal has used them?

Are sick animals isolated from healthy ones?

Are the animals given a supply of water and adequate chances to relieve themselves?

Stay with your pet if possible. If it is a groomer, insist on staying with your pet for the first few visits. I would recommend choosing a groomer that has everything in the open, so you can see the pets being bathed, clipped, etc. Watch how they handle not only your pet, but the other pets they are caring for. Watch to see if animals that are staying for a long period of time are taken out to relieve themselves, and if they sanitize the kennels or cages between each animal. Watch for any rough handling. If you see any signs of impatience or rough handling, find another groomer. If they refuse to let you stay, find another groomer.

Warning signs

They do not allow you to tour the facility.

You see signs that the facility is unsanitary.

They refuse to answer any questions you may have.

Your pet seems unusually traumatized when you pick him or her up.

Behavioral changes that occur after a groomer or veterinarian visit.

Your pet drinks an excessive amount of water, or relieves themselves for an excessive period of time after you pick him or her up.

Your pet has any injuries that cannot be explained. Always check your petís skin for any injuries.

In the case of a vet, reluctance to take the time to discuss any problems or health concerns with you.

If you even suspect abuse or neglect by a caregiver, find another one immediately. If your pet is injured or dies as the result of a grooming accident, take your pet to a veterinarian and keep all records.
If you suspect your pet has been abused by your veterinarian, take your pet to another vetrinarian and have the injuries documented. If your pet dies, have the body necropsied to determine the cause of death.
For full details on how to report abuse by a veterinarian or groomer, please read PETA's fact sheet Veterinary Malpractice and Grooming accidents

Please be cautious for the sake of your pet. They canít speak for themselves. Don't assume that just because someone has a veterinary degree or that they've chosen animals as career that this means they love them and are incapable of abuse. Please report any abuses or neglect. By doing so, you mave save another animal from suffering.

Grooming or Torture?
How to select a Veterinarian
Lucy's story