Concord veterinarian answers misconduct allegations from pet owners

Monitor staff
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A veterinarian with emergency clinics in Concord and Manchester told a state board Tuesday that the multiple complaints filed against her by dissatisfied pet owners are examples of “redirected guilt,” not evidence of professional misconduct.

But former clients of Deborah Kelloway, founder of Advanced Veterinary Care, say she forced them into making quick decisions about their pets’ care, even pressuring clients to take extreme measures like surrendering their pets when financial obstacles prevented them from paying for high-cost surgeries.

Kelloway pushed back against the criticism of her care. She testified during a disciplinary hearing before the New Hampshire Board of Veterinary Medicine that veterinarians who are a “hazard” to the community should be reprimanded, but that she is not one of them. She said she has been unfairly targeted, and that she practices with one goal in mind: saving lives.

Complainants say that Kelloway failed to live up to that goal, telling pet owners to make difficult, hasty decisions that did not benefit their families and, instead, caused further emotional pain. In some cases, she tried less expensive treatments or delayed care that resulted in long-term health issues for animals and, in some cases, death, former clients allege.

The board previously sent a letter to Kelloway in 2013 expressing concern about Advanced Veterinary Care’s practice of encouraging surrender over euthanasia, even in situations where pet owners strongly objected to adoption of pets by strangers. Concerns that Kelloway is in violation of veterinary ethics were re-raised during Tuesday’s daylong hearing in Concord.

Board members asked Kelloway how she handles those difficult cases.

She replied: “We have to abide by the owner’s wishes.”

However, she continued by noting that the issue is not black and white, and that it’s important for pet owners to realize they have more humane options. She told the board that if it discourages surrender it will scare veterinarians into not offering alternatives, including adoption.

Kelloway noted that she only offers surrender when owners can’t afford surgery and, therefore, would otherwise resort to euthanasia.

After a review of the complaints against her, though, board members questioned whether that is really the case. They cited instances where it is alleged Kelloway may have made assumptions about an owner’s inability to pay for expensive treatment, and where records indicate that Kelloway failed to inform owners of all possible options, including the possibility of a payment plan.

In one case, Lorry and Paul Anderson were unable to pay up front for a $1,000 surgery for their cat, Fenny, who suffered from a complete urinary obstruction. When the couple surrendered their cat, they could not get her back, even after offering to make monthly payments. She was renamed and adopted.

Kelloway is also accused of allowing an unlicensed veterinarian to practice at her clinic for more than a year, failing to ensure computerized records are on lockdown after 24 hours and of misleading clients with respect to Advanced Veterinary Care’s ability to handle emergency cases.

The board is expected to make a decision in about a month.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)