In memory and honor of one very special cat. How negligent Edward J. Nichols, DVM, Crestway Animal Clinic, San Antonio, Texas, treated Suki. Read Suki's Story.
For the SLAPP lawsuit Nichols filed on me in attempt to take away my First Amendment rights, see the timeline of What He Did to Suki...and What He Did to Me.
For details on how then-Board member Martin E. Garcia, DVM, protected Edward J. Nichols and Crestway Animal Clinic from all accountability for numerous violations of the standard of care and record-keeping statutes, go to How Martin E. Garcia, DVM, Ignored All Evidence in Suki's Case.
Suki Did It!
...with a little help from her friends. THANK YOU to all of Suki's friends, family, and supporters who wrote to support the changes in statutes and procedures that will help to protect our pets!! Read new legislation below
79th Texas Legislature Passes Sunset Commission Recommendations
On May 18, 2004, I testified at the Sunset Commission which oversees the practices of all state boards, about what I believe to be potential for abuse and corruption on the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners with regard to the complaint review process. I testified to what I perceived to be then-Board secretary Dr. Martin Garcia ignoring all my evidence in my board complaint against Edward J. Nichols, Crestway Animal Clinic, San Antonio, Texas, with regard to his questionable treatment of Suki.
Later, during subsequent testimony by other representatives at that meeting, Sunset Commission Senate public member Howard Wolf, in referring to issues I had raised in my testimony, asked a question that relates to ALL pet guardians in Texas who trust their pets to veterinarians every single day:
"What about the standard of care? What about Suki the cat?"
It proved that someone is listening. And I was never prouder of my Suki than on that day in Austin.
I am happy to report that on September 1, 2005, HB1131 went into effect which will offer improved protection to pet guardians in the state who file complaints with the vet board regarding possible violations of the Texas Veterinary Practice Act.
What are the major changes?
At least two Board veterinarians and one public member are now required to attend every informal conference. This means that three Board members -- one-third of the nine-member Board -- MUST be present at these monthly conferences. Before, only one vet -- the Board secretary -- was in complete control of the decision.
UPDATE 2013! I recently heard from another Texas veterinary victim who happily reported to me that in her informal conference as a result of filing a complaint against the vet who killed her dog, there were THREE board vets present in that conference! Even better, they "got" the vet, who was disciplined and who, as of this writing, may soon be surrendering his license and retiring. She wrote to thank Suki and me for the changes to the law that made this possible. You are more than welcome, and here's to MANY more such satisfactory endings. NEVER AGAIN will ONE board vet (like the unconscionable, ignorant, arrogant Martin E. Garcia, DVM) be able to unilaterally protect a colleague from all accountability by ignoring every bit of PROOF of veterinary malpractice based on the victim's age, as Garcia did in Suki's case.
The Enforcement Committee now has the authority to find violations of a non-medical nature.
These recommendations were also supported by the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, who saw the value of having more than one veterinarian in the informal conference.
What does this mean?
It means that NEVER AGAIN will only one veterinarian unilaterally decide the outcome of a complaint as happened in Suki's case. No single vet should have that kind of power and thanks to the changes made, we hope no single vet ever will again.
[NOTE: See A State of Disgrace: Is the TBVME Really Protecting the Public?
These changes will not just permit but demand that the vet board fulfill their duties to the public by enforcing the statutes of the Texas Veterinary Practice Act.
Adding a second member and a public member to the Enforcement Committee means that a third of the actual board is represented at the informal conference, as opposed to only one vet being in charge of deciding the outcome of a complaint.
SECTION 20. Section 801.408, Occupations Code, is amended by adding Subsections (c), (d), (e), and (f) to read as follows:
(c) A committee of two or more veterinarian board members and one or more public board members must be present at an informal proceeding for a complaint that requires medical expertise. The committee shall recommend enforcement action at the informal proceeding.
(d) A committee of board staff may recommend enforcement action at an informal proceeding for a complaint that does not require medical expertise or may refer the complaint to the committee of board members under Subsection (c).
[Note:The following change was not submitted by VAN, but we wholeheartedly support the reimbursement of veterinary fees as part of the disciplinary process. This change was NOT supported by the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, but thankfully was passed anyway. This means that for the first time, a veterinarian can be required to REIMBURSE THE COMPLAINANT for the costs of veterinary care if that is deemed to be part of the disciplinary action.]
(e) At an informal proceeding under this section, and on agreement with the license holder, the board may order the license holder to refund an amount not to exceed the amount a client paid to the license holder instead of or in addition to imposing an administrative penalty under this chapter. The board may not require payment of other damages or estimate harm under this subsection.
(f) Before an informal disposition is effective, the board must review and approve at a public meeting an informal disposition of the complaint recommended by board members or board staff.
THANK YOU to all of Suki's friends, family, and supporters who wrote to support the changes in statutes and procedures that will help to protect our pets.
This is only the beginning. More laws need to be changed to help ensure that the veterinary board is PROTECTING OUR PETS. State boards have long been as unaccountable to the public as some veterinarians have. It is time to hold these systems equally accountable and demand that they protect the public and our pets. -- J.C.
To watch the archived webcast of the Sunset Commission hearing, go to The Sunset Review of the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, click on Audio Archives, and select May 18, 2004. The veterinary board hearing is the first one on the agenda and runs approximately 2 1/2 hours.
What is the Sunset?
See The Sun Never Sets on Agency Reviews