Humane Society vet under fire for surgery problems
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A Lee County woman says her dog nearly died after having a routine surgery last week at the Gulf Coast Humane Society in Fort Myers. Tonight, a Fox 4 investigation finding the vet who performed the surgery has been punished for a previous problem that may have led to another dog's death. Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason getting to the bottom of this one.
We began looking in to this vet after customers came to us with complaints. The more we looked, the more we found. Now one pet owner wants you to know what happened to her.
For Peggy Kay, dogs are her life and she especially loves Daschunds. In fact, she founded the Southwest Florida Wiener Dog Club. Peggy recently adopted “Candy” and last Thursday she brought her to the Gulf Coast Humane Society to be spayed. Peggy says two hours after bringing her home something went horribly wrong.
Peggy Kay: "I picked her up and there was gooey, slimy stuff coming out of the incision."
Peggy then rushed Candy to the Animal ER of Southwest Florida in Cape Coral.
Peggy Kay: "The doctor there told me that she needed surgery that night, that it was life threatening."
Doctor Thomas Mullins, whose colleague performed the follow-up surgery, says Candy's incision had become unraveled.
Dr. Thomas Mullins: "The doctor noted that there was some bleeding down deeper within the abdomen."
Dr. Mullins says when a dog is spayed the vet removes the body of the uterus and both ovaries. The areas that are cut then need to be tied off with sutures so the dog won't bleed out. Doctor Mullins says Candy's right ovarian pedicle was still bleeding because there were no ligatures, or sutures, to tie it off.
Dr. Thomas Mullins: "What that can mean is that either it was not tied at all or what tie was put there, either one or two, slipped off. I've been a vet for 31 years."
Mike Mason: "And this has never happened?"
Dr. Thomas Mullins: "No."
ER vets then had to open up Candy's abdomen to make sure the internal bleeding had stopped. She now has a dozen staples and is recovering from what was supposed to be just a routine surgery.
Peggy Kay: "The doctor at the ER vet can tell you I was pretty hysterical when I was there with her asking a lot of questions; how could this happen? How could this possibly happen?"
Peggy says she went to the Humane Society to save money on the surgery but she ended up spending a thousand dollars to address the complications.
Fox 4 began investigating and found the vet who did Candy's surgery has had similar problems in the past. Records show Dr. Gene Rinderknecht is currently on probation for a prior surgery that ended tragically. On March 11, 2010 Cindy Smith brought her Shih Tzu named 'Babs' to Rinderknecht to be spayed.
At the time, he was working at another clinic in North Fort Myers. In a complaint filed with the State of Florida, Smith claimed the, "Surgical procedure resulted in a punctured small intestine that was never disclosed to her." She claims, "Babs developed a severe infection and, as a result, died."
State officials investigated and found: ”Dr. Rinderknecht did cut the small intestine during the ovariohysterectomy, or spay, and he failed to inform the dog's owner of the complications”.
As a result, Rinderknecht was disciplined by Florida's Board of Veterinary Medicine. On March 20th of this year he was fined $3,500. His license was put on probation for 30 months and he's required to complete 9 hours of continuing education.
Rinderknecht is now the main vet at the Gulf Coast Humane Society. We asked Executive Director, Jennifer Galloway, to comment. In a written statement she wrote: "The Gulf Coast Humane Society will investigate internally Peggy Kay's complaint regarding surgery on her female dog and take any necessary corrective actions."
But Galloway would not comment specifically on Rinderknecht. Peggy Kay says she wants to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else.
Peggy Kay: "I feel bad, you know, she was perfectly healthy when I brought her there. There was nothing wrong, I was just trying to do the right thing and have her spayed which is what you're supposed to do."
Rinderknecht will be on probation for about two more years. We requested an on-camera interview with him and the Director of Gulf Coast Humane Society but they declined.