Vets are the authorities pet owners trust to take care of their beloved companions, and a recent increase in reports of false veterinary practitioners has left many wary of who they can trust to take care of their pets.
Over the last few months, incidents of con artists posing as veterinary professionals in Cape Town have spiralled out of control, often to the detriment of the pets being treated. As a result of this, a local animal clinic has been forced to humanely euthanise several pets allegedly treated by these false veterinarians.
These are also individuals who are the “go-to guys” for those involved in illegal dog activities, such as dog fighting, unregulated dog breeding and those who have the ears of their dogs cropped and tails docked illegally. These unscrupulous characters have now also infiltrated the veterinary community, and lure pet owners with discounted treatment rates.
“We have seen far too many patients “treated” by them. In all cases the pets have had to be euthanised as they were incorrectly diagnosed and prescribed hopelessly incorrect medication,” says Allan Perrins of the Animal Welfare Society (AWS) in Phillipi.
While they operate all over the city, there is a proliferation of these alleged fakes in the Cape Flats, where they prey on vulnerable and naïve pet owners who think that they are getting a bargain. They are only able to offer these low prices because what they are dispensing to sick and injured pets is stolen or obtained illegally.
They provide extensive offerings, which includes ‘diagnosing’ and even prescribing treatment for animals. Lawfully this is the preserve and remit of a veterinarian, but animal owners can get just about anything from them – from a deworming tablet and vaccination to premium pet food and even “replacement animals”.
“Some of the victims were oblivious to the fact that only a properly qualified and registered veterinarian is permitted by law to diagnose and prescribe treatment to an animal,” says Perrins.
Speaking to Cape Town ETC, a pet owner who prefers to remain anonymous reports that their nephew recommended one of these “vets” to them, claiming they could help vaccinate their puppy.
“My sister’s son came with this man that worked at an animal clinic in Grassy Park. He does these things, so we thought it would be okay. He came to our house a couple of times,” the pet owner says. “My mom passed away at the same time and we thought that she was missing my mom. In the week after my mom passed away, she started getting fits and she was bleeding through her mouth.”
While it was assumed the puppy was properly vaccinated, she contracted the deadly Parvo Virus and had to be euthanised as a result.
“Please don’t let anyone come to your house and do your animals. Just take them into the vet,” they urge pet owners.
The false veterinarian who allegedly treated the dog turned out to be an orderly at an actual animal clinic – someone typically responsible for jobs such as fetching and carrying, cleaning, watering, and feeding the pets at the clinic.
Another victim’s puppy was misdiagnosed and prescribed a lethal course of treatment. The dog had tick-bite fever and also had to be euthanised after receiving the wrong treatment at the hands of a fake vet. The suspect, in this case, is a part-time security guard.
AWS suspects that there are more victims who are simply too afraid to come forward.
Tell ‘tail’ signs
“Spotting a fake vs someone genuine is not rocket science,” says Perrins.
– Bone-fide veterinarians operate from registered practices and usually have their qualifications on display.
– Quacks almost always offer to visit and treat the pet at one’s home (they like to know where you live for sinister reasons).
– Fakes almost never leave a paper trail. They almost never issue receipts and demand cash only.
– They are able to offer tempting discounts because what they are dispensing or selling is stolen.
– The fake vets operate covertly. They often have multiple telephone numbers.
– They seldom leave any audit-able trace and are almost always only exposed when things go wrong.
“Quacks are in this for the money. The animals’ health, wellbeing and life means squat to them. They should be avoided at all costs, exposed and criminally charged,” says Perrins.
To report suspicions please call (021) 692 2626 and ask for Senior AWS SA Inspector Mark Levendal.