Love for animals unites most pet lovers – but it can divide us just as much. Most of us agree on a few basics: pets deserve to be happy, healthy, and loved – but how they should get it is often the subject of debate.
Recently 11Alive.com shared the touching story of Dr. John Keating, an orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta, Georgia who has studied to perform surgery on people but has a passion for helping pets. It all started when Dr. Keating received a desperate phone call from a friend, Dr. Michael Good, chief veterinarian at nearby The Good Clinic in Marietta, Georgia.
Dr. Good was facing a crisis. A stray dog was brought into his clinic with a broken leg and the cost of the surgery was too much for the rescue team caring for it. The only option was death, but Dr. Good couldn’t do that – he said the dog was too full of life. Dr. Keating agreed to help and perform the surgery under Dr. Good’s supervision at no cost, giving the puppy another chance it wouldn’t have without them. That was the day the surgeon for the Strays was born.
Together with Dr. Good, Dr. Keating will use his spare time to perform free surgery on pets that need surgical intervention to stay alive. The surgeries can cost thousands and thousands of dollars each time a pet gets cutlery, but veterinarians and surgeons will cover the costs out of their own pocket. Rescue groups whose pets are both treated feel that the couple is a blessing. A rescue representative told 11Alive,
“He is extraordinary. For such a heart, with a reputation as one of the top orthopedic surgeons, there are no words to say thank you.”
She recalls a dog that had been hit with a baseball bat and had to undergo three surgeries — a rescue alone costing $15,000. There is no Dr. Good and Keating, that dog and dozens of others will be fed meat. Not once have they lost a patient, and they say every operation went without difficulty.
However, not everyone feels grateful to the surgeons for Strays. After the story was posted, there was a backlash and surprise from local vets. Although the two doctors didn’t do anything illegal, the vets claimed they were exploiting a loophole in state law that should have been closed. Pet health professionals were concerned when they saw post-surgery x-rays that they said showed dangerous flaws in the surgeries performed. They also point out that although Dr. Good claims to oversee every surgery, he is not a veterinarian. Others suspect that he doesn’t appear to be featured in any of the photos of the procedures posted online by Surgeons for Strays.
A complaint from a stakeholder was filed with the Georgia Veterinary Commission stating,
“Our concern is that these patients are not being handled in the best way because of a lack of training. To become a veterinary surgeon, we have four years of training in surgery followed by four years of education in vet schools. So we think we do a good job and take pride in what we do.
“We do cost-effective surgeries almost every day and we just see it as part of our job, but we need to do a better job of letting people know that there is a mechanism of care. save the patient”.
As news spread about Surgeons for Strays, the veterinary community also took to social media and even started petitions asking the organization to shut down. A post from a vet puts it bluntly:
“What is happening at Surgeons for Strays is deplorable. Human orthopedic surgeons are NOT qualified to perform veterinary orthopedic surgery. Performing surgery on our animal patients is a privilege and a SKILL acquired through over 9 years of professional research. Surgeon for Strays, this is NOT a service mission. You are putting these animals at risk for serious, life-changing complications and infections.
“Dogs and cats are not your practice dummies.
“Stay. In. Your. Lane.”
Unfortunately, some felt that simply stating their displeasure was not enough, and Dr. Keating began to receive threats. One vet who shared a post encouraging others to spread the word about Surgeon for Strays felt the need to delete the post when she heard he was being harassed.
“Since the post went viral, threats have been made against Dr Keating and I find that extremely disappointing. We were trying to stop something we knew was wrong, but threatening someone’s life was not the way to do it. The purpose of the post is not to threaten the safety of those associated with “The Surgeon for Strangers”, but to raise awareness among higher levels in the medical and veterinary departments, and close it.
“As a group, the veterinary community is no stranger to threats of violence, accusations of greed and “coldness,” as well as threats against hospitals, doctors and staff. It is comments and threats of this kind that are fueling the rise of depression and suicide in the veterinary profession. We cannot allow ourselves to be part of that problem for others. I want us all to celebrate the closure of the “Surgeon for Strangers” without any further threat to those associated with the group. Instead, continue to encourage and educate others about the importance of helping the appropriate rescue groups, and ensure that animals are actually being treated by licensed veterinarians. permission”.
After the outcry, the Georgia Veterinary Association opened an investigation to the problem and issue the following statement:
Although Dr Keating and Dr Good did not face any immediate legal consequences for their work, they felt tremendous pressure coming from veterinarians, who opposed this. They made the decision to disband the Surgeon for Strays.
Dr. Keating’s passion has been taken by him, and veterinarians are celebrating the closure of an organization they deemed dangerous to pets. But is that good or bad for animals in need? Let us know what you think On Facebook.