Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Vet faces misconduct complaint

Company says accusations of overcharging and failing duty of care will be defended.

Jane Comber Photo / Sarah Ivey
Jane Comber Photo / Sarah Ivey

The Veterinary Council is investigating a complaint against a vet who charged almost $4000 after operating on a cat only for it to die a week later.

The cat's owner, Jane Comber, lodged the complaint against an Auckland veterinary firm and vet surgeon for what she claims was a lack of duty in the care of her champion show cat Tai Sakura.

But the company said the surgeon would fight the accusations.

Mrs Comber's is just one of around 55 complaints against the country's 2500 vets which the Vet Council deals with each year - many over the high cost of surgery.

She alleges malpractice and professional misconduct against the vet.

Mrs Comber, who runs a cattery in Whangaparaoa, and breeds Birman cats, is now questioning the motive behind the surgery on the otherwise healthy 14-year-old cat which was injured by a car in January.

She refused to pay the outstanding $3842 for the surgery claiming spiralling veterinary costs and a lack of accountability make the public vulnerable to bad treatment of their pets.

The Veterinary Council of NZ registrar Janet Eden said of the 55 complaints many involved concerns about treatment costs but she could not recall any cases where unnecessary treatments were carried out for financial gain.

Ms Eden said vet bills were expensive because unlike the public health system it was not government-funded and pet insurance was recommended to owners for this reason.

Mrs Comber, who does not have pet insurance, also paid $3670 for treatment her cat received at three other vets during the saga, including about $1500 for a blood transfusion.

But the NZ Veterinary Association said vet costs were fair and many practices even picked up the tab for treating abused animals.

Chief executive Julie Hood said the range of healthcare services provided by clinics was far greater than 30 years ago while the cost of buying drugs and equipment had increased significantly.

She defended veterinarians saying they often paid the price for animal cruelty and bad-decision making in the choice to own pets.

"Veterinarians and SPCA officials get really disillusioned seeing beaten, ill-treated and starved pets. These animals arrive for care, often in the absence of the owner and care is delivered free of charge to alleviate pain and distress to the animal."

One Hamilton practice estimated it performed $50,000 in unpaid treatment on abused animals each year.

The NZVA believed the uptake of pet insurance was low because vet fees remained affordable.

- NZ Herald

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