A good veterinarian shares much in common with a good medical doctor. They are highly trained and have a wide variety of skills. They also have empathy, not only with the animals in their care but with the animal’s owners.
Unfortunately, every profession has people who don’t meet the required standards. In TV and movies, we’ve seen stories of vets patching up gunshot victims and leaving no records for the police. But are such nefarious deeds true? Maybe, here are ten veterinarians who were criminals.
10 Prentiss Madden’s Bad Practices
In 2021, the federal court in Miami handed down a sentence of 22 years in prison to Prentiss Madden, a 40-year-old veterinarian. Madden had built a successful practice, in no small part due to his engaging and charismatic personality. But he had a dark secret.
He made videos of himself having sex with dogs which he then posted online for the enjoyment of others that shared his peculiar attraction to animals. The authorities also discovered that he had amassed a collection of thousands of images of child pornography.
He said he had had a traumatic childhood and suffered from depression during mitigation. He declined to use these experiences as an excuse and accepted responsibility for his actions, saying: “This is never who I planned to be or thought I would be.”
We sure hope that was not the dream, sir. The sentence was the maximum allowed under the law.
9 Puppy Mules
The United States employs a wide range of measures to stop drugs from being smuggled into the country. From sophisticated technology such as human intelligence, considerable resources go into the fight. The result is a deadly game, as the smugglers try to find new ways to outwit the authorities.
One scheme involved a Colombian veterinarian named Andres Lopez Elorez. There seems to have been a market for Columbian puppies in the United States, as Elorez sewed packages of liquid heroin into the puppies’ stomachs. When the dogs arrived in the U.S., someone opened up the dogs, and the heroin went on the market. At least three dogs died under the knife.
Elorez received an indictment in 2005 but fled. He was eventually picked up in Spain in 2015 and extradited to the States the same year; Elorez was given a six-year sentence in 2019.
Richard P. Donaghue, a New York District Attorney, stated: “Dogs are man’s best friend and, as the defendant is about to learn, we are drug dealers’ worst enemy.”
8 Not a Taxing Job
Tax evasion might not be as nasty as slicing open puppies, but the United States takes a very dim view of it, as the Breitlauch sisters discovered. The two sisters—Karin, 58, and Linda, 64—ran a large practice in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. Karin was the veterinary, and Linda looked after the financial side of the operation.
In 2009, the state professional association named Karin Pennsylvania Vet of the Year, but many clients were unsure about the Creature Comforts practice. Some alleged that the sisters abused animals under their care, and there was a campaign to have the clinic closed. Whether they had abused animals or not is open to debate, but they were certainly guilty of tax fraud.
The practice had had various employees over the years, and their payslips recorded that the practice withheld a percentage for federal income taxes. But the sisters didn’t send this money to the IRS. Neither did they pay social security contributions, which surprised employees when they attempted to collect their benefits.
Nobody gets away with cheating on taxes for long. The authorities made them repay nearly $2.5 million and sentenced them both to one year and one day in prison. Ironically, at the taxpayers’ expense.
7 Wendi Mae Makes a Splash
As a veterinarian, Wendi Mae Davidson had access to animal tranquilizers and put them to good use when she decided she had had enough of her husband, Michael Severance.
The couple met and married in 2004, but many of Michael’s family and friends couldn’t get to the ceremony. His family decided to hold a wedding reception in Maine (his home state) for the newlyweds in January 2005. A few days before the couple arrived, Wendi called Michael’s family and told them he’d gone missing.
When the San Angelo, TX, police talked to Wendi, she told them that Michael didn’t want to return to the Air Force, was drinking heavily, and was thinking of disappearing. The Texas Rangers and then the Air Force joined in the investigation but couldn’t find any trace of Michael. Air Force personnel looked at Wendi’s computer and found that she had looked up how to pass a polygraph test and checked the effect of water on decomposition.
This convinced the investigators that they should hide a tracker in Wendi’s car. They discovered that she frequently visited a ranch for no apparent reason. On January 15, she was stopped as she tried to enter the property. She then confessed to her family that she had found Michael’s body and placed it in a pond at the ranch.
When the police found Michael, his body was held underwater by car parts, cinder blocks, and tires. Someone had stabbed him 41 times.
An autopsy discovered that the killer had drugged Michael with animal tranquilizers and stabbed him after his death. Wendi got 25 years. She still maintains that she is innocent.
6 Javier Diaz—Not a Dog’s Best Friend
Just one of the charges authorities have filed against Doctor Javier Diaz is enough to show that his practice wasn’t above board. The charge is for second-degree forgery and states that Diaz issued a rabies vaccination certificate without actually vaccinating the dog. But the worst was how he treated the animals under his care. He was careless enough to do it on camera, too.
Diaz kicked and punched animals, hit a kitten with a dog’s nail clippers, then rammed the clippers into the cat’s mouth, causing considerable damage. He choked a Shih Tzu.
Three of the employees at his clinic reported him to the police. An investigation by local police and the Humane Law Enforcement Unit of the local SPCA led to the closure of his practice in Westchester County, New York.
5 Not a Platinum Practice
In 2018, a hitman targeted convicted drug dealer Scott Bennet and shot him in the face. Scott survived and returned to running Platinum Vets and K9 Fertility clinic in Strathaven, Scotland. Police knew Bennet had links to organized crime, but his practice appeared legitimate.
Platinum Vets occupies a niche position in the lucrative “designer” dog trade. One of its specialties is collecting sperm from valuable dogs and exporting it to various countries, including the United States. Yet Scott, his wife, Lynne, an Italian vet named Enrico Saccone, and a clinic staff member named Nicol Hamill attracted the attention of Scottish authorities.
The four face 19 different charges for abuse of animals after an investigation by various agencies. Curiously, after the arrests, the business announced plans to massively expand its operations and open new centers in Scottish cities. Scott had first built his business premises without planning permits but managed to get hold of the correct papers after the fact. Just a little bit fishy…
4 Too Many Puppies
In 2019, the French police raided a vet’s practice in Obersteinbach, on the border with Germany, and took away 19 dogs and five cats. The vet had neglected the animals and kept them in inhumane conditions.
Unnamed by French authorities, the vet had moved into France because she had lost her license to practice in Germany. Proper care of vulnerable animals was not her first concern. She was breeding them and selling puppies and kittens. The authorities took the rescued dogs and cats to a nearby shelter, where they were put up for adoption.
You have to wonder why someone who doesn’t care a hoot for animals would choose the profession of a veterinarian.
3 Rigging the Race
There’s a lot of money floating around in horse racing, and accusations of doping have long dogged the sport. Such a case involved Kevin Brophy, Renee Nodine, Christopher Korte, and Fernando Motta, four veterinarians who worked at the Penn National Race Track in Pennsylvania.
The four were charged with doping horses from 1986 until 2014 (although not all of them were involved the whole time). The system was simple. A trainer would order drugs, and the vets would administer them before a race. To hide what they had done, the vets backdated their records to show that they had used the drug well before the race. The court put them all on probation and fined them $5,000 each.
2 Dead Dogs Dumped
In 2012, bags filled with dead animals started to turn up next to a Westchester highway. Tests showed that someone had euthanized and frozen the animals—dogs, cats, and even a lizard. This procedure indicated that a vet had followed normal practice. What wasn’t normal was to then dump the remains.
The agencies that properly dispose of dead pets charge a fee for their services—and the clinic no longer wanted to pay for such services. But you would think whoever was responsible would take a little more care and not leave the evidence by the side of the road.
Police found enough evidence to track down the owners of some of the pets and discovered that the common link between them was a clinic in the Bronx owned by Doctor Andrew Manesis. Unbelievably, the New York Veterinary Licensing Board didn’t discipline Doctor Manesis. And he only faced three misdemeanor charges.
1 A Questionable Case
Our last entry is up for debate; it’s a true story that will spark some discussion in the comment section below.
In 2006, an owner took his purebred dog to a clinic to be put down. The dog was not old but suffered from frequent seizures. The owner paid the vet the fee and left. The vet then medicated the dog and sold it to a new owner without telling the previous owner what he had done.
Was the vet wrong? Did the vet save a life?
The vet was paid to complete a service he didn’t and then made money by reselling the dog. Unethical, perhaps, but criminal? You decide.