My name is Lisa Marie and I live just outside of Kalamazoo, Michigan. I witnessed first hand, cruelty to a seven month old Springer Spaniel by her veterinarian.
I began working on August 16, 1999 as a vet assistant at Crestview Animal Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This was a one doctor practice. My first week working there, two other technicians told me the doctor "socks" and "hits" dogs and cats he is caring for. They told me I will see a lot if I work there.
FIRST SIGNS OF A PROBLEM
During the first and second weeks of working there I witnessed Steven Ginsberg yelling and swearing at dogs that whined or barked. These were dogs that were being boarded or staying there for routine visits. From August 23 to August 27, I observed a dog go without water day and night. He would tip his water bowl as soon as we placed it in the kennel for him. I asked the other technician for a spill proof bowl and I was told the doctor does not have these available for the dogs that do this. Throughout the day we did our best to make sure he had water however at night this was not possible. I asked the doctor if there was something we could do but I was told that the dog was fine and that the dog deserved it (going without water) for being so hyper.
Over the long Labor Day holiday, a client's dog was boarded at the clinic. This was a German Shepherd that required a large kennel, however all were occupied by other dogs so the German Shepherd was kept in a smaller cage. She could not raise her head all of the way because the cage was not large enough.
DOCTOR UNABLE TO CONTROL TEMPER
Many times the doctor would get very angry and throw things (scissors, nail clippers, pencils) during surgical procedures and also routine procedures. He used irreverent language when addressing the other technicians and myself, just as he did with his patients. He did not use new, sterile packs for each surgery. He would use the same pack for several different routine spay/neuters in a row. When I asked him to train me how to restrain an upset cat while doing procedures, he told me it was common sense and to "just hurt them to teach them a lesson."
I called the Kalamazoo Humane Society the second week I worked there to notify them of the conditions described above.
LUCY - BROKEN SPINE
At the end of my second week, on August 31, 1999, a man brought in a dog that had been hit by a car. Her name was Lucy and she had a broken spine. The doctor said the options were either expensive back surgery with no promises or to euthanize her. Lucy's owner decided it would be in her best interest to have her put down. He said his good byes to Lucy and paid for the services and left. The doctor did not euthanize Lucy that day despite that being what Lucy's owner was lead to believe would be done for his pet. I can not say for sure why the doctor did not euthanize her and it has been a mystery to many individuals. I was told by another technician this was due to the fact that the doctor left for the day to go golfing, did not want to make the extra trip back to the clinic to do the procedure (as requested by her owner) and that he was waiting until he came back the following morning to euthanize her. I believe he held her life in limbo while he decided whether or not he wanted to try the back surgery himself.
Lucy's owner wanted an explanation as to why she was not euthanized after his request. I asked the doctor myself and he said that he was going to try and do Lucy's back surgery. He did not own this dog yet he, a veterinarian who agreed to euthanize her, never did as her owner requested and paid for.
LUCY FALLS OUT OF CAGE
The following day, September 1, was my day off. On September 2, I arrived to work and found Lucy had fallen from her cage. She was laying on the floor in front of the lab door that I was trying to enter through. The other technician rushed in behind me wondering who was crying. I told her it was Lucy. We discovered that her cage was not latched correctly the night before and she had been out all night by herself. Urine was pooled in areas throughout the clinic so I believe she was out of her cage most of the night. She was unable to walk so I believe she dragged herself around. Together we tried to move her but she cried out from pain. We left her where she lay until the doctor arrived so he could help us move her. We were apprehensive of any movement causing her further pain and I did not know how to properly move a dog with a broken back without possibly causing more injury to her. The other technician set up for the euthanasia procedure assuming the doctor would be doing this as soon as he arrived.
LUCY SLUGGED & DROPPED FOR CRYING
When the doctor arrived he yelled because she was not in her cage. He went to pick her up to move her and she cried out in pain. He swung his arm and with his hand open, using his palm, he slugged her hard on her chest. She fell to her side. I left the clinic on my lunch hour and went to a pay phone to call the Kalamazoo Humane Society. To my knowledge nobody from the clinic knew that I had done this. When I returned to the clinic the other technician told me that the previous day (this was my day off) the doctor had "dropped Lucy on the cement floor" while carrying her to the cage. According to the other technician he had become angry with her because she was crying (from the pain the movement was causing) and he dropped her on purpose and then yelled at a technician to put her away.
Although I did not want to remain working in that type of environment, I realized I needed to be there as long as possible to protect Lucy. The Kalamazoo Humane Society also felt this was necessary. There was concern on both my part and the Humane Society's that Lucy would be hit again if the doctor became angry with her yet another time.
VET LEFT SPINAL INJURY CARE TO TECHNICIANS
The day Lucy came in with her injuries the other technicians and I did all we could to help Lucy until the doctor arrived to the clinic to see her. However, in the following days, the doctor had her lay in a kennel for one week. Other than take an X-ray, to my knowledge, he did not observe her nor did anything else to make her comfortable or to prevent further complications. Through observation and also from what the other technicians relayed to me, Lucy was given only one pain injection and that was at the time of her arrival following her accident on August 31. Her medical records indicate only one injection was administered as well. She was in severe pain with any type of movement. Anything that was done to help her and to make her feel more comfortable was done only by myself or the other technicians. This was our job and I wanted to do anything I could, however, there are medical procedures that none of the technicians are trained to do or by state law cannot do, but the doctor can.
I felt I had the responsibility to watch over her because the other technician told me the doctor never checks on the animals at night and it is up to "us girls" to do so. I was not asked by the doctor to come in after hours to care for Lucy, as were no other technicians. Several times when I arrived to check on her in the evening hours, she was laying in her feces and urine. This was because she had no bladder control and to the best of my knowledge was not having her bladder expressed every 2-3 hours as I later learned she should have. On September 3, he asked me upon arriving to the clinic for work how the animals were. I was happy to tell him that Lucy had eaten an entire can of food and he said to me, "Who is Lucy?"
On September 4, I left a letter for the doctor asking him not to hit animals as long as I was working for him. Three days later he "let me go" and indicated it was for monetary reasons.
LUCY REMOVED FROM CLINIC
Lucy's owner took her out of the clinic on September 14, immediately after he was made aware of what his dog had gone through. She was treated and cared for by another veterinarian. I took her to my home and legally adopted her as Lucy required around the clock care and attention. I offered to do this for her owner as I wanted to try and rehabilitate Lucy. I was out of work so I could be home with her more than he was able to be. Her owner agreed that this would be in her best interest.
She did not have control of her bladder and as the days passed it did not improve. After two other exams, consultations from two other vets and also a verbal consultation with a specialist at MSU, I was told that there was not a medical cure that would allow her to regain control of her bladder. This would most likely be a lifetime condition for her. Her quality of life would be marginal as it was understood that she would also experience urinary tract infections on a regular basis. Remarkably she was running with me just two weeks after caring for her. However, with support from her new doctor, my family and friends, the Kalamazoo Humane Society, and most importantly in all fairness to Lucy, her previous owner and I chose to have her put down. As she was euthanized on October 5, 1999, I made a promise to her that I would speak out for her and do everything I could do to get the justice that she deserved. Lucy was a brave victim who suffered a very traumatic experience that hopefully will open the door for many other unknown victims of cruelty.
DIFFICULTY IN FILING CHARGES
I tried to file an animal cruelty charge with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department but I was told twice that this had to be done through Kalamazoo County Animal Control. I called there and the Director told me I was just a three week old employee and Steven Ginsberg was a doctor with a degree and never had any other past complaints against him to back mine up. She did not take me seriously. I immediately went forward with a complaint because it was my job to do so as a professional technician and a compassionate human. I was appalled that our local authorities, who are trained to take these allegations seriously, would not do so until I got more witnesses to come forward.
FINDING OTHER WITNESSES
While I was still an employee at Crestview Animal Hospital, I searched for ex-employees' telephone numbers. I contacted several and I know for a fact that some of those employees and past clients have filed allegations with the Michigan Bureau of Health Services, Kalamazoo Sheriff's Department and the Kalamazoo Humane Society concerning other abuse and neglect incidents. This was prior to the story going public in the Kalamazoo Gazette (November 28, 1999). Below is a quote taken from the article published by the Kalamazoo Gazette as Steven Ginsberg acknowledged striking the Springer Spaniel (Lucy) in his care:
"With an open hand, I hit him on the side of his chest trying to get him to lay down," Ginsberg said, adding that the dog had a broken back, was in pain and was unable lay down to receive treatment. "I hit him right by the front legs, as soon as I did, it stopped crying."
I was told more allegations came in after the story was published. It is still important others come forward so that this case does not stall in its tracks. Click here for more information.
WHERE IT STANDS
At this time the Kalamazoo County Prosecuting office is reviewing all allegations filed against Ginsberg.
The Bureau of Health Services - Complaint and Allegation Division for the state of Michigan have completed interviews with the patients and employees who have filed allegations. The case is currently being reviewed by the state's Attorney General department. It is not too late to file a complaint against Ginsberg if you were unhappy with the services he provided you. Every one that comes in could strengthen the case against him. Please go to the Complaint and Allegation Division site, which explains how to file. You could help to remove the license that allows him to hurt innocent animals, as Lucy was.
I have been in contact with PeTA and animalrights.about.com. Both have been very supportive and helpful with my quest for information and direction. Please help to see that Lucy and the others get justice and also to protect other pets from Dr. Ginsberg. I believe Lucy may have opened the door for many other victims who have or will suffer at the hands of a man who calls himself a "Doctor of Veterinary Medicine."
To witness abuse of a helpless, suffering and frightened dog is a tormenting circumstance. It is not unlike a pediatrician hitting an unsettled, helpless and frightened child during an office visit. Does anyone find child abuse acceptable? Lucy deserves justice.