Emergency veterinary center desperately needed

January 3, 2023

There is not a single emergency veterinary center in the entirety of Sussex County. We learned that the hard way Dec. 23, when one and possibly both of our dogs apparently ingested some mouse poison that workers accidentally left exposed.

Our regular vet closed early; the next day was Christmas Eve. Savannah Animal Hospital, formerly an emergency vet hospital, told us we needed to first contact the national ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, describe the poison to them, get a case number, then go to an emergency center for treatment.

The only one in all of Delaware open that morning was the Blue Pearl Pet Hospital Christiana in Newark. but they were at full capacity and couldn't take care of our dogs. Another center just north of Sussex County would open at 6 p.m., but since time was of the essence in light of the poison being digested, Blue Pearl encouraged us to go to Pinnacle Veterinary Specialists in Glen Mills, Pa., about two nightmarish hours from our Lewes home (We learned later about Salisbury’s excellent Pets ER vet, only an hour away).

This poison's symptoms may not appear for a few days, but when they do, it’s too late to save the dog. Treatment must begin ASAP, but certainly within two hours of ingestion to improve the chance of survival.

Pinnacle turned out to be an excellent facility. Our dogs' lives may have been saved there, but the ASPCA recommended one or more subsequent treatments, starting about four hours later, with one of our dogs requiring overnight hospitalization. We drove to that animal emergency facility north of Sussex County and, outside the front door, were told by a tech that we couldn’t enter. We responded with raised voice (no yelling or insults, just raised voice), pointing out that the temperature was hovering around 10 degrees. The tech said they will not tolerate such outbursts and, incredulously, they denied us treatment! We begged them to take care of the dog requiring hospitalization because he was in greater danger of dying, but they still refused and turned us away.

This center should be exposed for denying care for a dangerously sick animal. We are reaching out to the American Veterinary Hospital Association, the sanctioning body, so that nobody else encounters the same treatment. The facility blatantly failed to live up to the Veterinarian’s Oath, which states in part, “… I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the … prevention and relief of animal suffering. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.”

In the end, we found out the hard way that Sussex County desperately needs an emergency center. Further, the facility in question must try to save every animal in danger of dying.

Rodi Kirchen and Don Kaufman


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