While they’re not beating you up and taking your lunch money, like some 1940s cliché, cyberbullies are talking crap about you publicly and ruining your veterinary professional reputation—or the reputation of your entire veterinary practice.
We’re not talking about valid criticism. We’re talking about the lies and exaggerations and the enlisting of friends, family and online mavens to spam your e-world with complaints.
Here are two stories from two practice managers. Can you relate? We hope not …
‘ … and the German shepherd rescue people got wind of it … ’
A couple of years ago I was working at an ER practice. It wasn’t in the best of areas, so security was always a concern.
Late one night before midnight, two men came into the clinic and told my receptionist that a dog had been hit by a car nearby. They wanted us to come get it. The location they described was at least a good city block or two away and across a major intersection.
Being an ER, we were minimally staffed. We told them we couldn't go get the dog but we’d be glad to see it if they could get it here, and we offered to call Animal Control to help pick it up. (We had a good relationship with Animal Control, and they would have brought it straight to us.)
The two men left. We never heard from them again.
The next day our Facebook page lit up. Apparently the dog was a German shepherd, and the German shepherd rescue people got wind of it. They posted a picture of the dead dog and then wrote terrible things about how heartless we were and how we were only worried about money. They said we let this poor dog lie on the street and die, and we wouldn't help it get to the hospital. (Surrrrre, I was going to have my receptionist leave the clinic at 12 a.m. with two strange men with a story about a dog … that seems safe.)
Well, this exploded on Facebook, and we were bombarded by people from all over the country. We had to shut down our clinic Facebook page for several weeks to let it die down, and it was horrible.
On the flip side, I’ve seen the opposite effect too. We had a patient’s care go viral and end up on national news—in a good way. That too was completely crazy, with all kinds of people and reporters calling and showing up with cameras.
We’re kidding ourselves if we don't understand what a powerful tool social media can be.
—Hospital director Wendi Kaminski
We had a terrible roller coaster of harassment on social media from a client (and several family members who weren’t clients). Long story short: A new client came in for a second opinion who wasn’t happy with their previous clinic. We diagnosed and treated the dog. The owner decided to stop the medication because of something she read on the internet. The dog had to be euthanized because of its medical condition. The pet owner went bonkers. It spanned several social media platforms and lasted more than a month.
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The owner (identified with a sun sticker) is the only person we ever had contact with. Her brothers both jumped on the social-media-bashing bandwagon and began posting and reviewing us alongside her. Between the three of them, they hit Facebook, Yelp and Google.
Family member: "this is the worst vet ever people all the worker very rude"
Former client: "Received my 'sympathy' card and flowers today for my dead dog. The vet office misdiagnosed my dog and now she is dead. The only reason they are sympathetic ... is not being able to get more money from me even though they had already taken hundreds/thousands from me. She was weak, bloated [and] anemic, and the vet said she may not make it. [B]ut instead of trying to save her, he sent her home with a vitamin shot. I will not ever use this practie again. [J]ust wish I had [come] to my senses before my dog had to die from their multiple misdiagnoses. Then when I return the 'sympathy' items, I get attitude from one of the people at the desk. That was very unprofessional. They should have been 'sympathetic' to my dog when she was alive, not after she had to suffer and die because of them."
They did this on every page we run! So a review for the main clinic, another review for the satellite clinic, a third review for our training services and a fourth review for rehabilitation. They commented on other clients’ reviews and liked each other’s posts.
Former client: "Please stay away. I reported the vet office to the [REDACTED] [v]eterinary board because of the treatment they gave my dog, which ultimately led to her death and unnecessary suffering. I received the copies of the documents back, and it had several lies. The whole time they tell you your dog's condition isn't changing to give you hope, just so they can keep you coming back and spending money. Not once had they contacted me about my grievances, yet in the document they said they did. Doctors, you should be ashamed of yourselves for lying about what really happened."
Former client: "My dog mis misdiagnosed several times, which ultimately led to her death. Once I could no longer spend about $800-$1,000 a month on vet visits, my dog was pushed [aside] to die. I had her there twice two weeks prior to her death, and both doctors didn't catch that she was getting PLE. [I]nstead they both blamed either her steroids or maybe her condition. She was having bloody diarrhea, starting to bloat and having slight issues with back leg weakness. I even called and asked about the early symptoms and was told that as long as her stomach wasn't tight (she was bloated), then there wasn't much to worry about. Also, the vets gave me hope that my dog was fine and there [weren't] any major changes that they were seeing even though I might have been seeing them at home. Then a day before her death, she was weak, in pain, bloated [and] anemic, and the vet said she was in bad shape and may not make it. He gave her a vitamin shot and sent her home. The next day she had to be put down. I don't know what is worse ... my dog dying or how she was ... treated those last few weeks of her life."
It came up again after the licensing board notified the pet owner that we weren't at fault in how we managed her case. She'd filed a complaint a couple months back, and we had to respond and wait for the ruling. Not surprisingly, it was dismissed, but it involved the four veterinarians that she'd seen in the couple months she was a client.
Former client: "I took my Chi [deceased patient] there for about two to three months, spent ... hundreds, thousands on her unidentifiable illness and what am I left with[?] Ashes inside a little box. After spending ... all that I had on visits, medicines, foods and previous tests, they get serious about doing a biopsy, which would have cost a thousand more. I couldn't afford that all upfrnt, so we couldn't do it and continued with her treatment for the guessed disease. The day before she died I had her there because she had swollen up, couldn't walk, was anemic and in pain. [T]hey gave her a vitamin shot and sent her home to be rechecked in two days. The next day she had gotten worse, so we decided to have her put down to end her suffering. If I would have had more funds to give them, I bet they would have taken her in and tried to save her instead of sending her home to die. Is it practice to end a very weak, bloated, anemic dog home with only a vitamin shot? I had her there twice two weeks before because she was having bloody diarrhea and a swollen belly. [N]either vet for her diagnoses right. She was starting to get PLE from her unknown illness. Their greed killed my Chi and caused her to suffer more than she needed to and caused my family and I great upset. Chi's life ended when my bank account did. They care more about money than the life of your family member. That test may have saved Chi's life, but they offered no options for me or no mention of their rainy day fund. Finally, Chi was cremated, and they called me to pick her up as if she was still alive, which was very hurtful. I will not ever go back here after what happened to my Chi."
She came to us because she didn't want to follow her regular veterinarian's recommendation to see an internist. We also recommended that she see an internist. She wanted to try different diets and medications. She blamed the medications for signs that were actually manifestations of the dog's disease, and so the patient quickly declined when she stopped giving the medication.
Family member 1 gives one-star review.
Family member 2: "the worst vet ever they don't know what they doing this place got to be the worst vet ever and the vet very very rude what kind of vet people they have working there they dont know what wrong with my dog the Vet people should be fired if they dont know what they are doing they should know what wrong with dog if they dont they should not become a vet all this vet care about is Money stop harassing us calling us and sending people knock on our door we dont want you guys stuff i we will never go back to [REDACTED] again"
A day after her dog was euthanized by our practice, the reviews started coming in. I didn’t immediately respond to the first one or two, assuming she was grieving and maybe even dealing with some guilt. I tried to call her several times after the next review came, and someone hung up on me each time. It was a landline, and I heard someone pick up and slam the receiver down.
When she received her sympathy card and flower arrangement that we send to all owners of deceased pets, she brought them into the clinic, screamed at my client service team, slammed the vase down and proceeded to rip up the card and throw it at one of my employees.
I tried calling a couple more times and got hung up on again. Her brother posted the review above with "… stop harassing us calling us and sending people to knock on our door" (the knocking was the florist). The last review the actual owner posted said that "not once had they contacted me about my grievances."
Outside of a dismissed licensing board complaint, the only good thing is that all the members of this family share the same last name, and I'm hopeful that anyone reading the reviews takes that into account.
—Practice manager Kelly Capasso