A Long Island veterinary hospital allegedly used untrained receptionists to perform risky medical procedures on animals, killing a beloved dog who only needed treatment for an ear infection, according to a new lawsuit.
(Story By Gabrielle Fonrouge January 19, 2022 8:48am Updated)
William Watkins, 68, brought his 8-year-old blue nose terrier Taro into the Patchogue Animal Hospital in June 2020 and was instructed to give her a cocktail of tranquilizers before her next visit so the veterinarian could better examine the pup’s ears, the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Suffolk County Supreme Court states.
Watkins was uncomfortable with the high doses of Gabapentin and Trazodone prescribed by the hospital’s veterinarian, Dr. Eva Armfield, but the animal specialist insisted it was necessary and he obliged, the Brookhaven resident told The Post in an interview.
During a follow-up visit about two months later for a full medical checkup, Taro was able to walk into the clinic on her own but an hour later, her “unconscious and paralyzed body” was carried out by two apparent receptionists posing as veterinary technicians, the lawsuit states.
Watkins could tell something was wrong with Taro, a typically friendly and strong pitbull who had no known health issues beyond the ear infection, and he called Armfield for help from the parking lot three times but she refused to come out and examine the dog, court records say.
“Just take her home, she’ll be fine, let the meds wear off and call me in the morning,” Armfield allegedly told Watkins, he said.
“Well, in the morning Taro was dead.”
The lawsuit claims Taro was dosed with even more tranquilizers during the visit after taking 1,200 mg of Gabapentin and 600 mg of Trazodone, which aggravated a pre-existing heart condition that Armfield failed to diagnose and led to the dog’s death, the suit says.
A veterinarian unrelated to the incident reviewed Taro’s medical records at Watkins’ behest and determined “Taro was a victim of gross medical negligence and malpractice.”
“Dr. Eva Armfield of Patchogue Animal Hospital used a medically inappropriate… high dose combination sedative… as well as failed to recognize and adequately evaluate Taro on multiple opportunities following the severe reaction to the combination sedatives,” Dr. Michael Dym wrote in the report, which is included in the lawsuit as an exhibit.
“Because of these delays in timely diagnosis and treatment, Taro not only suffered needlessly, but lost any chance at emergency stabilization attempts that could have saved her life.”
At the time of Taro’s death, Armfield was using receptionists to perform the duties of
veterinary technicians, including monitoring vitals while an animal is in surgery, performing x-rays, monitoring anesthesia and administering medications, the lawsuit alleges.
The workers, who also had to mow Armfield’s lawn and baby-sit her children, were not trained to perform such crucial tasks and didn’t have degrees from a school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, which is required by law, the lawsuit claims.
Watkins said he and his wife were left despondent over Taro’s preventable death and want Armfield to be held accountable.
“We both collapsed on the ground when we got the news, it was the worst day of our lives,” Watkins told The Post. “Taro taught me more about love than any person ever did and I mourn Taro more than I have mourned any of my family, my parents or friends.”
“We just couldn’t believe it, it just didn’t make sense. This is an ear infection and now she’s dead? It’s like, how can this be?”
Watkins’ attorney, Susan Chana Lask, said Armfield has “hit an all-time low.”
“Dr. Armfield was too cheap to pay for licensed vet techs as required by law, causing companion animals to suffer and die and destroying their owner’s lives while she billed them for her unlawful operation,” Lask said in a statement.
“She should be shut down.”
Armfield didn’t return a request for comment.