Clinic Stories

You Never Know

Animal Care Center was previously a satellite clinic of North Jersey Animal Hospital, opened in 1994. The sign was up before the inside work was completed and a local groomer stopped in. She was looking for a new location and wondered if we could work something out. The basement had been set up as a separate rental space and the situation seemed ideal. I would get rent from a groomer who already had a local pet clientele. The reality was less than perfect. The grooming area was dirty and became flea infested and I lost hard earned clients who were disappointed with her grooming. To top it off, my kids had two chickens we could no longer keep because the rooster started crowing. The groomer’s father had a small farm and she said she would take the chickens. When my 7 year old triplets birthday came around, their one birthday request was to visit “Run Away” and “Fly Away”, their beloved chickens. When I asked the groomer when they could visit, her face went pale, and to quote, my children’s pets were “chicken cutlets”.

As the veterinary practice quickly grew I needed more space and ended the grooming lease after a year. Although I told her she could have up to six months to move out, she left after two months. Within a week the basement was thoroughly cleaned, fumigated, patched and painted, as it turns out, none too soon.

One afternoon I was at the main office in Wayne and received a call from a Bloomingdale Animal Control Officer (ACO). “Dr. Morris, I am at your office with a police officer and you need to come down here immediately. We’ve received a very serious complaint.” As soon as I got out of the car the ACO began telling me that I was keeping animals in dungeon-like conditions, that I was not fit to be a veterinarian and besides having no shame I should be in jail. When I did not respond after she ran out of breath, she asked if I wasn’t going to say anything. “Would you like to see the office?” I asked and she agreed that was a good idea. As we entered the freshly painted office with gleaming new stainless steel cages, the policeman said, “I’m really impressed and I’m not easily impressed” and the ACO said “That’s why they call me the cannon; always shooting my mouth off.” When we completed the tour, the policeman said he saw no need to file a report. I asked if he please would in case there were further problems.

Further problems did not take long. The next morning I received another less pressing request to meet the ACO and police officer to address a second complaint about unsanitary conditions. Both complaints were anonymous phone calls but when the ACO arrived, a woman in a pick up truck was in the parking lot. She told the ACO that she used to rent the basement and assured her how bad things were. A second tour was not necessary and the policeman proudly told me he had filed a report to help deal with any further complaints. “Isn’t there a law against making false reports?” I asked. “Yes there is”, the ACO confirmed. “You won’t have to deal with this any more.”

I never heard from the ACO again but she later had her ACO license revoked for losing a rabies specimen then falsely reporting that the specimen was negative, causing the mayor of Ringwood to undergo rabies treatment. The policemen became a client and has referred at least a dozen clients. The groomer, ironically, continued to use me as a veterinarian and to refer patients. This year (2010) her house burned down and many of her pets died. She brought one in for smoke inhalation, which I treated free of charge. My kids, now adults, never forgave her.

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