COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has confirmed the state medical board is investigating complaints tied to a nonprofit that used orthopedic surgeons and residents to perform surgeries on stray animals, while they were trained or licensed to work on humans.
Surgeons for Strays shut down Friday, submitting its dissolution paperwork to the Secretary of State.
The development came the same day as the nonprofit reached an agreement with the Georgia Veterinary Medicine Association.
Channel 2 Action News received a tip last month about the fallout among those in the Metro Atlanta veterinarian profession, as concerns mounted about the legal and ethical implications tied to the nonprofit's work.
Veterinarians expressed further concern about the results of surgical procedures or restraint methods and supervision during the procedures.
“People who were not appropriately trained in veterinary medicine were caring for the animals, and we were concerned for their well-being,” said Dr. Alan Cross, a Sandy Springs veterinarian who has been practicing for more than two decades.
“When we started looking at the X-rays, we were like, “Oh, this is -- something’s wrong here, this is not OK’,” said Annemarie Jones, a Metro Atlanta veterinarian office manager. “I think all of them that are involved in this had good intentions or have good intentions, but unfortunately the end results aren’t good.”
According to state records, the nonprofit was organized by Atlanta orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Keating in 2016, but the work is more than a decade old, according to Keating’s veterinarian partner.
On Monday, Marietta vet Dr. Michael Good defended to the nonprofit's practice, saying he and Keating had been in the practice of taking in stray cats and dogs for 13 years. Good told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr that he did not possess the orthopedic expertise, nor could he afford the equipment necessary to operate on the strays that were at risk for euthanization.
The agreement was that Good supervised the surgeon and residents in his Marietta practice. There are no clear photos of Good overseeing the surgeries in promotional material for the nonprofit, which has been taken offline.
“Those folks for all their expertise are not licensed to do work on dogs,” said Carr.
“I understand that, but they can be a veterinary assistant,” Good answered.
“But they’re actually performing the surgeries,” Carr said.
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“I may not be there when someone’s shooting a camera but I’m in and out of there,” Good said, also noting he calls the volunteers “good doctors,” playing off his name.
While the vet board didn’t find evidence of violations on Good’s part, an Aug. 28 e-mail response to a filed complaint confirms the state medical board has an open, active investigation into what happened.
Keating was traveling out of the country, but responded to a Channel 2 request for comment on Monday afternoon, saying the nonprofit work started with a request from a Fulton County animal control vet who was disheartened by euthanization rates and funding challenges.
“Our entire intention with Surgeons for Strays was to save doomed homeless pets abandoned by society (which we did over 5 dozen times),” part of the statement read.
Good said he considered the complaints a personal attack. The veterinarian professionals who lodged complaints say they’re happy about Friday’s agreement, and wanted to better communicate with the public how much of this licensed work they actually perform.
“We’ve been getting a lot of pushback from just the general public…They’re asking, you know, well why don’t you do this?’” said Jones. “And the truth of the matter is, we do, or they do, and it’s every day and people come in that can’t afford things, and we do the best that we can with what we’re given.”
“We frequently forget to charge for our services when we know our clients are struggling financially,” noted Cross. “So I think we can just do a better job of letting the general public know how much we care, how much we help.”
“No one goes into veterinary medicine for the money. We all do it for the animals.”