No Standing Against Vets

Pet owners find they have no legal standing to get their vet disciplined.

Des Moines couple Kenneth and Nonna Newman really loved their dog. When Trali, a Pekingese, developed a herniated disc in 2006, they spent thousands of dollars on MRIs and surgery, according to their attorney, Adam Karp.

Two veterinarians eventually persuaded Nonna that “if she really loved her dog enough, she would consent to euthanasia,” as the Newmans recall in legal documents. The Newmans complied, but later received information that led them to believe that Trali could have been successfully treated and didn’t need to be put to sleep. They filed a complaint with the state’s Veterinary Board of Governors. When the board declined to discipline the vets involved, the Newmans took the matter to court. Last week, the state Court of Appeals ruled that the couple wasn’t entitled to any kind of judicial review.

Karp says the ruling will apply to decisions involving all health professionals—doctors, nurses, psychologists, massage therapists. The judges are saying that it’s up to the state boards and commissions that govern these professions to decide whether discipline is warranted. And if patients (or their owners) don’t like the state’s decisions, there is, in Karp’s words, “nothing you can do about it.” (Though, of course, wronged patients can still sue for malpractice on their own behalf.)

The court ruled that the Newmans didn’t have legal “standing,” in part because they could not prove that they had been injured by the state’s decision not to discipline the vets.

Rather, the court noted, it is license holders—vets, doctors, and so on—who have standing to question disciplinary decisions because they are at risk of losing their livelihoods.

Nonna, who works as a contract bargainer for the SEIU, says the ruling made her feel as though “Trali was killed all over again.” She and her husband, a seafood executive, are considering whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

More in News & Comment

Photo of promotional recruitment banner used by Auburn Police Department at Petpalooza. The banner features Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson, who is awaiting trial for the 2019 murder and assault of Jesse Sarey. Photo courtesy of Jeff Trimble
Auburn police use photo of embattled officer on recruitment banner

Families of people killed by Jeffrey Nelson, who’s awaiting trial for murder, speak out over use of his photo at Petpalooza.

Use your King County library card to explore the outdoors

KCLS cardholders can check out a Discover Pass for two weeks to explore public lands.

Monkeypox virus. Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.
King County identifies first presumptive monkeypox case

The illness is not as easily transmitted compared to COVID-19, according to health officer.

This screenshot from Auburn Police Department bodycam footage shows an officer about to fire his weapon and kill dog on May 13, 2022.
Auburn police shoot dog, and owner claims it wasn’t justified

See videos of attack as well as bodycam footage of officer firing at dog.

File photo.
King County Council approves creation of Cannabis Safety Taskforce amid rash of dispensary robberies

The multi-agency task force will cooperate to find ways to improve safety in the cash-only industry.

Screenshot from ORCA website
New ORCA system launches for regional transit across the Puget Sound

Overhaul includes new website, mobile application and digital business account manager.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Diane Renee Erdmann and Bernard Ross Hansen. Photos courtesy of FBI
FBI arrests Auburn couple after 11-day manhunt

The couple was previously convicted for fraud and skipped sentencing on April 29.

Screenshot from Barnes and Noble website
Cover art of books that KSD Librarian Gavin Downing says have been under fire: “Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts),” by Lev A.C. Rosen, “If I Was Your Girl,” by Meredith Russo, and “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George Matthew Johnson.
Kent middle school librarian wins intellectual freedom award

Gavin Downing refused to keep ‘silence in the library’ amid attempted book banning and censorship.

Kent elementary school teacher accused of using racist language toward student

River Ridge Elementary instructor placed on administrative leave by Kent School District.

FILE PHOTO: King County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Dozens of King County Sheriff’s Office employees left jobs instead of getting vaccinated

This added on to the existing number of vacancies in the department.