A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Aug 31, 2016

California Veterinarian Loses License for This ....

I apologize for the photo – but – this what your spcaLA does …. Know that the veterinarian’s license was revoked by the California Veterinary Medical Board after they concluded that he (Ryan James Whitney) subjected a “feline patient to unnecessary surgeries, and therefore needless pain and suffering.”

In 2015, spcaLA Humane Officers began investigating Furrever Grateful Rescue (FGR) and Whitney based on an animal cruelty tip. FGR was fundraising for Sandy on social media, a practice not uncommon, and meant to pull at the heart and purse strings of donors. They were, however, taking Sandy to Whitney for treatment,

spcaLA discovered that Whitney was providing inadequate medical care to Sandy, who was suffering from an erosive tumor that eventually ate away at the left side of his face, including the left eye, part of the nose and mouth. Medical records from September 2014 show that tissue was removed from the eye area three times, and the eye drained multiple times. No diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment plan were ever provided by Whitney.  The investigation by the medical board also showed that “Dr. Whitney committed other acts of negligence and incompetence, and also maintained extremely inadequate medical records.”

Sandy continued to suffer as the tumor consumed his entire face and he wasted away to less than 6 lbs. Still his picture remained posted on the rescue’s Facebook page with a request for funds.

Finally, FGR took Sandy to a different vet hospital where the veterinarian noted that Sandy had a large necrotic tumor and was diagnosed with end stage squamous cell carcinoma.  Based on his poor condition and abominable quality of life, his refusal to eat and weight loss, the vet recommended euthanasia as there was no effective treatment for his condition and his pain.  FGR, instead, opted to take Sandy home and continued to solicit funds. Profoundly disturbed by this, the doctor contacted spcaLA and the veterinary board. 

No living being should ever suffer like that if such suffering can be alleviated. In a perfect world no one should have to make the decision to pull the plug on a loved one or exercise the right to commit suicide in a right to die state. But euthanasia, when properly invoked is the ultimate humane action and the last bastion of dignity to any living thing that is self-aware and in constant agony. Sure, no one wants the deaths of healthy animals to be the solution for finite space and resource issues. Sure, no one who loves wants to see their loved ones die. But this? This, my friends, is often the reality justified by the words “no kill”.

How do you call yourself a saver, a healer, a lover of animals and allow this?

Note: Because the rescue is within the letter of the law and “provided medical care,” there are no animal cruelty charges pending against FGR at this time, however the Attorney General is looking into whether they are compliant with annual nonprofit regulations.


  1. I wonder if the cat, Sandy, died alone in that warehouse. And, I know some organizations covert warehouses into legitimate, fully functioning shelters, but from the pictures, it looked like a dark space with a pet bed sitting on the concrete.
    I haven't come across any rescues that interpret "no kill" without taking into account quality of life. I figured allowing endless suffering was illegal. I think they just decided to sacrifice him, thinking he was a boon to the effectiveness of their solicitations.
    I think that they need to be in the spot light now. More exposure & scrutiny.

  2. Sandy was euthanized by a veterinarian when we started the investigation

  3. Thank you for your blog. Many mistakes were made regarding our cat through this same practice where this vet worked. I.e., A very audible grade 3 heart murmur was missed; we were told a diagnosis of IBS by another clinic in early Spring 2016 was wrong and that diarrhea was caused by a vitamin shot which we believed, meaning our cat did not get the care he needed; a medication was overprescribed; and other careless mistakes were made. Our cat is now in an emergency clinic with anorexia and nystagmus. None of this needed to happen if we had been given correct information, correct prescriptions, and the vet had listened and acted on all of our cat's symptoms. We came to this clinic because we knew it worked with rescues. We thought that was a good sign. We are so sad at what this practice has put our cat through.