An Atlanta orthopedic surgeon who had taken on the role of saving animals who would otherwise be euthanized has agreed not to operate on any more homeless animals. This is the heartwarming and now heartbreaking story of an amazing man and the work he took on to heal unwanted homeless pets so they could go to a rescue while a forever home is sought.
The Surgery for Strays program saved a lot of dogs and cats
Dr. John Keating, a surgeon at the Atlanta Medical Center (a Level One trauma center), began taking on surgical cases a few years ago. He has performed 86 operations to date in his spare time. It started with a call about a homeless dog heading for euthanasia because the surgery to fix his leg was too expensive for a rescue group to take him.
Dr. Good, the chief veterinarian at the Good Clinic in Marietta, Georgia, couldn’t bring himself to put the dog down and contacted his old friend Dr. Keating. Now the team operates under the Surgery for Strays program, a unique program that mainly operates on nights and weekends whenever the team can squeeze in an animal in need of saving.
Since the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association (not to be confused with the Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine) requires a licensed vet to oversee any operation concerning an animal, Dr. Good is always present (several comments on different Facebook threads dispute Dr. Good being present). There have been veterinarians in the state who question whether this is the right thing to do. A group of veterinarians even asked Dr. Keating to stop performing surgery because he’s not a veterinarian.
When 11 Alive News asked Dr. Keating about what keeps him motivated, he explained
“These are dogs that are doomed. Ain’t nobody going to fix them. They can’t get adopted. Half the time they’re going to be euthanized if we don’t fix them. This enables me to keep doing people. Because, you know, you get beat up doing people. You have lawyers, hospital admins, federal government, state government, Medicare, Medicaid. You feel like they’re all against you. Here, we’re just taking care of hurt animals. These wonderful souls, who we place in wonderful homes.”
Not only did Dr. Keating perform the operation, which he paid for any expenses involved himself, the resident doctors are hooked on helping animals as well. They wanted to help heal the homeless dogs and cats.
Carolyn O’Brien with Two Tailz Rescue is grateful for the Surgery for Strays program after taking in a dog named Addison, a Gwinnett County dog who had been horribly abused, stating
“He’s extraordinary. To have a heart like that, with his reputation as one of the top ortho surgeons, there’s just no words to say thank you. She (Addison) represents what resilience is about. And Dr. Keating has just been a life saver for her and me.Because she would have been a $15,000 dog for us, because she needs three surgeries.”
“We go so hard in human medicine, every once in a while we need to circle back and remember why we’re doing this. And that’s to do some good, and that’s what we’re doing,” Dr. Keating added.
The Surgery for Strays program is amazing, even if it is a bit unconventional. Unwanted pets are being saved and going on to forever homes instead of being euthanized. The doctors are getting training in the veterinary field, which could come in handy should they ever decide to switch professions.
A lot of people are against the Surgery for Strays program and the work the doctors did
Unfortunately, the Surgery for Strays program has come to an abrupt half for now. According to the GVMA, Dr. Keating has stopped performing the operations in an agreement announced on their Facebook page on September 13.
If you go to the GVMA Facebook page, a lot of people support the program being stopped. There’s even a petition online asking the program be permanently halted, that only licensed veterinary surgeons be allowed to perform surgery on animals instead on only ‘overseeing’ the procedure.
According to a report by 11 Alive News, Dr. Alan Cross filed a complaint against Dr. Keating to the Georgia Board of Veterinary Medicine.
“Our concern is that these patients weren’t being handled in the best way because of lack of training. To be a vet surgeon we have four years of surgery training after four years of vet schools. So we think we do a good job and take pride in what we do.”
There are x-rays floating around the internet that allegedly show the program does poorly in performing a lot of the operations. Because of that, animal advocates are pushing Georgia legislators to rethink the veterinary surgery laws on who can operate and who can’t.
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Additional recommended reading here.