Portland Veterinarian, Daniel Koller, Accused Of Animal Cruelty
Doctor Daniel Koller's clients accused him of kicking, beating and throwing dogs and cats. The complaint says he allowed unlicensed technicians to euthanize animals for problems as minor as fleas.
November 21, 2004
Veterinarian philanthropist accused of animal cruelty
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A Portland veterinarian who helped set up more than 20 low-cost animal clinics in he Northwest is facing accusations of animal cruelty and abuse.
Doctor Daniel Koller has been summoned before the state Veterinary Medical Examining Board to answer the charges in January. His license was revoked twice in California but he says the charges against him here are groundless and blames a disgruntled former employee.
Portland lawyer Susan Burns filed a 79-page complaint against Koller in July on behalf of one of his former employees and on behalf of an animal welfare advocate.
The complaint includes statements from Koller clients who accuse him of kicking, beating and throwing dogs and cats. The complaint says he allowed unlicensed technicians to euthanize animals for problems as minor as fleas. katu news
Veterinarian faces new claims
The state examines complaints that Daniel Koller, whose work drew fire in California, has brutalized pets in Oregon
Sunday, November 21, 2004
A veterinarian whose license was revoked twice in California -- for animal cruelty and drug abuse -- faces new accusations in Oregon that he brutalized pets and left others maimed or dead after botched surgeries at his Portland clinic.
Oregon's Veterinary Medical Examining Board is investigating complaints against Daniel Koller, a 57-year-old veterinarian who helped establish more than 20 low-cost pet clinics in the region. Koller runs Companion Pet Clinic on Northeast 82nd Avenue.
The Oregon veterinary board has summoned the veterinarian to its Jan. 23 meeting to answer questions about at least one complaint, Koller said last week in interviews with The Oregonian.
Portland attorney Susan Ford Burns filed the 79-page complaint with the veterinary board on July 28. It was brought on behalf of Koller's former front-office manager, Maureena Schmaing, and an unnamed animal welfare advocate.
"Our hope," Burns said, "is that the vet board will revoke his license because of the abuse of animals."
The complaint includes statements from Schmaing and at least eight of Koller's clients. The document accuses Koller of beating, kicking and throwing cats and dogs; failing to diagnose ailments that left animals dead; letting unlicensed technicians anesthetize animals without supervision; and euthanizing pets -- at the request of owners -- for maladies as treatable as fleas.
In interviews last week, Koller denied abusing any animals and said his technicians are properly supervised. He said he allows owners to decide whether to euthanize their pets.
Koller said he thinks his critics are inventing accusations that echo charges brought earlier in his 30-year veterinary career.
A California jury in 1977 sentenced Koller to 100 days in jail for brutalizing a dog and letting an unlicensed vet student perform a hysterectomy on a cat. Koller maintains that the dog allegation was made up and that the animal never existed. But California's veterinary board revoked Koller's license, stayed the revocation, and let him practice on probation.
Koller says he served his jail time on weekends while attending law school. When he was admitted to the bar in 1982, Koller represented other vets who got into trouble with the regulatory board.
Much older now, with a beard that is mostly gray, Koller blamed the latest scrutiny of his veterinary practice on Schmaing, whom he described as a disgruntled former employee out to get his license, and partly on Sherry L. Walle, a competitor and critic.
"Allegations are allegations -- that's all," Koller said between surgeries. They are, he said, unproven accusations.
The Oregon vet board's lone investigator, former Portland police Detective Dennis Chaney, has interviewed or corresponded with several people in the Koller matter. Chaney declined to be interviewed for this story, citing state law that forbids the board from acknowledging investigations before formal sanctions.
Genesis of the complaint
In March, according to Schmaing's complaint, she witnessed Koller mashing his foot on the head of a small black cat to stop it from scratching him. She phoned Walle for advice.
"She was crying," recalled Walle, who encouraged Schmaing to put her complaints on paper and report them to the vet board. Walle put Schmaing in touch with an animal welfare advocate who used to work at her clinic; they turned to Burns to draft a complaint.
The relationship between Koller and Walle has been strained since October 2001, when Walle left the chain of veterinary clinics that Koller and others had launched. Walle changed the name of her Companion Pet Clinic on Northeast 82nd Avenue to Bridge City Veterinary Hospital and severed all financial ties with Koller.
Koller answered Walle's defection by opening a new Companion Pet Clinic a few hundred yards down the street and published ads comparing his prices to hers.
Koller confronted Schmaing in late May, asking her to sign a declaration that stated, among other things, that she had never copied client records or witnessed Koller euthanize an animal without a client's consent.
Schmaing refused to sign the document and Koller fired her.
A swift business
Koller's business sits on busy Northeast 82nd Avenue between X-otic Tan for Men and El Burrito Loco #3. He runs a clean shop that, by all appearances, operates with seasoned hands. The business often performs 20 or more surgeries in a day.
As Koller moved through surgeries one recent morning, sitting only to read charts or talk to clients, he pointed out how simple routine operations become after many years. He performed spays, neuters and teeth extractions in a few moments each.
Koller was the first vet to challenge the Oregon veterinary board's policy of not allowing members to advertise outside the Yellow Pages.
He began to run TV and newspaper ads in the 1980s that compared prices at Companion Pet Clinics with competitors. The Oregon vet board accused him and three other vets of unprofessional behavior in 1992, but withdrew the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.
Koller pressed on. He filed a lawsuit seeking judicial review of the board's decision, litigation that cost the panel $90,000 in legal fees. To raise the money, the board increased its annual licensing fee from $50 to $100.
"I'm a litigator," Koller said. "I like the courtroom battle."
When Linda Humiston accused Koller of killing her kitten, Bonnie, with a mislabeled bottle of antibiotics in 2002, her lawyer threatened the vet with legal action. Koller responded in a letter, "Go file your law suit and make my day."
"He's a unique character," said veterinary partner Cornelia Wagner to explain how Koller collects critics. "I guess some people don't like that. He's outspoken."
Lisa J. Green described Koller's candor as appalling.
"He looked like a mad scientist. But I figured the guy's been in business forever, he's gotta know what he's doing," said Green, who took her elderly cat, Clyde, to Koller last winter after it failed to respond to insulin. Koller removed the cat's spleen, but it died in recovery.
The vet sat down with Green to give her the bad news, pulled out a plastic bag with the cat's cancerous spleen and dropped it on the exam table, she said. When she blanched, he looked at her puzzled and said, "Well, you've seen liver before."
Koller said he does not recall his conversation with Green.
A litany of complaints
The vet board complaint accuses Koller of leaving animals maimed by surgical errors.
Two years ago, Koller, whose hands suffer the tremors of Parkinson's disease, accidentally sliced through the urethra of a cat named Fluffy during a surgery to remedy a retained testicle.
Koller acknowledges that as he explored Fluffy's abdomen he mistook its prostate gland for the retained testicle and sliced through the urethra. He felt bad about it, he said, and phoned Fluffy's owner, explained what happened and offered her free veterinary care in exchange for allowing him to own and keep the animal at the clinic. Koller performed a surgery that allows Fluffy to urinate from a hole in his abdomen.
"Did I try to hide what I did with Fluffy?" he asked. "No."
Kathy Jones recently filed a separate complaint to the vet board alleging that Koller's failure to find a wad of plastic obstructing the bowels of her kitten, LULU, caused the animal's body to shut down with dehydration last summer. Koller examined the cat, ran blood tests and gave her antibiotics. A few days later, when Jones took the cat to Walle, the animal -- staggering and falling -- could not be saved.
Walle euthanized the cat and performed a necropsy, finding the wad of plastic in LULU's intestines. An X-ray, Walle contends, would likely have shown the obstruction or gas buildup behind it and invited an exploratory surgery that could have saved the kitten.
"That cat wasn't a misdiagnosis," Koller said. With Jones' limited funds, he had a choice of an X-ray or blood tests to identify his preliminary diagnosis of renal failure. He said X-rays might not have identified the obstruction.
The complaint also accuses Koller of using a border collie mix as a blood donor for another dog and telling its owners that fur missing from its jugular and foreleg -- sites where blood is drawn -- was from stress.
Koller denied using clients' animals as blood donors.
As Schmaing and the animal welfare advocate collected witness statements from some of Koller's clients last summer, the California vet board prepared to discipline him for an incident three years earlier in his San Diego home.
Koller's teenage daughter found him and his wife unconscious in the master bedroom on Oct. 27, 2001. Their eyes were drawn to pinpoints, according to a paramedic's report of the incident. Syringes lay next to their arms, which bore the bloody pricks of fresh injections. A vial of Telazol, a small-animal anesthetic, sat nearby with the words, "Not for human use."
The California veterinary board launched an investigation.
Koller freely acknowledged abusing Telazol to numb the pain of personal problems and a knee surgery. "It stopped the world," he said last year.
The California vet board adopted an agreement last month that revoked Koller's license, but stayed the revocation. The order allows Koller to practice in California under supervision, provided he is found psychologically fit.
It is rare, said Susan Geranen, the California board's executive officer, for a vet's license to be revoked twice in a career.
The Oregon vet board, which has kept tabs on the California case, will review his agreement at its Jan. 23 board meeting, said executive director Lori Makinen.
"What I think would be likely," Makinen said, "would be for the board to seek a similar agreement with Dr. Koller."
POST ANY INFO/PICTURES ABOUT DANIEL KOLLER OR THIS CASE HERE!!!!!!!
contribute to this article
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion
view discussion from this article