Drug-Seeking Pet Owners Abusing Animals to Get Pain Pills

By Bryan Le 02/27/17

Veterinarians have had to keep an eye out for drug-seeking behavior from pet owners lately.

Drug-Seeking Pet Owners Abusing Animals to Get Drugs
Buddy needs the pills, too.

With all the adorable dog videos shared on Facebook, it's hard to believe that some people would hurt their own pet to get a hold of pain medications from the vet. However, veterinarians are becoming painfully aware that this sort of animal abuse is a reality, with some pet owners spinning a story to get prescription pills—drug-seeking behavior that physicians have had to be wary of for years.

“We would never think of people using or abusing these drugs,” Dr. Duffy Jones, owner of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital, tells CBS News. “We typically believe what people tell us and we don’t want a pet in pain, but now we’re taking a bit more of a critical look at exactly what the client is like and what the dog is like — does it fit?”

Being on the lookout for animal abuse is nothing new for veterinarians, but pets coming in with repeat injuries are now met with a new level of scrutiny. “We’re really looking for things that don’t match up,” Jones says. “As we start to question the owner, we look at the owner’s response.”

Big red flags that veterinarians look for include a refusal on the behalf of the owner to release the pet’s medical records, or asking for specific drugs by name. Tramadol—a milder opioid pain medication—is a popular request, according to veterinarian reports from across the nation.

It’s not just physical abuses that veterinarians are looking for, but faster-than-expected use of the medicine as well. “Prescriptions are being used up faster or they have been reported to being spilled multiple times,” adds Dr. John Gicking, a vet based in Tampa, Florida.

Heather Pereira, a then-23-year-old Kentucky woman, reportedly cut her dog with razors to get a hold of tramadol pain meds back in 2014. Pereira's golden retriever, Alice, was brought in to see the vet on multiple occasions over a three-month-period. The "cleanliness of the cuts" on the dog coupled with the fact that Pereira specifically requested Tramadol led vets—who suspected that Pereira was cutting with a razor—to call the police and report the incident. Pereira eventually confessed to police and was charged with three counts of animal torture. Alice the dog now lives with a foster family.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter