My Message to CARA

Thursday, March 21, 2013 Stef dela Cruz 4 Comments

After asking a vet at the CARA clinic to have our dog’s claws trimmed, I promised to myself that I would blog about what happened. I promised myself – and our dog – that I would send a message to CARA.

But let me start the story properly. My partner brought in our dog for neutering. The staff said they could trim his nails for free. A few hours later, we were surprised to find out that all his claws had been chopped off so close to the root! They had to apply a solution to stop the bleeding, a solution that burned off the bleeding vessels.

CARA hurt my dog
As you can see in this photo, every claw was over-trimmed. The white stuff you see is the charred part of our dog’s claws after the application of a solution that burned off the blood vessels & stopped the bleeding.

It was a nightmare to watch our dog suffer. I was ready to bite that vet’s head off. I was ready to sue.

You see, unlike people’s nails, animal claws are closely attached to the bone. Clipping off the claws would be like chopping off the tips of your fingers.

Let me ask you this: If this happened to your pet, what would you have done? Sad to say, there’s nothing much we can do in the Philippines. But if this happened to people instead of animals, we would be in court, suing an irresponsible doctor for making ALL the fingers bleed unnecessarily.

It was a malpractice lawsuit waiting to happen; “gross negligence” came to mind. What hurt me more was that this happened at CARA. It’s just ironic that CARA means, “Compassion and Responsibility for Animals”.

Adding Insult to Injury

I took a photo of our poor dog’s paws and posted it on Facebook with the caption, “Don’t EVER bring your pet to CARA for claw trimming.” Perhaps you can do that for neutering. But please, don’t go there for claw trimming.

This was the kind of incident everybody should be warned about. Apparently, someone incompetent was cutting claws like they were cutting dead branches.

“I thought that when you said you agreed to having his claws trimmed, you actually meant having each claw cut off.”

Even sadder was the fact that after this horror was brought to the attention of the person in charge, I received this response:

Sorry you are upset, but no need make the tone so negative. We do a lot to help animals, and I can guarantee you that the surgery is the best you will get for spay/neuter. We apologize about the nail trimming, I will surely advise them not to do it this way again. We are a low cost clinic, our specialty being spay/neuter, not grooming. Just like any other service-oriented situations, there will be times when things go wrong, and unfortunately it happened to you. Please try to understand that we service thousands of animals monthly, and we have a good reputation and as much as possible we try to give the best service as possible for the low cost we charge. Please do understand this and that we are a non-profit organization.

Sigh. CARA, where do I begin? Here, let me break it down for you.

“We do a lot to help animals…”
I’m sure you do. And that, I love. But that doesn’t make it okay that you hurt an animal once in a while because of negligence.

“We are a low cost clinic; our specialty being spay/neuter, not grooming.”
Does being low-cost make it alright to botch up? No. And if something isn’t your specialty, why on earth did your staff volunteer to actually do it? Just because you don’t specialize in grooming doesn’t mean you are exempted from consequences if you do it wrong. It’s not like you just gave my dog the wrong haircut. You cut off his claws.

“Just like any other service-oriented situation, there will be times when things go wrong, and unfortunately it happened to you.”
Oh, wow. If only every hospital, clinic, and healthcare provider can shrug off any valid complaint with this statement! And for the record, it’s never okay that “things go wrong” because of negligence, especially when it comes to a patient’s health, whether they’re paying clients or charity patients.

“Please do understand this and that we are a non-profit organization.”
Please understand that the reason I urged my partner to go to CARA and not our private vet is because I wanted the payment to help animals under CARA’s care. Please understand that being a non-profit organization is NOT a get-out-of-jail-free card. Look at it this way: Any charity hospital will still be held responsible if one of their nurses accidentally cut off a patient’s ear.

My Message to CARA

CARA, you obviously have good intentions. You are there to help animals. But do not stop at good intentions; the road to hell is paved with so many of them. That may sound harsh, but clipping off a person’s fingers is harsh. And yes, clipping off a beloved pet’s claws until they all ooze blood is harsh, too.

It’s time to wake up. The idealism must be balanced by realism. Below, I give a few suggestions for you. You can ignore my suggestions - or you can do CARA justice by choosing to listen to what I have to say without being the very least defensive.

  1. CARA, please learn to apologize properly. Saying you’re sorry but saying “things are bound to happen” just because you service thousands of animals is not right and you know it. How would you react if your mother accidentally lost a finger due to hospital staff incompetence and the hospital apologized by saying, “Sorry, but we have thousands of patients, so things are bound to happen”? Yeah, I know, you’d be pissed even more. The right apology would have been, “We are so sorry for what happened to your dear dog! How is he now?  We are staunch advocates of compassion for animals, so we want to make sure we can make him feel better.” Now, that would have been a great apology!
  2. Do not use being a non-profit organization – and having thousands of animals as patients – as a reason to mess up. Perhaps your organization has bitten off more than it can chew. And I say this with genuine concern: Maybe it’s time to take things down a notch. Never sacrifice quality for quantity. Take on less animals for now, at least until you can manage to care for more. Get more volunteers; if you can’t, then don’t try to take on the world, so to speak. You don’t want anyone to lose a finger – er, claw.
  3. Train your staff, including the “assistants”. When we talked to the person who cut off our dog’s claws, he said, “I thought that when you said you agreed to having his claws trimmed, you actually meant having each claw cut off.” WHAT?!? I thought he was kidding, but he was dead serious. That assistant had no business trimming claws when he obviously had no idea how to. And the vet who asked him to do it was equally responsible! Obviously, these guys need more training. Or at least they need to “put down that clipper before anybody gets hurt.”
  4. Ask your staff not to offer services they can’t really do. My partner agreed to having our dog’s claws trimmed because he was assured they could do it. Please tell the staff not to keep offering services that they were not trained for.
  5. Stop taking on so many animals. I know that it might seem noble to keep rescuing animals, but when your efforts are starting to injure these animals, it’s time to hit the brakes! First, do no harm. That’s a tenet you should always remember, especially because your focus is on helping animals. Taking on way too much – and hurting animals in the process – just defeats the purpose of your organization.

I seriously hope the lesson has been learned, especially by the kind but role-confused volunteer vets at CARA and the people in charge there. Again, being charitable is no excuse for harming animals. Continue with your efforts to provide affordable pet services – but please make sure no animal ever gets hurt!

CARA (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals) hurt my dog

And if a pet does get hurt, learn to make things right – without washing your hands or justifying your mistakes, that is. Please, dear CARA, you owe it to the animals. And you owe it to our dog who, even up to now, refuses to walk. Yes, he’s still in pain. I have yet to see him wag his tail. CARA, let his pain be your wake-up call. Please heed my message to you.

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She maintains a health column in Health.Care Magazine and contributes to The Manila Bulletin. Add her to your circles.


  1. Dear Doc Stef,

    I just don't know where to begin....okay first i feel sorry for what your furkid had to go through:( As with many animal welfare org in the country, CARA is one of those I admire! However, this is something that I think is amount of reasoning can justify what the staff did to your poor furkid! You have validly pointed out all the should really let other people know about this!!!!


    I feel so sad talaga for what your furkid had to go through....:(!!!

    CARA's apology for me is like adding salt to an injury...or should i say adding insult to injury:/!!!!!! Oh my talaga:(

    kisses to your furkid..Doc Stef

  2. Hi, Carmen! Thanks. The way you put it - "fur-kid" - is exactly how we look at our pets. They're like our children, but they have fur. We love them and we get very distressed when they're in unnecessary pain.

    Thanks for wishing our fur kid well. :) Yes, CARA really is one of the organizations I looked up to as well, but this incident is a sign of an underlying problem that shouldn't be shrugged off - that is, if we want CARA to keep helping animals.

    Thank you for dropping by, Carmen! Kisses back from our dog to you. :)

  3. UPDATE: CARA's president emailed me to apologize. And this time, unlike the previous spokesperson's attempts to "apologize", the apology was more becoming of their organization. Finally.

  4. good to hear that Doc Stef! hope the claws are healing now...
    kisses back from our pup Lulu and RJ our cat to your dog:)