The veterinarian at Alta View Animal Hospital lost his license to practice medicine this month after state officials identified dozens of cases of unprofessional behavior, wrong prescriptions and mistakes in animal care.
The decision to revoke Tejpaul Ghumman’s license, which took effect July 13, was made after four local pet owners filed complaints in 2017 about the treatment of their animals, two of which died during or after treatment in Alta View. A total of 53 violations were alleged, about half of which were tried in court.
Ghumman is challenging the decision in a new civil case, claiming that the revocation of his license was excessive and based on incorrect findings. An attempt to restore Ghumman’s license during the challenge failed last week.
Ghumman had run the veterinary clinic near the San Antonio Mall on Showers Drive in Mountain View since 2014 on a trial license. It was at this point that the California Veterinary Medical Board (VMB) found that he was treating a cat improperly for kidney failure and was illegally operating an online pharmacy. Alta View received more than 1 million tablets of prescription drugs, including 287,520 tablets of phenylpropanolamine, which can be used to make methamphetamine.
Complaints later emerged that Ghumman was poorly caring for pets, including failures in emergency care for a dog, Lena, who died in 2017. The vet found Ghumman was negligent in not giving Lena frequent doses of adrenaline while she was in cardiac arrest.
The veterinary panel also found numerous record violations: physical examinations were either not performed when needed, or at least not documented, and Ghumman failed to provide timely full medical records to owners.
State officials revoked Ghumman’s veterinary license and “operating license” that allowed him to operate the Alta View Animal Hospital. Ghumman’s attorney Michael Firestone said the site is still open for business under another company, and Ghumman still works there – but only in the back office space.
One of the owners who testified against Ghumman, Courtney Batterson, said she was “indescribably relieved” that his license was finally revoked. She had gone to Alta View to have her dog Mabel neutered after adoption, a procedure she believes was botched. Batterson said she was concerned that the shelter she was using – Copper’s Dream Rescue – continued to bring new pet owners to Alta View despite the long list of suspected violations.
“For the past three years, I have known in the back of my mind that new customers went to Alta View Animal Hospital deceived into trusting Dr. Ghumman and his staff to properly and ethically diagnose, treat, and operate on their pets.”
Irina Badea and Jim Frimmel, who filed a complaint against Ghumman for treating their dog BooBoo, called the withdrawal a win for veterinarians, community members and pets. But it didn’t have to take that long and shouldn’t have been that difficult.
“It’s a shame that removing a license is so difficult,” said Frimmel. “Going forward, we want to work to give the board a stronger hand and give pet owners the ability to sue more than just the dollar value of an animal.”
The revocation of the veterinary license is handled differently than in criminal or civil cases and decided by an administrative court. The Vet Board raised allegations against Ghumman in 2018 and requested the revocation of his license, with the California Attorney General serving as the prosecutor’s office. An administrative judge earlier this year found that there was enough evidence to support the revocation.
Appeal against the judgment
But the fight continues. Firestone recently filed a challenge to the ruling in the San Francisco Supreme Court, arguing that the veterinarian agency had revoked Ghumman’s license. The most egregious allegations were successfully challenged, and the remaining violations were mainly due to bookkeeping and discrepancies between paper and medical records – hardly any errors to justify losing a license.
“In these circumstances, the entirety of the evidence does not suggest that Dr. Ghumman was a fraudulent, money-hungry, ruthless doctor as the allegation suggests,” said Firestone. “Withdrawing a medical license – the functional equivalent of a professional death penalty – is an extraordinary act that must never be done without adequate documentation to support it.”
Several witnesses who supported Ghumman described him as a trustworthy and capable veterinarian. Some trusted him to look after their pets for more than 20 years. One of the owners, Craig Dremann, testified at an administrative hearing that it would be a “great loss to the community” if Ghumman were to lose his license, according to court documents.
Prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office disagree. Deputy Attorney General Judith Loach wrote against postponement of the withdrawal, saying that for years Ghumman had “endangered his patients, violated the law and told shameless lies about his qualifications and activities”. His actions were grossly negligent, which harmed his patients, and the revocation was necessary to protect the public.
Loach cited numerous instances where Ghumman had been dishonest with his patients, used paperwork at the American Animal Hospital Association when he was not accredited by the organization, and tried to reach an agreement with Badea that they did referred to as “hush money”. After BooBoo was euthanized, a veterinarian at Alta View offered the owners an illegal settlement agreement that offered them $ 749 in exchange for not filing a complaint with the veterinarian agency. The owners never signed the document.
Even during the hearing, Loach wrote that Ghumman continued his fondness for dishonesty. He reached a settlement in 2014 and admitted to running an illegal online pharmacy, but continued to testify that the allegations are not true.
“Plain and simple: Ghumman is a danger to the animal keeper community in Mountain View, California,” Loach said in her opposition. “He was essentially pounding his nose at the VMB and its probation. And then the customer complaints were filed with the VMB and it clearly showed a repetitive pattern of a dishonest veterinarian being negligent and incompetent in veterinary practice.” “
California attorneys general declined to comment on the revocation, and passed it on to the Veterinary Medical Board. Members of the veterinary committee did not respond to requests for comment until Monday.
Badea and Frimmel, the owners of BooBoo, said the win in administrative court was somewhat marred by the immediate challenge in San Francisco to overturn the decision. Badea said she was concerned to hear that Ghumman was still working in some capacity at Alta View after losing his license, and she had little confidence in the endowment or interest of the state in enforcing its own decisions.
“We’re basically at the mercy of a future judge,” she said.