Pets at risk: A SWFL veterinarian with a troubling record

The NBC2 Investigators discovered a veterinarian with a history of dogs dying under his care and who still has a license to practice.

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Dr. Hakim Hamici owns the Old 41 Veterinarian and Emergency Clinic in Bonita Springs. He’s also the veterinarian for the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track, and has faced five accusations of not monitoring races when he is legally required to do so.

Marco Island resident Shelli Connelly wishes she had known about Hamici’s past before taking her dogs to his business.

“There was no reason for him not to come home with me that day,” Connelly said.

In February of 2015, Connelly took five of her dachshunds for a dental cleaning at Hamici’s clinic at the recommendation of a friend. She said it was her first time there, and she was trying to save some money on the procedure.

“He recommended this guy because he said he could do them all in the same day, and they would be a little bit more affordable,” Connelly said.

Connelly said she dropped off her dogs in the morning but became concerned when she didn’t receive a call to pick them up later in the afternoon.

“I called back and then she put me on hold and came back and said ‘well, he said you can come on up,'” Connelly said.

Connelly said when she got to the clinic no one was there to greet her. Eventually, she said a receptionist came to the front and said Hamici wanted to speak with her.

“She handed me the phone. She said ‘here Dr. Hamici wants to talk to you,’ and as she handed me the phone, she said ‘one of your dogs didn’t make it.’ That’s how they told me. One of your dogs didn’t make it,” Connelly said.

According to an investigation by the Board of Veterinary Medicine, her dog Domino died after receiving anesthesia for the dental cleaning and his heart stopped.

Another one of her dogs, Gus Gus, also went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. It still resulted in brain trauma.

Connelly was shocked this was the first she heard of this.

“I do think it would have been appropriate for me to be told over the phone or to be called when Domino or Gus’ heart stopped to let me make the decision of whether or not I want to continue on with any treatment from him,” Connelly said.

Connelly later filed a complaint with the Board of Veterinary Medicine. According to a report from the expert veterinarian who examined the case, Hamici made numerous mistakes leading up to Domino’s death.

Veterinary expert Scott Richardson wrote that prior to using a gassing agent on the dogs, Hamici “chose to provide no pre-medications or induction agents as would be standard in modern veterinary medicine.”

He went on to question Hamici writing “Was this just pure laziness or incompetence in modern anesthesia?”

In conclusion, Richardson wrote, “Dr. Hamici’s poor and substandard anesthetic protocols, in my opinion, led to the direct death of Domino and subsequent hypoxic damage in Gus Gus.”

The NBC2 Investigators tried calling Hamici at the Old 41 Veterinarian and Emergency Clinic multiple times, but he never returned our calls. Eventually, we stopped by the clinic, and he agreed to talk.

In an interview with NBC2, Hamici claimed Connelly did not inform him of important medical conditions about Domino and Gus Gus ahead of time. He told us she never mentioned both had heart murmurs after undergoing a prior procedure.

“She told me they had the procedure and everything is good, no problems. Which is wrong,” Dr. Hamici said. “She didn’t tell me nothing about the heart murmurs.”

But Connelly contradicts that and so does Hamici in his own statements to the Board of Veterinary Medicine.

In a letter to the board, his attorney wrote: “These two animals had heart murmurs, and prior to any procedure, Ms. Connelly was made aware of the risk for anesthesia and surgery with such conditions.”

But mixing up information is not uncommon for Hamici, according to state records.

In 2014, Hamici was put on probation for failing to keep written medical records in a case where five Jack Russell terriers died.

In that case, a dog owner brought six Jack Russell terrier puppies to Hamici. The owner alleges Hamici gave them Panacur, used for deworming. However, the puppies were only several days old, and guidelines for the medication suggest waiting until puppies are at least two weeks old.

The owner said after the dogs returned home they could not defecate or nurse from their mother. Five of them died.

The expert veterinarian found Hamici did overdose the puppies but concluded that it was unlikely this caused their death since Panacur is widely considered a safe medication. He also noted Hamici did not keep records of administering the Panacur to the dogs, which is a violation of board rules.

In both cases, the dog owners said they went to the Old 41 Veterinarian and Emergency Clinic because Hamici’s prices were more affordable.

“She came here because of financial concerns,” NBC2 Investigator David Hodges told Hamici.

“That’s right, exactly. She didn’t even pay me for that okay,” Hamici said.

“Right. Well, one of her dogs died,” Hodges said. “Should she still pay you even though one of the dogs died?”

“Four of them didn’t,” Hamici said.

Since 2013, Hamici has been investigated twice by the Board of Veterinary Medicine, the most of any veterinarian in Southwest Florida during that time.

But in addition to being an owner of the Old 41 Veterinarian and Emergency Clinic, he is also the veterinarian for the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track where he’s been linked to five different investigations regarding his absence.

According to investigations from the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, Hamici has been accused five times of not monitoring races even though he is required to do so. All but one of the cases was dismissed because of inconclusive evidence or disagreement on his whereabouts.

In one case, where Hamici did not face any sanctions, investigators said he took 24 minutes to get to an injured greyhound and give it medical attention. When asked by state investigators what took so long, Hamici told them he was in the bathroom with “stomach problems and cramps.”

We asked Hamici about what happened.

“Whenever I have stomach cramps, I have a problem. I have a backup. I have doctors that back me up that stay in the clinic or stay at the racetrack,” Hamici said.

However, state records from that investigation do not mention any backup veterinarian being onsite. Hamici’s clinic is less than a mile from the racetrack, but according to state regulations, he is still required to be at the track for races.

“That’s five different allegations of you not being there monitoring a race, and you’re saying all five of those times you were there?” Hodges asked.

“I was there. Yes, sir,” Hamici said.

However, investigators did prove in one case that Hamici was 24 minutes late after a greyhound injury.

Track General Manager Juan Fra received a $400 fine for not ensuring the track veterinarian was present. Fra did not return NBC2’s call requesting comment after saying he would speak with the company’s attorneys.

After 10 minutes of interviewing, Hamici kicked NBC2 out of his office when we pressed him on his history as a veterinarian.

After Connelly’s case, Hamici was fined $4,000 and put on probation for three years. He’s also required to attend multiple continuing education courses.

NBC2 asked the Department of Business and Professional Regulation how often veterinarians are suspended for violating board rules, but a spokesperson said those records are not tracked.

Connelly said she has no criticism for the Board of Veterinary Medicine letting Hamici keep his license.

“I didn’t know what needed to be done or how they would handle it, so I was just very accepting of what they decided was the appropriate disciplinary act for him,” Connelly said.

But she said even with his active license she won’t ever be going back.

“One of my dog’s died and another one suffered brain trauma under his care, so no, I would never want to ever go back there,” Connelly said.


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