The license of Dr. William Inman, Seattle veterinarian, has been suspended for a minimum of five years and he has been fined $10,000 by the state Department of Health's Veterinary Board of Governors.
Inman is known for a controversial chiropractic treatment called "veterinary orthopedic manipulation."
Although the procedure was used to treat animals in cases brought before the board, that was not the cause of the penalties. Instead, the board cited infractions including inaccurate record-keeping, unprofessional conduct stemming from a misrepresentation of facts and misuse of a medication.
The board found Inman displayed "incompetence, negligence or malpractice."
"His conduct and approach to treatment, judgment and competency are below the standard expected of a veterinarian in the state of Washington," the board states in a 55-page report.
The action is believed by longtime veterinarians to be the harshest ever taken in this state. In 1984, a Seattle veterinarian's license was suspended for three years.
"I didn't expect anything like this," Inman said. "I'm in a state of shock. I stand to lose my entire practice and livelihood."
Inman plans to appeal the order in King County Superior Court on the basis that the board made findings on an inadequate or unsustainable factual basis, made erroneous conclusions in applying veterinary standards, ignored medical literature and imposed punishment far in excess of reasonable and appropriate sanctions.
"If I can get a legal appeal in Superior Court, I'm confident I can win," he said.
The suspension is set to begin in mid-January. Inman could petition the board in 14 months, asking for a stay of suspension, which would allow him to begin practice again under tightly monitored conditions.
The board will consider a petition for a stay only after Inman completes a prescribed program of study at an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited university. If granted, the stay would be subject to numerous terms, conditions and probationary restrictions.
Inman is also required to return fees charged for care and treatment of two cases, which he estimates to be $2,000.
The practitioner's veterinary orthopedic manipulation procedure has drawn criticism such as "quackery" from some peers and praise from some pet owners, who claim the technique enabled their pets to walk again.
The board in its report, however, made "no conclusion" whether the technique was improper conduct.
The procedure involves maneuvering a hand-held stainless-steel "Activator" (arubber-tipped instrument about 6 inches long) down the spinal column of a pet.
Inman says he looks for a reflex which indicates an area of subluxation (misaligned vertebra that is stuck or unable to move correctly and is putting pressure on nerves). Once determined, he says, an adjustment is made by pressing the instrument to the trouble spot.
"The `Activator' heals nothing," Inman said. "It's only a tool that helps restore the pet's ability to heal itself."
He estimated he has restored normal function to the misaligned spinal system of hundreds of pets.
Some animals remain at the clinic overnight for subsequent treatment. Treatment costs vary from $200 to $350. Inman estimates that 40 percent of the subluxations are reduced with one adjustment and another 20 percent may require as many as five treatments.
The complaint alleged that some patients' condition was improved or temporarily relieved by cortisteroids rather than veterinary orthopedic manipulation, but Inman contends many cases involved no steroids. The board found no misconduct in Inman's treatment with steroids.
Inman said 750 letters of support from clients and professionals were mailed to the board.