The local and international veterinary community mourns the loss of one if its own, Dr. Shirley Koshi, who passed away in February. Dr. Koshi practiced as a relief veterinarian in our area and spent time in many local practices including my own. Her family resides in Kingston. She opened her own animal hospital, Gentle Hands Veterinarian, in Brooklyn in July and was quickly swept into a series of unfortunate events.
A summary of these events as published in the New York Daily News, Feb. 26 and assembled from online information is as follows:
In October of 2013, two good Samaritans presented Dr. Koshi with a believed feral, stray, outdoor cat residing in a colony of cats in a city park near her practice that recently had become very ill. The cat needed extended medical attention. As some veterinarians often do in such cases, the cat was admitted to the hospital and treated at the hospital’s expense. During the extended stay the staff bonded with the cat, known as Karl, and Dr. Koshi eventually adopted him and added him to her animal family.
Shortly thereafter an area resident, Gwen Jurmark, became involved, asserting that she had originally adopted Karl from Animal Control, paid for his neutering and vaccination, and then released him into the park as part of a trap, neuter, release program. She felt this entitled her to be considered Karl’s owner and demanded that he be returned to her even filing a civil suit against Dr. Koshi demanding his release.
Ms. Jurmark and her associates began to mount a public campaign against Dr. Koshi in support of Ms. Jurmark’s assertions. The group held protests outside of Dr. Koshi’s practice and began challenging Dr. Koshi’s actions online, with a group which calls itself the Veterinary Abuse Network – dedicated to revealing how badly some veterinarians abuse animals.
Sadly, reportedly distressed by the effect these actions had on her practice and reputation, Dr. Koshi took her own life in February. The group cheered in its postings the release of Karl into their hands. While there are probably abusive veterinarians out there somewhere, Dr. Koshi was certainly not one of them. It’s extremely distressing to see the lengths that a group of zealous animal lovers are capable of going to in support of their cause.
New York’s newly adopted cyberbullying laws are primarily aimed at students. Investigations are underway to see if they may be applied in this situation. The national veterinary community is supporting these investigations. This also has made our profession keenly aware that we need to establish adequate support mechanisms for veterinarians and perhaps owners who may be undergoing the same difficulties faced in this case. One group has already begun a Facebook page known as “The Veterinary Outreach Center” to facilitate and resolve any disputes between clients and veterinarians in a sensible and equitable manner. Mechanisms also exist within our local and state veterinary associations to help facilitate resolution of such disputes. A petition has also begun on Change.org asking that the courts look into this case. As is thankfully a common result in similar horrible situations, ultimately some good may come from all of this. We can all certainly hope so.