People hurting pets to get pain medication, reports on the rise across the country

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Drugs addicts are hurting their pets to get pain medication. Veterinarians are reporting it across the country.

“When we hear about people intentionally hurting animals, so they can benefit from it, it’s shocking and horrifying.” Dr. R. Reed Stevens, a veterinarian at Ellicott Small Animal Hospital in Buffalo, said. He’s had to change the way he prescribes pain medications over the years, after concerns of people trying to use or abuse their pets to get it.

“It strikes to us at the core, in terms of what we’re about in terms of helping animals.” Stevens said.

In Kentucky, police said a woman cut her dog with razor blades in 2014 just to take the dog’s pain medication. It’s often for a drug called Tramadol, which is commonly prescribed by veterinarians for pain medication. Trooper Dean Scirri of the New York State Police said people use Tramadol with opiates to get a better high.

“We’ve seen people with pet medication prescription bottles in their vehicles,” Scirri said.

Tramadol has been a controlled substance in New York since 2013. Dr. Stevens said his practice recently reduced how often they prescribe it. It’s one of the changes they’ve made, partly to stay ahead of the problem.

“When we get suspicious, we have to take action,” he said. “It’s our responsibility and part of what we do as veterinarians.”

Dr. Stevens hasn’t had any cases he’s had to report to law enforcement, but said he’s been suspicious of pet owners in the past and moved pets to other drugs because of it. He said there are red flags he looks out for.

“When drugs go missing or when refills start coming in more often,” he said.

Dr. Stevens said veterinarians in New York State are required to report daily what prescriptions they give out. A system is also set up with the Niagara Frontier Veterinarian Society to warn vets in the area if they think a person is “doctor shopping.”

State Police and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office both said they have not had any cases of people abusing their pets to get drugs.

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