RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA – An Inland Empire doctor has been placed on probationary status by the Medical Board of California for overprescribing therapy dogs, prescribing inappropriate therapy dogs, and giving unnecessary dog therapy to patients.
Doctor Adam Liu, a Montclair family medicine physician, was sanctioned on Monday after a month long investigation of his private practice clinic which was opened in 2002. Dr. Liu had recently garnered the reputation as the “go to” doctor for therapy dog prescriptions.
It is alleged in the initial medical board complaint that patients as far as Hollywood, some 40 miles away, would travel to Dr. Liu’s office just for therapy dog prescriptions. “He was our go to man,” reported a confidential informant listed in the complaint. “Whatever you wanted – a golden, a beagle, an Australian shepherd – you could get them all from Dr. Liu with just one appointment.”
A recently hired employee expressed his shock when he witnessed Dr. Liu prescribe a patient multiple dogs for the same ailment. “It was crazy – I mean, one dog might have been enough for a chronic migraine, but six?” It is alleged that in one particular case, Dr. Liu prescribed a litter of puppies to a patient, eight times the typical prescription amount.
The medical board was also troubled by the use of therapy dogs for conditions which therapy dogs had no clear indication. “I walked into the doctor’s office for antibiotics for my two day long cold,” one patient testified. “Instead, I got a lecture about antibiotic resistance and a German Shepherd.”
Other violations found in an audit of Dr. Liu’s practice included the prescription of inappropriate types of therapy dogs, such as hybrid wolf-dogs, for chronic pain patients. “There is no evidence that these wolf-dogs provide any additional benefit for the management of pain,” testified expert Dr. Josie Vasquez. “In fact, they may be detrimental to a patient’s condition, particularly when prescribed in large numbers.”
Members of the medical board hoped this case would send a clear message on the issue of therapy dog prescriptions. “Our nation is facing an epidemic of dog prescriptions,” stated board member Dr. Walter Simons. “Now is the time to act before we breed a generation of dog addicts.”
Under the conditions of his probation, Dr. Liu cannot prescribe therapy dogs without supervision for at least two years, must attend mandatory education classes on proper dog prescribing practices, and have guidelines in his office to prescribe alternatives such as cats and pot-bellied pigs.