Lake Veterinary Hospital in Oakland has served generations of animals and pet owners in the East Bay. But now the hospital is in bankruptcy and the former owner is facing charges of embezzlement. Now there is, however, one ray of hope.
"I came down here and they were closed with a note on the door," Hayward resident Deena Cruz said.
That's what pet owners found when they arrived at Lake Veterinary Hospital in Oakland.
Cruz had been taking her dog Sophie to this hospital for 14 years.
Suddenly it was bolted shut. Medical records were locked in, the veterinarians locked out.
"Everybody was kind of stunned," veterinarian Eleanor Dunn said. "There was no access to the records."
Dunn was a vet there for more than 20 years. But starting March 24, even she couldn't get in the door.
"It basically left a lot of patients without the care that they needed and without the medical information," Dunn said.
Pet owners contacted 7 On Your Side, desperate to get medical records. So we tracked down hospital owner Rita Monser of Livermore. She told us she planned to reopen the hospital, but here's what we've now learned.
"She's undergoing a court case at this time," Dunn said.
Monser was charged in September in Alameda County Superior Court with embezzlement of hospital funds and theft of more than $100,000. A pre-trial hearing is slated for January 14.
We tried several times to reach Monser by phone but our calls went unanswered. Her attorney, public defender Tim Murphy said he "(Doesn't) have any comment on any litigation or pending litigation we might have with her."
And while Monser faces those charges, the hospital is now in bankruptcy. The facilities and the medical records are locked in court; their fate, in limbo.
"Chaos, it's really chaotic," Taria Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian had been taking her dog Jimmy James to Lake Hospital for 23 years before it closed.
"I was always worried something would happen and they would need surgery and I wouldn't have my vet," Sarkisian said.
However, she need not worry any longer.
To the joy of hundreds of Bay Area pet owners, the hospital is now back in business.
"Oh, it's critical," veterinarian Lauren Knobel said. "This neighborhood could not survive without a veterinarian."
Knobel is a former longtime Lake Hospital veterinarian. She teamed up with Dr. Dunn to open a new practice in the same location. It's now called the Grand Lake Veterinary Hospital.
"This practice has been here since the 60s," Knobel said. "So to have this practice be closed down was a huge, huge blow to the community. As you can see we still have a very strong community and everybody is just thrilled that we're back."
"It's nice to have a stable space to be at," Dunn said.
"I couldn't be happier," Sarkisian said. "My two favorite vets in the whole world now own this place."
The two veterinarians are now trying to obtain the old medical records for their patients. The bankruptcy court controls the records and will probably put them up for sale. So it's not clear exactly what will happen to them.
For now doctors are relying on their memory of cases; happy at least they know their patients well and they're with them.