Undercover Kitten Nabs Fake Vet

Steven Vassal performed surgeries and treated pets without license or training, investigators say.

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A kitten deputized for a sting operation helped authorities capture a man they say was pretending to be a veterinarian.

Brooklyn investigators arrested Steven Vassall, 28, after they videotaped him offering to neuter the kitten, Fred, for $135.

Vassall, a former veterinary assistant, may have been treating pets without a license for up to seven years, primarily through flyers and word-of-mouth, authorities said. Vassall did not have any offices, instead making house calls and taking pets to an undisclosed location for treatment.

One of his clients, Raymond Reid, became suspicious following a near-fatal operation on Burt, a Boston Terrier. Vassall allegedly recommended surgery to remove a foreign object from the dogs intestines, and later said that Burt would have to be euthanized due to complications. Reid insisted that Burt should be returned alive, but got him back with infected sutures in his stomach and a mouth bloodied from licking the wound.

Vassall was released on $2,500 bail and faces up to four years in prison for unauthorized practice and other felonies. His attorney, Royce Russell, declined to comment on the charges.

Fred, an eight-month-old shorthair, was brought in for the undercover assignment by Assistant District Attorney Carol Moran, who is fostering the kitten and plans to adopt him.

He's pretty easygoing, a real Brooklyn guy, Moran said.

Fred was rescued from New York City streets when he was four months old, suffering from pneumonia so severe that he was only breathing through half of one lung. New York Animal Care and Control helped rehabilitate him.

The video shows Vassall accepting the money from a detective posing as the cats owner and walking out of the apartment, holding Fred in a carrier.

AC&C is so happy that one of their own, a little stray kitten who got a second chance at life, distinguished himself in his first undercover assignment, said Mary Martin, the organizations executive director.

Posted: Feb. 13, 2006, 3 p.m. EST

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Reader Comments

Heather    Greenville, AL

2/24/2007 8:16:31 AM

I think the undercover kitten, Fred, is so cool.I can't believe someone would pose as a vet
just for money!!People can be dumb like that.I feel bad for the dog.
Good luck Fred!!

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