Veterinarian presses on despite rumors of terrorist ties

Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

Dr. Inayat H. Kathio is not new to the pages of JAVMA. Dr. Kathio has been recognized for his contributions to animal welfare in his Pittston, Pa., community, and in his native Pakistan, where he continues to give of his time, and to donate veterinary textbooks and journals he has solicited.

Dr. Kathio's clinic
Veterinary care is provided to local police dogs free of charge at Dr. Kathio's clinic. Dr. Kathio is at right.

Yet, now a fire-storm of allegations surrounds Dr. Kathio. Just days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Dr. Kathio, a naturalized U.S. citizen, began receiving anonymous typed and handwritten letters demanding that he go back to Pakistan. Word soon spread alleging that Dr. Kathio is a terrorist and he produces anthrax in his clinic.

The claims are baseless, he said, adding he is not being investigated for terrorist activity. "I was like the best guy in the town, and after September 11, it's like I am seen with a different image," Dr. Kathio said. "Why all of sudden? I've been in this country more than 20 years."

Dr. Kathio described Pittston as a mostly working-class town where he is the only veterinary practitioner. In the more than 10 years of operating his small animal/exotics clinic he has never felt himself the victim of intimidation or slander. That is, until recently.

The rumors began slowly, but soon became so pervasive that local news media contacted Dr. Kathio for comment. His story has appeared in newspapers, and on television and radio. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania even took to the airwaves in defense of Dr. Kathio, whose charity work includes pro bono veterinary care and low-cost spay and neutering at the nearby SPCA of Luzerne County.

Dr. Kathio's work often takes him abroad, either overseeing his three veterinary clinics in Pakistan or consulting for the United Nations. He says he uses every opportunity to advance veterinary education while promoting U.S. technology and interests in developing countries. Santorum commended Dr. Kathio in 1998 for these and his contributions to veterinary medicine, and recommended him to the White House for a commendation.

In July he was teaching at his alma mater, the Tando-Jam College of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Sciences at Sindh Agriculture University. Dr. Kathio was to return to Pakistan this past November, but he canceled his plans because of the difficulties at home.

The low point came when his 12-year-old daughter, crying, related how she had heard at school that her father was a terrorist and was going to be arrested. Having to explain to your daughter that her father is not a terrorist is "pathetic," Dr. Kathio said.

Although his life has not been threatened, the American flag flying from the antenna of his Land-Rover was torn off.

"This is a real unfortunate situation," said Cindy Starke, shelter manager at the SPCA of Luzerne County. "It's pretty unfair and it's very hurtful." Some people feel the need to lash out because of the terrorist attacks, she explained, describing the rumors about Dr. Kathio as "ridiculous."

"The events of September 11 brought out the good in people. I also think it brought out the bad in some," Starke said.

As police investigate the origins of the letters, the outpouring of support for Dr. Kathio from the community has been overwhelming. And while his business has not been affected, he worries that people who do not know him well will see him differently because of the allegations.

Regardless, Dr. Kathio will not be intimidated, and has resolved not to allow his life to be changed by "faceless cowards," saying, "They cannot discourage me in what I do for the community, [and] in what I do for the welfare of the animals."