Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jul 2001
Source: The Herald-Sun (NC)
Copyright: 2001 The Herald-Sun
Author: Michael Rubinkam (Associated Press)


PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The craze over one of the hottest new party drugs 
became evident at Dr. Fred Mishrikey's animal clinic last week, when armed 
robbers bound and gagged him and his wife and demanded his supply of 
"Special K."

Officials say the robbery is part of a nationwide trend as a growing number 
of drug users seek out a substance that produces a euphoric high but is 
able to tranquilize a horse with a dose of less than a half-ounce.

"The whole veterinarian community is scared. I'm a prisoner in my own 
office," said Philadelphia veterinarian Dr. Raj Khare, 66, who was robbed 
in June.

Chemically similar to PCP, ketamine hydrochloride can be smoked, inhaled 
like cocaine or added to drinks for a hallucinogenic high. A single dose of 
the drug -- known on the street as Special K or Cat Valium -- sells for 
$20. Fatal in high doses, ketamine is also considered one of the 
"date-rape" drugs because it can cause users to fall into a stupor.

"It's been abused for a number of years, but with the club scene, it's 
becoming more popular," said Jude McKenna, a special agent with the Drug 
Enforcement Administration in Philadelphia.

Although there are no national statistics on the theft of ketamine from 
animal clinics, burglaries are becoming commonplace.

In Allentown, Pa., four people were arrested for allegedly threatening to 
firebomb a veterinary practice unless they were given ketamine. In Arvada, 
Colo., thieves looking for ketamine allegedly broke into two animal clinics 
in one night. In Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina, thieves posing as 
vet clinic workers sought to "borrow" vials of ketamine from other clinics.

Philadelphia police believe the same theft ring is responsible for four 
recent veterinarian robberies. Two suspects were arrested this week, and 
police were seeking two others, Capt. Patrick Dempsey said.

Mishrikey's assailants entered his clinic with their dog and told him the 
poodle had diarrhea. But after following Mishrikey and the dog into the 
examination room, the two thieves allegedly threatened him with a gun and 
demanded to know where he kept his supply of ketamine.

Then they bound Mishrikey to a chair with duct tape and taped his mouth 
shut, doing the same to his wife.

"We're sorry, we never meant to hurt you. God bless you," the intruders 
reportedly told the frightened couple before running out of the office with 
17 bottles of Telazol, a lookalike drug they mistook for ketamine. Miriam 
Mishrikey used a letter opener to free herself and ran across the street to 
dial 911.

"I didn't care if I died. Everybody dies. But I was concerned about my baby 
boy, who is in high school," said Mishrikey, 63.

After the robbery, the couple began wearing panic buttons around their 
necks that can summon police at a moment's notice.

Other Philadelphia veterinarians have taken security measures as well, 
installing surveillance cameras and burglar alarms, keeping doors locked 
even during business hours and refusing to accept walk-ins.

"It sickens me that it's also used as a street drug and that apparently now 
veterinarians have become the target of drug dealers," said Dr. Ronald 
Kraft, an official with the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association who 
was one of about 70 vets gathered in suburban Philadelphia on Wednesday to 
discuss the threat.

 From 1994 to 1999, the drug was associated with 67 deaths in 40 cities 
surveyed by the Druge Abuse Warning Network. Emergency room visits in those 
same cities increased from 19 in 1994 to 396 in 1999.

The drug can result in permanent brain damage and slow the heart rate to 
the point of death. It can also cause convulsions, especially when taken in 
large dosages, and vomiting when mixed with alcohol.

McKenna, the DEA agent, said he is especially bothered that people are 
mixing "Special K" with other drugs such as Ecstasy.

"It's called polydrugging," he said. "They're mixing all these drugs 
together, and at any time any one of these drugs can kill you."
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