2 Southern California Vets Die in Car Crash

Dr. Diane Defenbaugh was killed along with her daughter, Dr. Kathryn Defenbaugh.

Drs. Diane Defenbaugh, left, and Kathryn “Katie” Defenbaugh.


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Clients and colleagues are mourning two veterinarians—a mother and her daughter—who died in a crash with a wrong-way driver Aug. 13 near San Diego.

Killed were Diane Defenbaugh, DVM, associate veterinarian at VCA Angel Animal Hospital in San Diego, and Kathryn “Katie” Defenbaugh, DVM, who worked at Banfield Pet Hospital in nearby Chula Vista. Diane Defenbaugh was 61, and Kathryn Defenbaugh turned 29 the day of her death.

The women were headed to SeaWorld to celebrate Kathryn’s birthday when the 27-year-old driver of a Chevrolet Yukon struck a guardrail for an unknown reason and careened across State Route 125 and into the path of the Defenbaughs’ Chevrolet Suburban, according to news reports. The women died at the scene, and the other driver survived with minor injuries.

Pauline White, executive director of the San Diego County Veterinary Medical Association, said the women had been planning to swim with the dolphins at SeaWorld San Diego.

“Dr. Diane’s three siblings will take the ladies home to Chicago, as they had no family remaining in San Diego,” White stated on the organization’s website.

“My condolences to their friends, that remain devastated, and to this veterinary community that has suffered a horrific loss,” White added.

Kathryn Defenbaugh was a 2013 graduate of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. Her undergraduate work was done at the University of California, San Diego, where she learned Latin under lecturer Charles Chamberlain, Ph.D.

“She always talked about her mother and how she planned to be a veterinarian like her mother,” Chamberlain commented in reaction to White’s statement. “The randomness of this is numbing. Both gone at once. I feel for her loved ones.”

Shelly Ferris, DVM, a regional medical director for Banfield Pet Hospital, spoke on behalf of the Portland, Ore.-based chain.

“Not only is this a loss for Banfield and our clients, but the untimely passing of Dr. Kathryn Defenbaugh and her mother, who was also a well-respected veterinarian, signifies a loss for the entire San Diego veterinary community,” Dr. Ferris said. “Our hearts go out to Dr. Defenbaugh’s family, friends and colleagues.”

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Clients of VCA Angel Animal Hospital grieved on the practice’s Facebook page.

“I have taken my dogs to Dr. D since October of 1982,” one wrote. “Dr. D was a wonderful person, mother, friend and doctor.”

“We are heartbroken about the news of Dr. D and her daughter,” another client added. “Dr. D was such a great vet for our cat the past 11 years. Our thoughts are with everyone there.”

Diane Defenbaugh earned her DVM in 1979 from the University of Illinois.

“She relocated to San Diego … and began her career at the Main Street Animal Hospital,” White stated. “Owners Drs. Tom Mulligan … and Michael Kelly soon opened a second practice, the Angel Animal Hospital in the North Park area, for which Diane became the primary veterinarian along with Dr. Rob Tugend. She worked her entire career there and leaves a cadre of dedicated longtime staff. (Both locations are now a part of the VCA family.)”

Andrew J. Triolo  DVM, MS, MAM, group vice president with Los Angeles-based VCA Animal Hospitals, said he was “shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of our veterinarian Dr. Diane Defenbaugh and her daughter, Katie.”

“I worked with Diane for over 15 years, and she has been a beloved member of our family at VCA Angel Animal Hospital for over 34 years,” Dr. Triolo said. “Our entire team and her clients are devastated by the loss, and she will be greatly missed.

“In honor of Diane, we are dedicated to keeping her memory alive through VCA Angel Animal Hospital’s ongoing service to the North Park neighborhood. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Defenbaugh family.”

Bob Doak, DVM, the Southwest group vice president, said relief veterinarians have stepped in to keep VCA Angel Animal Hospital running.

“Despite the overwhelming grief we all feel, our VCA Angel team is committed to continuing Diane’s great work on behalf of pets and their families,” Dr. Doak said. “We would like to reassure clients that our hospital services are fully operational with the assistance of relief veterinarians, many of whom worked under the guidance and expert leadership of Dr. Defenbaugh.

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“We will all miss her and send our deepest condolences to her family.”

The family asked that any donations in memory of the Defenbaughs be made to the nonprofit group Canine Companions for Independence.

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