What a Mess, My Thoughts on “That Veterinarian in Fort Worth”

One of our own is under fire. There’s a good chance you’ve heard the story all over the news about the Fort Worth veterinarian accused of some pretty heinous acts of animal abuse. Basically this all started when a disgruntled employee blew the whistle on the DVM, notifying a family that their dog, believed euthanized six months ago, was still alive.  Their dog, Sid, had been living in a cage, in reportedly deplorable conditions. Further investigation has revealed a possible five other pets, including the DVM’s own dog, who should have been euthanized, but weren’t. The internet is on fire with inflammatory and hateful rhetoric. So far, the veterinary response seems cautiously subdued.  As a whole, it seems we just don’t want to believe that one of our brethren could be capable of what he’s being accused of. (This is based on reading multiple posts on the topic in the Veterinary Information Network message board). I think we’re collectively just a bunch of underpaid, overworked nerds who deeply love animals and despite our complaints and grumblings about being overworked and underpaid, are pretty proud to do what we do. We take care of God’s creatures. Of course, in caring for the creatures, we have to deal with the humans. They trust us to do what’s right for their pets, we took an oath to that effect. Based on the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners report , as much as it pains me, as a veterinarian to believe, Dr. Tierce broke that oath. I’m going to leave the judgement of Dr. Tierce to the State Board and the Fort Worth judicial System. I just wanted to touch on a few issues that this case has brought up.

  • First of all, and I’m speaking for Animal Medical Center of Plano, but I suspect most vets I know agree with this:  we take the trust you, our clients, and the general public have in us very, very seriously. Our reputations depend on it, and as I said before, we love animals. We treat them as we would our own. Always.
  • Most of our owners are present for their pets euthanasias. However, if they choose not to be: I can tell you, with 100%, absolute certainty that their pet is lovingly, and humanely euthanized the moment you give us permission to do so. We don’t want them to suffer any more than you do.
  • We never “experiment” on deceased pets. If we feel that a post-mortem examination is indicated to help us learn about a particular case, we obtain permission from the client.
  • Occasionally a rare situation will arise where a pet will have a potentially treatable disease or injury. The owner may elect euthanasia for financial or philosophical reasons. At the veterinarians discretion, we may ask if the owner will “surrender” their pet to the clinic. There is paperwork involved where the owner gives up the pet to our care, and we assume financial responsibility for veterinary care and rehome the pet. I can think of maybe a handful of pets that we’ve done this for over the 14 years I’ve worked at AMCOP. This is never, ever done without the owners consent.
  • We do not keep pets in the hospital as “blood donors”. This was done fairly commonly in the 80’s and 90’s. Today we will either have a staff member volunteer their large dog or cat to be a donor, or more commonly: use blood from the Animal Blood Bank. We generally only need to do blood transfusions a few times a year.
  • I noticed that the allegations against Dr. Tierce mention that there were ” animal organs kept in jars throughout the clinic”. This is a bit of sensationalism. We all have jars of animal parts somewhere in our practices. Generally they are surgical specimens that we keep in case the client changes their mind and wants a pathology report on them. Most vet clinics also have things like hearts infected with heartworms in formalin for client educational purposes. We have a jar of kitten fetuses, obtained during a spay surgery on a stray cat. These are show-and-tell items, not evidence that we are cruel mad-scientists.
  • According to the allegations in the State board report (the only source I can find so far with purportedly factual information), the owners brought the dog in for an anal gland issue in May. The report then states that the pet was hospitalized for FOUR MONTHS for cold laser therapy (which is generally a series of out-patient procedures). The owners called to check on their family member periodically. FOUR MONTHS LATER, in September, they come to visit him, and find he can’t use his back legs. I have been in the veterinary industry in some capacity for over 25 years. I can think of few instances where a client would submit to having their pet hospitalized for that much time. (particularly for a MINOR anal gland issue) Who does that? Doesn’t that seem weird? I mean, I know people trust their doctors, but there is a point where, maybe you should question the treatment plan or get a second opinion. I’m pretty sure Dr. Google won’t even support a four-month hospital stay for anal sacculitis. The article I linked to above quotes another client who said his dog was at this hospital, recovering from a broken leg for “several months while he healed”. Guys, this isn’t normal, it’s not standard of care. Every practice that I’ve worked with works hard to get the pets home to their families as quickly as possible. We’ve hospitalized for a week or two, max. Referral centers containing specialists, advanced critical care facilities or university settings may keep pets for longer, but GENERALLY speaking, it’s just not done.

As it stands, we don’t know the whole story. Please, please don’t let this one allegedly “bad apple” ruin your perception of what I absolutely, and wholeheartedly,  believe is a beautiful, noble profession. If there is anything else I can do to put you guys at ease, or answer questions, please leave a comment or, if you’re an AMCOP client, give us a call.   7/15/14 Update: A  commenter mentioned that I have no right to be speaking on behalf of my entire profession. She’s right, I shouldn’t be a megaphone for all vets, and hadn’t realized I implied that, so I changed the post to reflect this is my opinion and I’m not speaking for everybody.  My bad.

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “What a Mess, My Thoughts on “That Veterinarian in Fort Worth”

  1. Fie on that bad doctor. I truly hope he loses his license and I really hope he doesn’t have pets at home.

  2. Dr. C your comments are beautifully written as usual. This really is a sad situation. It is horrible for the animals and a tragedy that someone who has held a veterinarian license since 1966 would end his career in this way. I think you are right on about listening to all the facts before making assumptions. I certainly would want that done if I was accused of something horrible. The court will sort it out. In regard to your clinic, I can only share from personal experience. After years of having a pet free home, my daughter had asthma as a small child, we got a dog. I am a huge dog lover, but for the sake of my child, we were pet free for 10 years. This was a huge event at our home. Since I had no animals for years and had previously lived in another part of town, we were without a vet. Initially, I randomly chose someone near my home. We had a bad experience. I had this weird feeling that she was going to collect $900 from me for a surgery to neuter the dog, but then farm the dog out to someone else like a discount clinic and just keep the money. She insisted the dog stay the night. He was petrified of the vet, so this was something I had a hard time with. I asked if there was another way, but she insisted he stay over. I am all about people being paid for professional services and had no issue with paying for the surgery, but something didn’t seem right. There are winners and losers in every industry. My neighbor recommended AMCOP and what a wonderful experience it has been. Dr. Sharp and Dr. Brewer have given our dog wonderful care. We love this little dog and most importantly my children are very attached. I have lost pets and my children will in their lifetime, but I would only trust my dog with the superior veterinarians of AMCOP.

  3. Well written! This situation is so sad, on every level. I actually took my animals to Dr Tierce back in the early 80s, and only stopped because I moved away. For decades, if anyone asked for a vet referral in Fort Worth, he was always at the top of the list. He was a brilliant diagnostician, an excellent orthopedic surgeon (this back before we had so many specialists to refer to) – he was the “go to” vet for many things. However, he did always have a reputation for being hard to work for, and he was arrogant enough to tell owners what he thought if they weren’t doing their part to care for their pets. So I have no trouble believing that at least part of this is the result of a disgruntled employee. When this story broke I was actually surprised he was still practicing, he’s got to be close to 80. The only explanation I can think of is that he’s developed some dementia, and no one noticed. But – as you pointed out – there is still so much of this story that doesn’t really make sense, and may be at least partly a case of sensationalism. But it’s just so damn sad… I feel sorry for the animals, and for their owners, and I do also feel sad that this is how a long – and mostly brilliant career – ends. This is what people will remember of him, not all the good he’s done.

    1. Very well said, and I totally agree with your very balanced and well thought out assessment. Especially about the mental condition of Dr. Tierce. He has, as you said had an excellent reputation in the community up until this point. Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

  4. One tech had been working there a year and saw the deplorable conditions every day. Likewise, the tech who called the Harris’s that their dog had been there 6 months and was supposed to have been eauthaized. They and any other employee that saw the dogs and conditiins daily but did nothing because they wanted their paychecks– what is their excuse for walking away each day knowing what they were leaving behind.
    They are each just as guilty as Dr. Duuu7Teirce, moreso as it was clear the dogs were in horrible deplorable conditions. They are equally guilty if not more so because it had to be clear this vet had severe problems, either Alzheimer’s or dementia. Not one did anything to help Dr. Tierce.

    1. Thanks or your comment! All I can think of is that often they are minimally educated, minimum wage employees who really need the job/money and were afraid to speak up??? The whole situation is really sad.

  5. I’ve been thinking about the employees too – whether actually techs, or assistants or kennel help. I can sympathize with needing a paycheck and being afraid of being fired… but what kept them from keeping the animals clean?!? I can’t imagine them being ordered to leave animals in filth.
    On the other hand, depending on how early the raid took place – I know many clinics and boarding kennels that are VERY well run, and they still look like a shit bomb went off when you first walk into the kennel in the morning. “Filth” is a loaded word, and it can mean anything from not being cleaned in a long time to what happens overnight in many kennels.

    1. Yep. Lots of sides to the story that aren’t being covered. The state board reported “bugs on the counters” and other issues that sounded like the place was pretty messy, but you’re right, we just don’t know.

  6. I worked for Dr. Tierce when I was in high school, as my sister did also a few years later. These allegations of “experimentation” are complete B.S., there was never any “experimentation” because this isn’t a research clinic. Organs in jars? EVERY vet clinic just about has at least one dog’s heart in a jar, sliced open to show what it looks like when a dog dies of heartworms!

    I think part of the story here is missing. When I worked there, we had a white shepherd whose owner dropped him off for serious medical treatment (the dog had ruptured its bladder), but couldn’t pay and abandoned the dog. That dog was the office pet! We loved on him and gave him treats and he had the run of the back of the clinic. He was used as a blood donor, but the need for blood donations was uncommon — usually it was something used to save the life of some poor pooch that had been hit by a car. Did Sid’s owners just abandon him for euthanasia because they couldn’t afford treatment? That will come out in time.

    Furthermore, who is Mary Brewer, the former employee? I’d LOVE to hear from the clinic employees and staff what they think of HER. Disgruntled ex-employee starts a shitstorm, is what I think. She *says* she quit, but I wonder if she was fired, and if so, why.

    Dr. Tierce has been taking care of my family’s pets since well before I graduated high school in 1980. Just last week he went to great lengths to save my sister’s beagle, who had gotten into a houseguest’s suitcase and eaten a bottle of Advil. This wasn’t easy — Dr. Tierce rotated the pup through a hyperbaric chamber to get the kidney enough oxygen, and then IV hydration to help flush the stuff out. Most vets would have just put the dog down. Dr. Tierce saved that dog, and hundreds of others. He’s a hero.

  7. They really went for the jugular in regards to a settlement $1,000,000 seems excessive. It really is a sad situation if this vet loses everything if he is suffering from dementia or some other health issue. Or if it was some kind of a horrible misunderstanding.

  8. They were going to have the license hearing today (Friday) – I haven’t heard yet what the decision was. The news stories have been totally one sided, with no real explanation. Which isn’t totally surprising, the journalists hear things like “our dog had an anal gland problem and was hospitalized for 3 months” and they don’t know enough to realize that makes no sense at all. Never mind asking what vet would do something like that… what OWNER would agree to that?!? They don’t have to know anything about medicine to think that’s ridiculous.
    There has to be more to the story than we are hearing. Again, I’m not necessarily defending Dr Tierce… but the more I hear about this, the less sense it makes. And the way our media and judicial systems work, people can be accused in the media but they aren’t allowed to defend themselves in the media – at least not until the case is settled.

    1. I have to say, that I’m not sure these folks who leave their dog in the hospital for 4 months for an anal gland issue deserve a million bucks for the non-euthanasia. Could they love that paycheck more than they love that dog???

      1. I think it is an excellent point. To leave the dog there for that length of time really makes you wonder about this whole situation. This is a horrible thing, but a million dollar judgment would bankrupt most people. I love my dog and if someone intentionally hurt him, as in was unusually cruel to inflict harm, I am sure I would be upset. But for routine care, I always remember this is a dog. Dogs aren’t human and things can happen. To ruin a professional persons career off a mistake or misunderstanding seems horrible especially when they had good intentions. Four months for something routine does seem bizarre and if you love your dog, you aren’t leaving them at a vets office for an extended.

  9. Yep, it sounds suspicious, doesn’t it. I just heard, the license hearing upheld the suspension – that would happen just from not euthanizing a dog after promising the owners you would. Regardless of what good intentions a vet has, that is a huge no-no and every vet knows that. If there isn’t any documentation that the owners abandoned the dog, or agreed to release him to the clinic then Dr T may be done. But I would think that if there were any real evidence of cruelty, they would have revoked his license instead of just continuing to suspend it. What do you think, Dr C?

  10. Prior comments may have sounded callous and that is not the intention. Believe me I am crazy over my dog and my husband says I spoil him like crazy which I know is true, but it has to kept in perspective. Suing someone for $1,000,000 would take most people down and I get it if it is malicious intent, but if it is a misunderstanding which it sounds like it might be this a a real tragedy.

  11. OK I know this is beating a point to death, but to put this in proper perspective, a Houston wife filed a lawsuit today. She is suing a property owner for $1,000,000 because her husband was critically injured trying to fight a motel fire last year. There is much more to the story for instance the owner is not cooperating with arson investigators. In my opinion only, this sounds more like a case that merits a $1,000,000 judgment if there is sufficient evidence against the property owner.

  12. Why are you stating “one of our own?” Are you a vet who abuses and tortures animals and lies to clients? No? Then this monster is not “one of your own.” You also cannot speak for your entire industry. Notice I said industry and not profession – that is intentional. There ARE veterinarians abusing animals, killing animals, using them as blood donors and worse. Who are you to speak for every vet in the nation? Also who are you to blame the owners? You have no idea what bullshit story this sicko vet gave the owners for excuses why he had to be hospitalized. You admit you don’t know the entire story but yet you blame the owners. Quite frankly, leave this up to the judicial system. This “veterinarian” needs to go to prison. If the rest of you would just do your jobs, actually follow the ethics of the AVMA and treat people WELL you would have nothing to worry about. It is as simple as that.

    1. You are right, I shouldn’t speak for the whole profession, I didn’t mean to imply that. Thank you for providing another perspective in this situation, I’m all for multiple points of view. Respectful dialogue is a good thing. As far as I’m concerned, I still don’t know the whole story. However, I refuse to judge an individual, call him a monster, and wreck his credibility based on media reports which may or may not be entirely true.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s