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.