Veterinarian Accuses AZ Shelter of Criminal Neglect

The police department for the city of Bisbee, AZ runs the animal shelter.  In August, local veterinarian Carol Burke submitted an official complaint to city officials detailing what she describes as “a pattern of criminal neglect” at the shelter.  She begins by sharing the story of an arthritic 85 pound dog named Phoebe whom Dr. Burke indicates was impounded by the Bisbee Animal Shelter as a stray on July 11, 2013.  The timeline of events as outlined in Dr. Burke’s complaint:

July 18:  Bisbee Animal Shelter sends Phoebe to a groomer.  Phoebe returns dripping blood from her back and feet.  The groomer advises the shelter that Phoebe has urine scalding down the length of her back (?!?) and recommends an herbal spray for the dog.  The shelter takes no action.

July 22:  Phoebe is seen by a local vet who prescribes an antibiotic for her skin infection.  Volunteers raid another dog’s pain medication and begin administering it to Phoebe without veterinary supervision.  Records are not kept of medications administered.

July 28:  Dr. Burke sees Phoebe for the first time.  She is told the dog has been lethargic since returning from the groomer’s, seemed to be in pain and “was laying on the concrete at the shelter covered with flies.” The fur had not been clipped away from Phoebe’s burns so Dr. Burke got a groomer to do that.

Shaving revealed third degree burns on Phoebe’s back from the nape of her neck to the base of her tail with multiple areas of charred black leather curling up from raw open tissue. This type of burn is caused by heat or caustic chemical and the distribution of lesions on Phoebe was a typical pattern we see when boiling water, candle wax, etc. accidentally spills on the patient or if someone uses a solvent based chemical to clean an animal or “treat” parasites, odor, etc.

Dr. Burke placed Phoebe on an IV and began daily treatment to help her recover.  She noted Phoebe refused to eat but since records of feeding are not kept at the Bisbee Animal Shelter, was unsure if this was new behavior.  Phoebe was in a lot of pain from her burns so possibly her lack of appetite was related to that.

August 1:  Dr. Burke’s concern over Phoebe’s refusal to eat prompts her to take abdominal x-rays which revealed a tumor.  She sends the x-rays to 2 specialists for their opinions and they agree.

August 2:  Dr. Burke euthanizes Phoebe to end her suffering.

Dr. Burke also mentions two other dogs she treated from the Bisbee Animal Shelter. The first was a female Boxer seen in 2012 who had been diagnosed with a leg abscess and put on an antibiotic by a local vet. Dr. Burke describes seeing the dog emerge from the car:

Her entire left foreleg was twice its normal size and she was in such pain the memory still brings tears to my eyes a year later.

Dr. Burke took x-rays which confirmed her suspicion that the dog was suffering from osteosarcoma which had spread to other organs. She euthanized the dog immediately to end her suffering.

The second dog’s story is equally tragic:

The second case was a young male chocolate Pit Bull who had been vomiting for a week. I saw this dog 9/21 /2012. He was in shock from sepsis and dehydration, also in unspeakable pain, and had not one but two blockages from intussusception (a telescoping of the bowel upon itself which occurs with relentless vomiting).

This dog was also put to sleep immediately.

Dr. Burke states that all 3 dogs were brought to her by the same worker who is “apparently the only person affiliated with the shelter with a conscience.”

When reached for comment by a local media outlet who had obtained a copy of her complaint via FOIA, Dr. Burke replied:

I had previously voiced my concerns about the shelter to Sgt. Maddux and sent him a copy of the NHI Shelter Guidelines where I yellow highlighted the paragraph indicating that budgetary constraints did not excuse neglect. I subsequently learned that prior complaints had resulted in punitive action against hard working, dedicated volunteer “whistleblowers.”

Last week, action was finally taken regarding the shelter:

At the request of Bisbee City Manager Steve Pauken, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation into any potential wrongdoing at the Bisbee Animal Shelter after a dog was euthanized.

But before anyone gets too excited:

“There is no imminent danger involved here,” Pauken said Friday, urging patience to allow the sheriff’s office to complete its investigation.

No imminent danger. Just a pattern of criminal neglect, pets needlessly suffering in pain and retaliation against any volunteer who dares speak the truth.  Be patient.  No need for anyone to break a sweat.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

11 thoughts on “Veterinarian Accuses AZ Shelter of Criminal Neglect

  1. The same people who are supposed to uphold the law…thank goodness for this vet being willing to stand up against the authorities.

  2. Good on that vet. I hope she continues to bring these atrocities before the public until something is done. We know how these . . . um . . . investigations turn out. Hoping this one will be different and that these poor animals will no longer be suffering under their “care”.

  3. That is one good vet, I hope she can continue to help the animals from that pound. It’s so good to see a caring human being trying to help, perhaps we aren’t really an evolutionary dead end after all.

  4. “I would like to make a sign for every pound that says “Budgetary Constraints Do Not Excuse Neglect.””

    “The same people who are supposed to uphold the law…thank goodness for this vet being willing to stand up against the authorities”.

    Ditto to both of these.

  5. this article is one side of the story. This is not what happened to Phoebe. I have first hand knowledge as to her condition, and to see people who have never been to the shelter, or this town, talk about something they don’t know hurts.

  6. in my humble opinion Dr.Burke is not a healer but prefers to euthanize claiming that the animal needs to stop suffering and comes to her for help.

Leave a Reply