- In May 2013, the Harris family brought their 175 pound dog Sid to the Camp Bowie Animal Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas for treatment of an anal gland problem.
- Veterinarian Lou Tierce performed a “cold laser” procedure on the 5 year old dog.
- Sid’s health did not appear to improve in the months following the procedure.
- In September 2013, Sid was hospitalized and Jamie Harris went to the clinic to visit him. Sid dragged himself across the lobby to see him, unable to use his hindquarters. The vet advised Sid was experiencing a reaction to medication and more significantly, that he was suffering from an “irreparable” congenital defect in his spine and should be euthanized.
- The family consented to the euthanasia and said goodbye to Sid, with the understanding that Dr. Tierce would perform the euthanasia and dispose of the remains after the family left the clinic.
- On April 21, 2014, the family received a phone call from a woman who identified herself as Mary Brewer, a technician at the clinic. The woman told the Harrises that Sid was still alive and had been living “almost 24 hours a day in a cage, littered with his own feces and urine, and that he had been injured by another employee” in the months since the family had consented to the euthanasia. The technician said she had not spoken up sooner about Sid because she feared for her job and needed the paycheck it provided. She quit her job the day she called the Harrises.
- Jamie and Marian Harris drove to the clinic, leaving one friend to guard the front door and another to keep watch at the back exit. The husband distracted the receptionist while the wife sneaked into the back. She found Sid in a cage, released him, and he walked outside with her with no apparent lameness.
- Dr. Tierce followed them outside and explained he did not euthanize Sid because some of his employees threatened to quit if he did.
Sid was immediately taken to a vet who examined him and reportedly told the Harrises it appears that Sid had been repeatedly used for blood draws, possibly for transfusions or plasma treatments for other dogs. A second vet reportedly confirmed the finding and an MRI determined that Sid has no congenital spine defect.
The Harrises filed complaints with the police and the state veterinary board. On Tuesday, police and officers from the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners raided Dr. Tierce’s clinic. Animal control seized two dogs as evidence.
Dr. Tierce was arrested on Wednesday on a cruelty to animals warrant and later released on bail. He told reporters gathered in his clinic lobby that the accusations are “a bunch of hooey” and blamed a disgruntled employee who sought revenge. And in case neither of those really good explanations seems believable, he offered up a hero card:
“The lady wanted me to euthanize their dog, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
The Harrises have retained an attorney in the matter:
The family’s attorney, James Eggleston, wrote in a letter: “Dr. Tierce has harvested organs of other pets and, according to a former employee, has kept one dog alive almost five years harvesting blood/plasma.”
Other clients who believed their pets had died or been euthanized at the clinic are now seeking verification that their beliefs are true.
The state veterinary board is planning to meet on an emergency basis regarding the case and the county health department is reportedly involved due to the filthy conditions found at the clinic.
The implications of the case are many but the heart of the matter centers around the human-animal bond and the difficult decision to end the suffering of a medically hopeless pet upon advice from a veterinarian. Pets are family. When they are sick, we try to help them get better. We trust our veterinarians to guide us in our efforts. And when that vet tells us there is no more hope and that it would be kinder to end our family member’s pain than to force them to suffer, we cry. We don’t want to admit that all hope is lost but we are not veterinary doctors and must have faith that our vets are advising us truthfully.
In this case, that trust was betrayed and in an especially cruel manner. Sid was not medically hopeless and suffering as the vet had allegedly advised his family. Euthanasia was not required. To tell the family otherwise was cruel. Being a dog, Sid likely grieved for the family who did not return for him as he sat in his cage for months on end. For a veterinarian to intentionally inflict that kind of emotional pain upon a dog is cruel. A dog of Sid’s size can not live in a cage without experiencing physical pain. Keeping him confined was cruel. And if the only time he experienced human interaction was when he was repeatedly stuck with needles and used as a blood donor, that is cruel.
It’s important to note that this egregious betrayal of trust in Fort Worth did not happen in a vacuum. The community looks to its publicly funded animal “shelter” to be a leader in protecting animals from abuse and shielding the human-animal bond from those who would betray it. The Fort Worth shelter director and staff have a civic duty to lead by example.
But the Fort Worth pound designs its policies and procedures around needlessly killing the pets it’s supposed to be sheltering. And they even have a handy visual aid on the website to illustrate their chronic incompetence which results in the needless killing of healthy/treatable animals. In short, the Fort Worth pound is an institution based on betraying the trust of the community. And now they are in charge of the “evidence” in a betrayal of trust case that happened in their community. Whatever the outcome of the case, I hope the two seized dogs remain safe and that the pound did not use their impoundment as an excuse to kill two other dogs to “make space”.
(Thank you Arlene, Clarice and Davyd for sending me links on this story.)