A Betrayal of Trust in Fort Worth

Sid , as pictured on the CBS website
Sid, as pictured on the CBS website

A complaint reportedly filed with the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners by pet owners Jamie and Marian Harris alleges the following:

  • 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.)

36 thoughts on “A Betrayal of Trust in Fort Worth

  1. this is why, if you have to have a pet euthanized, you STAY THERE to be sure it’s done. And, this guy needs to be removed from the veterinary profession. Yesterday. Bad apples everywhere, I guess.
    My heart goes out to Sid’s owners, as well as owners of other dogs who were lied to… and of course to the dogs themselves… who had not idea why they were left behind…

    tears fall…

    1. In this case Adrianne, had the owners stayed to see Sid euthanized, they would have unknowingly been killing a dog with a treatable medical condition who had a lot of life left to live. So as things turned out, it’s good they didn’t stay because ultimately that decision led to Sid being rescued by them 6 months later – not that they had any way of knowing what was happening of course.

  2. Holy shit. That’s just… what?

    He hurt people (and I presume charged them for euthanasia) just so he could harvest organs and blood?! And what organs is he “harvesting” and why? This guy sounds like a regular Dr. Frankenstein and needs to have his license revoked and criminal charges filed!

    Evil. So evil.

    1. IDK what to make of the organ harvesting allegation. Organ transplants in pets are extremely rare AFAIK. You’d have to have the pets who are in need of the transplants on site and ready to go at time of harvesting. I can’t imagine he was shipping the organs to other clinics for transplant use(?). Or was he using the organs for some purpose other than transplants (IDK what that would be outside of a research setting)? I also wonder if it could be a layman’s interpretation (an incorrect one) of something else that was happening to these pets who were being kept alive after their owners thought they were deceased. Then there’s always the worst case scenario – the Dr. Frankenstein option which you mentioned. Hopefully not that.

  3. Was he selling the blood? What the hell is going on there? I think that his books need a thorough audit as well.

  4. This horrible case shows the importance of getting a second opinion if you’re told your animal has an untreatable condition and should be euthanized. At least Sid is now safe and back with his family. I hope the other animals involved ultimately do well.

    1. You make a fair point Anne but I honestly don’t know if I would take a lame, 175 pound dog out of a vet’s office for a second opinion if I believed the dog was suffering, provided I had an established relationship of trust with that vet (which Sid’s family apparently did). It seems cruel to me to think about manhandling the dog in and out of the vehicle, in and out of vet clinics, whilst I believe him to be in pain. I imagine my feeling would be different if I did not have an established relationship of trust with the vet.

      In my own experience, I have a vet whom I trust. When I took Graham in “just to reassure myself nothing was wrong” and learned she was suffering from hemangiosarcoma which was likely to burst at any moment and emergency surgery was likely to result in her dying on the table, it was a terrible shock. But I never considered taking her for a second opinion. Now in that case I had an x-ray to look at which showed how enormous the cancer was and how it was pressing on her organs.

      1. I agree completely. It would never occur to me to take Jonas for a second opinion unless the disease in question was rare or the treatment options were such that a specialist was needed. I completely trust his vet…she literally saved his life when his heart stopped on the table during a surgery, and I actually worked side by side with her for five years.

        I keep seeing people berating the family for not staying on other sites, and some even saying it’s their *fault* because they didn’t. Whether to stay or not is a highly personal matter and no one should be judged for their choice. As a vet tech, I saw owners throw themselves on the floor. *Scream* at the top of their lungs. Even faint. Those reactions only upset the pet and do no one any good. Choosing not to stay tells you nothing about how much the pet is loved, only how much the owner is capable of coping with. No animal in my clinic ever died alone, whether or not the owner was there. They all passed with gentle voices and gentle hands around them, and leaving for those final thirty seconds was not a betrayal. Indeed, it was a gift of a quiet, peaceful death that the owner, if they had stayed, would not have been in a mental place to provide, which is why they made that choice.

        This truly is one of the most bizarre news story I’ve ever heard. There’s no way the vet was using the patients for organ donations. The only routine organ donation in pets is kidney transplants in cats, and I guarantee a small town vet without specialist training would not be doing that operation. I have to assume he was using them for blood transfusions, and possibly to test new procedures or equipment on. There have been other cases where dedicated blood transfusion animals were mistreated (though not stolen, as in this case.)

      2. I agree with “Tired Caregiver.” When it’s time to say goodbye to one of our cherished companions, I am the one designated to stay with the animal. While it’s difficult for me, it completely shatters my husband. He waits in the car until we come out of the clinic. Additionally, when we had to euthanize our 14.5-year-old pittie, our vet came to the house, which made it easier on old Darla. However, it’s always a dreadful experience. I’m so glad the family was reunited with their friend – the only “good” thing that has come out of this debacle. Oh, aside from the horrible vet being exposed, that is.

      3. I totally agree. I had a dog euthanized for hemangiosarcoma about 4 months ago. His abdomen was distended with blood, and the x-ray showed a mass, but not exactly where it was. They did a blood transfusion (from a tech’s dog, with the tech’s consent, and the dog didn’t seem too unhappy about it either) and opened my dog up to see about removing the mass and the spleen. The vet called me to tell me that the cancer wasn’t just in the spleen; the whole liver was full of tumor. Obviously I wasn’t going to have the vet bring my dog out of anesthesia and have him be in all that pain from being cut open just so that I could take him somewhere else and have them tell me the same thing. It made a lot more sense to have him euthanized while he was still under, so he never even knew his belly had been cut open.

  5. You’ve got a point. I’ve gotten second opinions only in cases where I wasn’t familiar with the medical problem and didn’t know the vet well enough to trust his or her opinion and didn’t think she or explained the condition well enough for me to make an informed decision. And the animals involved were cats who were not in pain at the time. I’m sorry.

    1. No need to be sorry Anne. It sounds like you used good judgment with your pets. Each case is different. And while we have our theoretical “ideals” for how we’d like things to go, we also have real life and how things sometimes happen that take us by surprise or require relatively quick decisions. But regardless of circumstances, we should be able to trust the animal professionals in our community to be honest and to always act in protection of life whenever there is reasonable hope.

  6. Apparently, the vet was arrested on animal cruelty charges and posted bond posthaste. I also read the state board governing vets has suspended his license as the result of their own investigation.

  7. I’m so sorry about Graham. That must have been horrible for you. It ‘a good that you took her in when you did.

    1. Thank you. It was the most devastating loss of a pet I’ve ever experienced. But when the vet explained the manner in which she would be likely to die when the tumor ruptured and how that might happen when she was alone, it was too heartbreaking to delay the decision and allow for the possibility of that kind of death befalling her. We decided to take her to the car so that would think she was going home, which we knew would make her happy. The vet gave her a sedative before we left the office then came out to the car for the euthanasia. It was the right decision for us but I don’t judge those owners who feel incapable of staying with their pets during the euthanasia. Again, we all should be able to rely on the trustworthiness of the animal professionals in our community. There should be no question there.

      1. Hemangiosarcoma is devastating and there is no indication until it is too late. My dog had a tumor which did burst on the way to the emergency vet. You definitely made the right decision for Graham.

      2. I agree. I’ve lost two dogs to hemangiosarcoma, and the first one apparently bled out overnight while I was sleeping. In the morning she died on the way to the vet. I wish I had known a little earlier and could have prevented her from having to go through that.

  8. Thanks for pointing out the “handy visual aid” at the Forth Worth pound website. Talk about pre-guilting the “irresponsible public.”

    1. Can you imagine ANY OTHER INDUSTRY where someone would request a graphic be made to illustrate the company’s failures and then basically title it “None of this is our fault”?

      1. I often wonder the same thing. I don’t think there’s any other business where people think it’s completely acceptable to say “It’s just too much work for us to deal with, so we don’t, and btw it’s your fault.” I sometimes feel like saying that at my job, but I don’t actually say it.

      2. OTOH, perhaps if you knew you could rely upon support and cheerleading for your failures/blame deflecting from nationally accredited organizations such as HSUS and ASPCA, you might feel a whole lot more empowered.

      3. As you pointed out in a former post, the shelter director there loves spewing mistruths such as “We are no kill for healthy adoptable animals” with an over 50% kill rate. He refuses to own the reality. It is a double edged sword for rescues to pull from there as they have problem with health protocols there as well. For a long time, they struggled with distemper cases (which they killed all the dogs in ISO to prevent, I believe it was close to 40 dogs). They banned rescues who spoke out about the problem they were trying to deny, all the while, rescues don’t have the kind of money to pull expensive animals (possible distemper) only to have them die a few weeks later and stuck with a huge vet bill. (http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2013/07/26/100-dogs-stay-at-shelter-diagnosed-with-distemper/). There are many problems with Fort Worth and most of them seem to be in denying reality.

        Nice chart. Sounds like they still don’t have a foster program, which would allow for a higher capacity. 400 could go up to 800 or more. Don’t see that bubble anywhere in there and that is an easy (and cheap) solution for increase capacity. Since they love charts so much, maybe they should see the No-Kill Equation chart – http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/shelter-reform/no-kill-equation/

        My mother has two rescued dogs from there who are now enjoying life. I will say that some of the people there do work very hard to try to get the animals to safety, but they need have all the No Kill programs implemented. Pronto.

        I’m not sure if their so called “No Kill” goal is just to look good or if they just think it is a good idea to do a half job and lie and call it done, but there is something so dysfunctional about that place. It is too bad. If the shelter director chose to actually implement the program comprehensively and get the community to No-Kill, instead of standing behind lies and excuses, he would see his career skyrocket.

        People love No Kill communities and their shelter directors. No Kill directors are going to be more and more sought after because of the value they bring to their communities, so even if he doesn’t love animals, it is still in his best interest to accept the reality and turn it around. But he won’t and I am wasting my time.

        This vet seems to have a similar problem with truth issues and I really don’t understand why. I know that it has shaken my faith in humanity again and moving forward I will remember this in all my dealings with vets. I have been worried about them before using my love for my pets to fund their vacation but now I have worry that they may have more nefarious purposes.

        It’s a good wake-up call, I guess.

        Bless those folks for saving their dog and bringing this to the public’s attention so we all learn from it. I’d rather know than not.

  9. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. I am glad they got the dog back and good on them for coming up with a good plan and having the nerve to carry it out.
    Our vet is talking about retirement and I am asking him to please advise on a new vet. I trust my judgement in many things but he knows his stuff, knows us and I trust him to steer us right.

  10. I live in Fort Worth, and this case has really rocked our community. Dr Tierce isn’t just “any” vet… up until yesterday, if anyone asked me who was the best vet to go to in town he’d be at the top of the list. Everyone recommended him, if the question came up on local animal care email lists and FB groups. I mean, EVERYONE knows who he is.. he’s been the “go to” guy for orthopedic surgeries, OFA xrays, repro work, all sorts of things. Before I moved to a neighboring town 30 years ago I went to him myself, and found him to be a good diagnostician, good with the animals, up-to-date on everything. But like I said, that was 30 years ago. Now, even though I’m back in Fort Worth I’m still going to the vets I found when I moved just because I like them so much. And rather relieved about that!
    If these charges are true, the betrayal is almost inconceivable. There are a few things that don’t make sense to me, the “organ harvesting” people mentioned in other comments above, but also the idea of keeping a dog just for blood transfusions… transfusions aren’t needed that often, and most vets just use their own dogs or, worst case scenario, they’ve got clients they can call who will volunteer a dog. I’ve used my own dogs (Great Danes) for blood donations that way. Any large, healthy dog who is cooperative will work. It won’t hurt the dog any more than when we donate blood. Some clinics keep a clinic dog as a pet (this is much more rare than the clinic cat, however) and in those cases, when needed the clinic dog may be used to donate blood as long as it’s not too often. But I can’t imagine that it would be necessary – or worthwhile – to steal a dog for that purpose.
    What I *can* imagine happening (although every vet knows it’s against the law and can cost you your license, and if this is what happened it’s a sign of dementia or something) is not wanting to euthanize a nice dog, and if you can’t talk the owners out of it you’d say you would euth the dog but then wouldn’t – planning on finding him another home or something. I don’t know if that’s what happened or not, right now we’re only hearing the Harris’s side of the story. Something else I can easily believe, is that Dr Tierce would have disgruntled ex-employees… the scuttlebutt has always been that he’s hard to work with. Speaking of which, he used to have other vets in the practice – it was always at least 2 others and as many as 4 vets. I haven’t heard anything about testimony from other vets there, I don’t know if they are being instructed to not comment, or if the practice has shrunk to the point where he was the only vet. I think that would be doubtful… he’s got to be in his late 70s if not 80s by now, and working full time at that age would be unusual.

    1. Yeah, I see a lot of people defending him, not wanting to believe it. Maybe he just got weird in his advancing years and started doing strange stuff?

      I cannot imagine any rationale for needing so much blood as to stick a dog enough that someone can tell he’s been used for regular draws. Or why the dog would be kept in filth.

      Maybe he’s got a brain tumor or something and it’s making him do things.

      But if you worked there, wouldn’t you see a red flag when a dog that was supposed to be euthanized because it was seriously medically compromised, is still alive the next day? And why wouldn’t the techs keep the dog clean, at least?

      What the hell is going on, there?

    2. Vets do occasionally rehome animals that are brought in to be euthanized (meaning healthy animals being euthanized for no good reason, or animals with treatable conditions) despite the risk to their livelihood. Certainly the temptation to do so can be great. We eventually solved the issue at our hospital by refusing to perform euthanasia without a medically justified cause, and would have the owner sign over the animal to be treated and rehomed if they truly no longer wished to care for the pet.

      But the scenario of saving a treatable animal under the table doesn’t really match up with this case. Why would the dog still be in the clinic so many months later? Rehoming an animal that you agreed to euthanize can put your license at risk and is a breach of contract. Why would you increase the risk of being discovered by keeping the dog right there in your hospital? It just doesn’t make sense. You would rehome that pet as far away as you could.

      As for the blood transfusion…the only thing I’m thinking here is maybe a way of padding the bill? Since you have a convenient source of blood, you can suggest a transfusion when it may not be medically warranted. It sounds new and high-tech, and an owner probably won’t know enough to know when it’s justified or not. Obviously I don’t know if that’s the case here, but if the vet DID steal and confine this dog, I don’t think he’d be above such a thing.

  11. But then again, one assumes that if the complaint weren’t true, then they wouldn’t have raided the clinic and the TVMA wouldn’t have suspended his license…

  12. I can’t write the words that I feel describe this asshole! Money is at the root of many crimes and I wish people would adopt a moral standard! How can they live with themselves and face their families and associates!!!

  13. There’s more information coming in that suggests things were even worse than it appears. The vet is being accused of keeping five dogs alive after accepting them to be euthanized, which he apparently admitted to. One of the dogs was his own personal pet, who was found at the clinic in absolutely terrible condition, with multiple limb dislocations. At least two of the other dogs were also euthanized due to poor health.

    The arrest report is here: http://media.nbcbayarea.com/documents/WRNT+14F001231+LUCIEN+TIERCE.pdf

    1. Thanks for the link.

      WARNING: The contents of the arrest warrant may be too disturbing for some readers. In a nutshell, Dr. Tierce was arrested for cruelty to a border collie, whom he admitted was his own pet, and had been left to suffer for many months on a pallet at the clinic. The dog appeared to have been severely abused/neglected and was euthanized by the city.

      I am guessing additional charges may be coming in this case, re Sid and any other dogs who may have been stolen by the vet.

  14. This vet is a MONSTER! To betray the trust of his own pet in such a cruel and abusive way and for such a long time is the most disgusting thing I’ve heard. That he could do this to his own dog then abusing other pets isn’t a stretch to believe. This monster deserves to go to prison. Regardless of his age he needs to be punished to the max the law allows. I have no pity for him.

    My sorrow for and thoughts are with the families of those whose pets were abused. The one thing that I cannot abide is animal cruelty and abuse from anyone.

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