[posttv url="http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/national/health-science/texas-vet-investigated-for-alleged-cruelty/2014/05/01/a1eb07d9-25d9-49e6-82d9-4bec11b96d23_video.html" ]
A 5-year-old Leonberger named Sid is alive – news to his family, which was told the dog had been put down because of a congenital spinal defect. Turns out, his veterinarian allegedly caged him for six months in the back of a Texas animal clinic where the dog was being bled for plasma, according to a complaint the family filed with the state.
Fort Worth Police Sgt. Raymond Bush told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram officers received a criminal complaint last week stating animals were being mistreated and stolen from families at the Camp Bowie Animal Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas. Tuesday morning, animal control officers and local police raided the clinic, leaving with two dogs.
The veterinarian, Dr. Millard Lucien Tierce, 71, was arrested Wednesday night on a warrant accusing him of cruelty to animals, police told the Star-Telegram. Officials said he turned himself in and was later released on $10,000 bail. Though, earlier Wednesday at his clinic, he denied the accusation, saying that it was “all a bunch of hooey.”
Standing in the clinic’s lobby Wednesday morning, Tierce reportedly said: “The lady wanted me to euthanize their dog, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
It all started when Jamie and Marian Harris took their 170-pound Sid to Camp Bowie Animal Clinic in Fort Worth last May for what they thought was a minor anal gland issue. The vet told the family surgery was not preferred and that he wanted to try a “cold laser” to treat the animal, according to allegations detailed in the complaint.
Over the next few months, the family was told Sid was getting better but, in September when they went to see him, “he could not lift his hind quarters” and he “slid himself across the floor to get to Mr. Harris,” the complaint stated. The vet reportedly said he believed Sid was having a reaction to the medication “cocktail” he had been given.
A month later, the vet reportedly discovered a congenital birth defect on Sid’s spine that was “irreparable” according to the complaint, so the family said their goodbyes to Sid and left him to be euthanized and buried by the vet. It wasn’t until the end of April that the family said they learned the truth – that Sid was alive and locked in a cage 23 hours a day in a mess of his own urine and feces – when a former vet tech called last week to tell them. The tech reportedly quit her job because she could not watch the abuse.
“The biggest hurt in all of this is the deception and what it means with something that means so much to you,” Marian Harris told the Star-Telegram. “Our pets are family members.”
The Harrises drove to the clinic after they got the news. Two friends guarded the front and back doors, Jamie distracted the receptionist and Marian went to the back. She found Sid in a cage and took him. Tierce reportedly followed them outside and said he had not euthanized the dog because some of his employees threatened to quit if he did.
Sid has since been seen by another veterinarian who confirmed it appears Sid has been tapped for blood transfusions, according to the family. Sid is now back home.
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.” Still, his clients rallied behind him Wednesday, saying he goes out of his way to care for clients’ pets, the Star-Telegram reported.
Eggleston told NBC News the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners will meet on the case in Austin and, though no date has been set yet, the case is being treated as an emergency. The county health department is also involved in the case because of the unsanitary conditions at the animal clinic, NBC News reported.