Authorities raided a popular veterinary clinic Tuesday morning after a woman said that a dog she took in to be euthanized was being kept alive and used for blood transfusions.
Fort Worth police and officers from the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners spent several hours at the Camp Bowie Animal Clinic at 5709 Lovell Ave., in west Fort Worth. Two dogs were seized by animal control officers, authorities said.
Lou Tierce, a long-time Fort Worth veterinarian, is accused of deceiving Jamie and Marian Harris of Aledo into believing that their 5-year-old Leonberger named Sid was euthanized last fall because of a degenerative spinal condition.
In fact, Sid was being “bled” for plasma and other experimental treatments, Marian Harris said.
“The biggest hurt in all of this is the deception and what it means with something that means so much to you,” she said. “Our pets are family members.”
The family filed a complaint with the state last week.
Jim Eggleston, a Weatherford attorney who is representing the Harris family, said allegations have surfaced that more dogs and cats — some with serious illnesses — were being kept alive for blood transfusions and other experimental treatments.
“You have a vet keeping dogs under false pretenses,” he said. “You have family pets that people thought were cremated or put down peacefully that may still be alive.”
A person who answered the phone at the clinic Tuesday morning said Tierce was too busy to talk. Other efforts to reach Tierce were unsuccessful.
Customers caught off-guard
Sgt. Raymond Bush, a police spokesman, said police received a criminal complaint last week that animals were being mistreated — and stolen from clients — at the clinic.
“If the city of Fort Worth is able to determine that the law was broken, then down the road, warrants could be issued for somebody’s arrest,” Bush said.
The raid began shortly before 10 a.m., when animal control officers and plain-clothes investigators parked at a vacant fried chicken restaurant next to the clinic. Two of the investigators went inside while the others talked to a female employee who was loading supplies into her car.
By afternoon, animal control workers carried out two dogs, one in a carrier, from the clinic.
“At this point, these animals are evidence,” Bush said.
Starry Bourgea, 49, had stopped in the business Tuesday morning to check on the costs of shots for her Jack Russell terrier/Yorkie mix, Sally Mae, and said she found the presence of investigators unsettling.
“Did they hurt an animal?” she asked reporters at the clinic. “We’re not supposed to hurt animals. They’re like babies. We’re supposed to care for them. Make sure they’re safe and feed them and give them treats. My Sally Mae is so spoiled, I don’t want to bring her here anymore if this is all going on.”
Bruce Barker of Fort Worth stopped by to ask questions about his chocolate lab’s upcoming biopsy and said he was “shocked” to find police and reporters milling about outside.
“I thought somebody had been killed in there or something,” Barker said.
Barker, who had his soft-coated Wheaton Terrier put down at the clinic in December, said he’s used the vet for about a decade. He said he intends to seek proof before making any judgments.
“They’re innocent as far as I’m concerned until there’s proof,” Barker said. “That’s not going to keep me from bringing my dog here. … He’s absolutely the best vet I’ve ever seen.”
“I’d let him operate on me,” he added.
Symantha Spence rushed to the clinic in near tears after her husband called her and told her that he’d read about the investigation and raid on Facebook. Spence said the family’s golden retriever, Shiner Bock, had died at the vet clinic in March and now she wants to be sure that she was told the truth.
“We brought him in on a Sunday night and he was very ill. Monday morning, we got the phone call that he had passed away,” Spence said. “We never saw him again so I just wanted to make sure that he did pass away, for sure. We love this vet. They’re been nothing but good for us but we just want to make sure after hearing what we heard today.”
Allegations detailed in complaint
The Harrises brought Sid to the clinic in May 2013 because of a problem with the dog’s anal glands.
Tierce told the Harrises that he wanted to use a new “cold laser” procedure and that it might take longer for the dog to recover, according to the complaint filed April 22 with the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.
Over time, Sid did not appear to be getting better, according to the complaint.
In September, Jamie Harris went to Tierce’s clinic to see Sid, and was shocked when the dog dragged himself into the lobby because he could not lift his hind quarters. According to the complaint, Jamie Harris was told that Sid was suffering from a reaction to a medication cocktail.
The Harrises were also told that Sid had a congenital spinal defect and needed to be put down. The family said their goodbyes to Sid and agreed to let the clinic take care of the burial.
Six months later, on April 21, Harris said she was “shocked” when she got a call from a former veterinary technician at the clinic, telling her that Sid was still alive. The employee told Harris that she quit that day because she could no longer work in a clinic where the animals were mistreated.
The employee told Harris that Sid spent almost 24 hours a day in a cage, littered with his own feces and urine, and that he had been injured by another employee.
Jamie and Marian Harris described how they drove to the clinic and while two friends guarded the front and back doors as her husband distracted the receptionist, Harris went to the back, found Sid in a cage and rescued him.
Tierce came outside, according to the complaint, and explained that he had not euthanized Sid because some of his employees had threatened to quit if he did.
The Harrises left with Sid and took him to another veterinarian, who told them that it appeared Sid had been tapped for blood transfusions.
Sid is now back home in Aledo with the Harris family.