Fort Worth vet’s license remains suspended for now

05/09/2014 1:02 PM

05/09/2014 11:10 PM

A west Fort Worth veterinarian accused of animal cruelty won’t get his license back until the full state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners reviews his case, a three-person committee said Friday.

Allowing Lou Tierce, 71, to continue to practice until then could pose an “imminent threat to the public welfare,” the enforcement committee said in a statement.

The full board of examiners could reinstate Tierce’s license, add terms and conditions, or revoke it altogether. But that might not happen until October, said Loris Jones, a spokeswoman for the board.

Tierce declined to comment after the hearing. Earlier, however, he had pleaded his case to the committee.

“If I’m not M.L. Tierce, veterinarian, I am nothing,” he said. “I’m asking for the opportunity to continue to be a veterinarian.

“I can change.”

In his opening statement, Tierce’s attorney, Donald Ferrill of Fort Worth, said there had been tales of Tierce being a “vampire running a shop of horrors” at his Camp Bowie Animal Clinic. But Ferrill insisted that was not the case.

He asked Tierce why he kept jars of animal organs throughout the clinic. Tierce said he kept them around in case he needed more biopsies from them, but he knew he kept them too long.

“I’m a hoarder,” he said. His parents survived the Great Depression and never threw anything out, and “it’s my nature,” he said.

Tierce said he knew he needed to purge the clinic of clutter.

“Truth is, I don’t particularly care to manage,” he said. “I’d much rather do surgery and care for my patients.”

The hearing, which lasted about four hours, was similar to a court session, but there was no judge. The three committee members had one staff counsel and a few other assistants. Opposing lawyers were allowed to make statements. Tierce was allowed to speak, and he was questioned.

The committee deliberated about 20 minutes before reporting its decision.

Tierce has many supporters. About 50 of them traveled in a caravan to Austin for the hearing, and when he gave his final statement, they all rose and stood behind him.

Background of case

Tierce’s Camp Bowie Animal Clinic in west Fort Worth was raided on April 29 by Fort Worth police and state investigators acting on a complaint filed by Jamie and Marian Harris of Aledo who said the family dog, Sid, was supposed to have been euthanized. But the Harrises learned from a former employee of Tierce that he was being kept alive and used for blood transfusions.

Tierce acknowledged at the hearing that he had agreed with the Harris family’s request to euthanize their dog and then didn’t follow through. Sid, a Leonberger, was too big to be put in cold storage before burial on Tierce’s ranch, as he had discussed with the Harrises, so he kept treating him.

Sid was a “sweet dog,” Tierce said, and “actually got better. We left it at that. I did not euthanize him.”

Tierce was arrested a day after the raid. According to investigators’ reports, he admitted keeping five dogs alive after their owners left them to be euthanized — including one that was caged for two or three years.

Tierce said he believed the decision was his and not the owners’, state documents say.

Investigators reported what one vet called “deplorable” conditions during the raid.

Three dogs at the clinic were in “such decrepit shape” that they had to be euthanized, a report stated. Two of those, Tierce said, had been left at his clinic to be euthanized.

Tierce’s license was temporarily suspended after his arrest.

‘I can change’

It was not clear Friday how many clients other than the Harrises have filed formal complaints about Tierce with the state board. Many of the committee members’ questions were about the dogs seized during the raid.

Ferrill, Tierce’s Fort Worth lawyer who is also a licensed veterinarian, asked his client if he ever used Sid for blood transfusions. Tierce said yes, once. He said a client’s Brittany spaniel needed blood and “Sid was positive.”

Tierce acknowledged Friday that he didn’t carry out the Harris family’s wishes at the time. He said he treats the animals in his clinic like family, but realizes now that they are the property of owners.

“I have no right to interfere with that ownership,” he said. He said from now on, if he disagrees with owners, he’ll ask them to take their pet elsewhere.

Tierce said he worked very hard on continuing education so that he could perform state-of-the-art surgical procedures.

He enjoys performing orthopedic surgery and wanted to be “on the cutting edge of the cutting edge,” he said. He considers veterinary medicine “just as thrilling as ever.”

“It’s the only thing I know to do,” he said.

But he also admitted not paying close attention to veterinary ethics.

“That’s my fault,” he told the committee. “But I can change.”

Marian Harris spoke at the hearing. She tearfully recounted recovering Sid, and she’s happy that he is home. But she also felt betrayed that Tierce never called to say their dog was alive.

Later, she told reporters she would like to ask Tierce: “Why didn’t you call? That’s what’s so heartbreaking. How could you put a family through such pain?”

On Thursday, Jamie and Marian Harris sued Tierce seeking $1 million in damages.

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

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