Syphoning Sid: Texas Family Files Complaint Against Veterinarian After Discovering That Family Dog Was Not Put Down But Allegedly Kept For Months To Supply Blood For Transfusions

article-2616929-1D79E98200000578-95_634x383There is a truly horrific story out of Fort Worth where a well-known veterinary clinic is under investigation for allegedly keeping a dog alive in disgusting conditions to be tapped for blood transfusions . . . months after the family paid to have the dog put down. Camp Bowie Animal Clinic is accused of leaving 5-year-old Leonberger Sida covered in feces as a type of blood factory.

article-2616929-1D79E97E00000578-57_634x368Jamie and Marian Harris say that they took Sid to the clinic to be treated for a minor anal gland issue. However, after the treatment, Sid had trouble walking and the veterinarian said that he had a spine condition that would only grow worse with time. The family said that they were advised to put him down. They paid those costs and said goodbye. However, six months later, they received a call from veterinarian technician, Mary Brewer, who told them Sid was alive and being used for blood transfusions. She said that he could walk and could leave at any time. Several animals were seized and it is not clear what happened to Brewer who is responsible for saving the dog.
The Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners will meet in Austin to discuss the case but the question remains of the range of likely criminal charges. This would seem to be a case of not just cruelty but fraud if the allegations are true. However, the true cost is likely to be secured not in criminal proceedings but a civil lawsuit. There is obvious claims for negligence, infliction of emotional distress, trespass to chattel etc.

The clinic is run by Dr. Lou Tierce who has been arrested on animal cruelty charges. If the police believe the family’s allegation, that would seem an insufficient charge but it is common for additional charges to be add after an initial arrest. The case could present some interesting issues related to the scope (and value) of theft if it involves the blood of a pet as well as basis for fraud in the use of a dog in this fashion. While some countries have moved to change the status of pets as we recently discussed, Sid remains chattel or property in the United States. However, the Texas statute has definition of appropriation, deception, and other key terms that seem to fit this case:

§ 31.01. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:
(1) “Deception” means:
(A) creating or confirming by words or conduct a false impression of law or fact that is likely to affect the judgment of another in the transaction, and that the actor does not believe to be true;
(B) failing to correct a false impression of law or fact that is likely to affect the judgment of another in the transaction, that the actor previously created or confirmed by words or conduct, and that the actor does not now believe to be true;
(C) preventing another from acquiring information likely to affect his judgment in the transaction;
(D) selling or otherwise transferring or encumbering property without disclosing a lien, security interest, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property, whether the lien, security interest, claim, or impediment is or is not valid, or is or is not a matter of official record; or
(E) promising performance that is likely to affect the judgment of another in the transaction and that the actor does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed, except that failure to perform the promise in issue without other evidence of intent or knowledge is not sufficient proof that the actor did not intend to perform or knew the promise would not be performed.
(2) “Deprive” means:
(A) to withhold property from the owner permanently or for so extended a period of time that a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property is lost to the owner;
(B) to restore property only upon payment of reward or other compensation; or
(C) to dispose of property in a manner that makes recovery of the property by the owner unlikely.
(3) “Effective consent” includes consent by a person legally authorized to act for the owner. Consent is not effective if:
(A) induced by deception or coercion;
(B) given by a person the actor knows is not legally authorized to act for the owner;
(C) given by a person who by reason of youth, mental disease or defect, or intoxication is known by the actor to be unable to make reasonable property dispositions;
(D) given solely to detect the commission of an offense; or
(E) given by a person who by reason of advanced age is known by the actor to have a diminished capacity to make informed and rational decisions about the reasonable disposition of property.
(4) “Appropriate” means:
(A) to bring about a transfer or purported transfer of title to or other nonpossessory interest in property, whether to the actor or another; or
(B) to acquire or otherwise exercise control over property other than real property.
(5) “Property” means:
(A) real property;
(B) tangible or intangible personal property including anything severed from land; or
(C) a document, including money, that represents or embodies anything of value.
(6) “Service” includes:
(A) labor and professional service;
(B) telecommunication, public utility, or transportation service;
(C) lodging, restaurant service, and entertainment; and
(D) the supply of a motor vehicle or other property for use.
(7) “Steal” means to acquire property or service by theft.

Tierce is quoted as calling Brewer a disgruntled employee and says “She wanted to get me.” Well it worked if that is true. Brewer said that she quit over the mistreatment of the animals. If these allegations are true, Dr. Tierce is one sick puppy. If they are not true, he has one heck of a defamation action. However, other families are standing behind Tierce. Tierce could argue that he was holding Sid to see if in fact he could recover rather than put him down right away. Of course, this still should require the consent of the family and further raises the question of the original diagnosis (though the dog could legitimately have the degenerative disease). In the end, he presumably took money for the procedure and the disposal of the body but did not perform those tasks. While he can claim that there was no guarantee on when that would be done, the obvious expectation is that it would be done shortly after the contract for such services.

One question on the fraud implications is whether, if he tapped Sid for blood, other patients were charged for the blood that he allegedly got for free. As someone who paid thousands to try to save my prior dog Molly, I can attest to the fact that blood transfusions are a big ticket item. That could be a basis for a claim of fraud or dishonest business practices if the other patients were charged the rate for blood purchased by the hospital when it was getting the blood for free.

Sid is now back with his family.

Source: NBC

37 thoughts on “Syphoning Sid: Texas Family Files Complaint Against Veterinarian After Discovering That Family Dog Was Not Put Down But Allegedly Kept For Months To Supply Blood For Transfusions”

  1. Peter;

    You (apparently) are oblivious to the factor that – when a family let’s go of their family member {what a pet usually becomes} – hearing, seeing, staying in touch with the pet is added heartache.

    A decision was made for the termination – there’s NO visiting thereafter;
    unless the family believes it is picking the remains up to bury elsewhere.

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  3. LaserDLiquidator

    Sorry, I don’t understand the premise of being obtuse part, but if in a clearer way you point out an error in my reasoning, I’m happy to think about it.

    As to the 4 month absence, I am referring to the time following when the Harrises first brought Sid to the vet with an anal gland issue. It was after that period that he was to be put down, maybe partly because a $1000 MRI was recommended to further diagnose his back condition.

    As to Marian Harris’s motivation, it might suggest that she is lying as anyone who has been on a jury knows.

  4. PeterD;

    Your supposition that “if not for media attention” – also rests upon the premise of being obtuse. It is also disingenuous. How can the pet owners be expected to visit a dog they believed was “put down”?

    Motivations of the “pet” owner has nothing to do with the fact that the good [sic] doctor utilized the being for unjust enrichment in a manner appalling and violate of many principles of ethics, morals. Plus lacking simple common sense. The purported “get me” party wouldn’t have nothing to “get” if the doctor hadn’t been trying to “get away with IT”!

    It was the recommend to “put down” the being – plain and simple.

  5. To the people whom I have suggested are part of a mob, here’s why: You’re letting the media stir you up based on emotions rather than thinking based on facts. Then you jump to conclusions and clamor for extreme punishment. Sorry, I don’t see that much difference in attitude from the kind with pitchforks and torches. Either way, it looks like hatred to me. Jesus said, and I agee, that hatred equals murder.

    To quote one, for example “Given the facts at hand, Dr. Tierce seems to have taken advantage of the situation for his own benefit” There is no factual basis for saying “for his own benefit”, but there is an emotional one. In fact, he does what he does for the benefit of the animals and those clients who love their animals. This is a fact based on my own knowledge of the man and also what I heard last Friday May 9th at the hearing in Austin. Sometimes he fails to charge for his services, and Harris admitted in the hearing that he had not charged her at times. Usually someone who is motivated by greed tries a little harder to get money than Dr. Tierce.

    Let’s think about what his intentions were, since I know the law considers them. Maybe if not for this mob and the media attention Marian Harris has been getting, Dr. Tierce would be fined and allowed to continue working 18-20 hours per day saving the lives of pets with difficult conditons that other vets don’t want to bother with. Maybe with some oversight or the like… But now what?

    Let’s think about Harris’s intentions, too. I heard Dr. Tierce say in the hearing that she originally brought Sid to the clinic with an anal gland issue and then did not return to visit him for four months. This allegation was not challenged in the hearing. Maybe Sid was not quite as much beloved as we are being led to believe. What about the $1,000,000 lawsuit filed by Harris? Maybe it’s really been about the money all along.

    Just think about it, people. Things aren’t always as they seem.

  6. Paul S.: Yeah, that sounds like a good clinic. To me, that’s one crucial way how you can tell you’ve got a good one.

    I’ve got an old dog. I look at him sometimes and see how he’s aged. I’m not looking forward to making the inevitable decision, but that’s the way it is when have pets. One of my favorite poems is a short, two sentence poem called “Span of Life”, by Robert Frost.

    The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
    I can remember when he was a pup.

    This is a perfect poem. It encapsulates the whole experience of dog ownership for me. The first line is ponderous, to read and to speak. The second line races by. As a life -long pet owner, I’ve experienced that sense of recall, pulling up those memories…. The order Frost arranged those two sentences, for me, evokes the sense of wanting to turn back time.

    My grandfather always said that dogs last about ten years, if you’re lucky, and you could measure your life by them. Louis C.K. did a bit where he tells a story about when he was a kid and his dad brought a dog home. “Thanks, this is us crying in ten years. Thanks for bringing home us crying in ten years.”

    It’s a lot funnier the way he tells it.

  7. I have known Dr. Tierce for over twenty years. During that time I have brought him five pets and one rescue that I re-homed because he was terrorizing my 19-year-old cat. So I know something about the man, and I love animals. So let me please answer some of the vicious absurd allegations I have been hearing.

    Some people are pro-life; others are pro-death. Dr. Tierce is pro-life. If he kept a dog alive when the owner wanted to kill it, it’s because he wanted to help the dog. If he took blood from the dog it was to help other dogs and was a consequence of the dog being in his care, not the reason for it. If he experimented on the dog… What does that word mean anyway? How can any meaningful information be taken from that single word without knowing more detail, except for its use in stirring up a mob, and YOU ARE PART OF THAT MOB. Stop it; you’re killing him!

    1. Peter D – pets, whether we like it or not, are considered chattel by the law. If I pay Dr. Tierce to euthanize my chattel, then he is obligated to go that. I did not give him permission to use my chattel as his free blood bank.

      Given the facts at hand, Dr. Tierce seems to have taken advantage of the situation for his own benefit.

      We are not killing Dr. Tierce and we are not a mob. However, if you see people with lighted torches and pitchforks headed for his office, I would call the cops.

  8. Darren: I agree, there are certain things you just don’t want to see, and the sight of a loved one after emergency room personnel have done literally everything they can to save a life is one of them. Nobody wants that as a last and lasting image in their mind.

    And putting a pet down is one of the hardest things I think anyone will ever have to do, but it is one the obligations of pet ownership. Not for some, IMO, but I couldn’t bear the thought of my pet going through that experience alone in a strange place. I say this as I look at my 11 year old German shepherd.

    And as a critique on vets, it’s the mark of a good vet who can guide the pet owner through the experience with compassion. When we put our cat down a couple of years ago, the vet was great; she let us take the body home to bury, in violation of the law, I believe. My wife and I were devastated. When we realized they never billed us,, we sent them the payment and a donation to a charity they support.

    1. RTC – my vet has a system for doing it. You can take the pet home, have it cremated and get the ashes (with a paw print) or they will dispose of the body. They give you time with the animal to say your goodbyes and then they are with you while it expires. Then they give you pamphlets on grieving for pets.

  9. This story explains why juries should be given great latitude in determining punitive damages claims.

  10. I agree it certainly would be better for the pet’s comfort for the owners to be present when the euthanasia is administered, and certainly more honorable, but sometimes there are occasions where people are unable to bear the sight of seeing their pet put through this. There is the loss and probably in their mind a form of guilt that they had to make this decision even if it was for the best. But to be cauloused about it, aside from some psychological defense mechanism that might happen occasionally, it isn’t very respectable.

    I saw a similar kind of psychological event with people who had a loved one die at home from some form of medical issue. When I worked the road, after the paramedics pronounced death and I concluded my initial investagation we then made arrangements with the coroner as to where to take the body (required procedure). After this was established it was then time to remove the body. When I was performing the investigation, no family members are allowed in the room but after the coroner’s release it is time.

    What I usually did was come out to the family and talk with family for a while and and the end I would tell them that we would be getting him/her ready and in three or four minutes we would bring him/her to the ambulance. Then I would say “We’re going to come out in three minutes. I understand that you might have family business to discuss right now, so if you need to have a moment to yourselves in private in another room, I’ll be outside if you need me.” The wording is important as I will later explain.

    This provided the family with a couple of options in this difficult time for them.

    Some people felt that they should be around when their loved one is taken out (covered) and they will be standing solemly when this happens.

    About half of other people in my experience find it too upsetting to see their loved one come out on a stretcher or gurney. But this causes difficulty with some of these folks because they really don’t want to see their loved one in this fashion but they feel obligated to stand and watch because they don’t want to be thought of as being unkind or uncaring; despite how traumatizing this might be.

    This is where the bolded quote above comes into play. It provides them with a face saving way out of their dilemma under the option that they are “discussing family business” in another room. It relieves them of the burden of seeing something they are not prepared for without any guilt or expectation to be present that adds to their burden. This way they can start their grieving process with at least one less shock they have to deal with. It’s been my experience that when I open the door and exit the deceased’s room, about half the time the family will not be present, choosing this option.

    I suspect that to a lesser degree something similar is happening with family and their pets here. It isn’t an easy event for most people.

  11. nick

    an option the harris’s didn’t take.

    RTC

    yep

    and i doubt they’d find 12 people that would vote to convict.

  12. Not me. I lost all respect for a neighbor who dropped off his dog for euthanasia. I have vets come to my house and perform the procedure. Then I dig a hole some place near an erratic – a boulder deposited by a retreating glacier.

    Texas practically hands down the death penalty for parking tickets, so there better be some severe punishment for this vet. If a vet did this to my dog, at the minimum, the minimum, there’d be a severe ass-kicking.

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