Yechh. This story reads like a sick version of “Beethoven,” which, as all you Charles Grodin fans will recall, featured a villainous veterinarian (Dean Jones, no longer cute) who stole pets to use for medical research.
In Fort Worth, Texas, Jamie and Marian Harris took their dog, a 5-year-old Leonberger named Sid, to the well-respected Camp Bowie Animal Clinic, to be treated for what they thought was a minor health issue. After undergoing treatment, Sid developed trouble walking and the veterinarian, Dr. Lou Tierce, told the Harrises that their dog had an untreatable spinal condition that would get worse, cause him increasing pain, and ultimately cripple him completely. The family was told the best option was to have Sid euthanized. The couple and their young son agreed, said their goodbyes and authorized the clinic to bury Sid on the vet’s farm.
Six months later, a veterinarian technician named Mary Brewer, who worked at Camp Bowie, contacted the Harrises to inform them that Sid was alive and being kept alive in a cage, surrounded by his urine and feces, so he could be used for blood transfusions to treat other dogs.
Sure enough, Sid was still at the clinic, being used as an involuntary blood bank. He was rescued, Camp Bowie is shuttered, and Tierce is in custody. Hilariously, he has accused Brewer of being a “disgruntled employee.” What kind of defense is that? Unless he’s claiming that this disgruntled employee has magic power s and conjured Sid from this grave at Tierce’s farm to make this vet from Hell look guilty, her motives have no bearing on his conduct at all.
On his blog, law professor Jonathan Turley, a dog-lover, examines the legal issues in the case. The laws seem inadequate to fully punish the clinic and and its owner for this horrific conduct. The clinic lied to the family, conspired to take their pet, took payment for treatment and a euthanizing that didn’t take place, made money off of the dog’s blood, and treated the dog cruelly. Ethically, however, the verdict is easy. If the allegations are true…and since Sid is alive after six months and able to walk just fine, it seems overwhelmingly likely that they are…Tierce is dishonest, cruel, venal and untrustworthy, and for someone in his profession especially, is the scum of the earth. When my family had to euthanize our beloved English Mastiff, Patience (like Sid and Beethovan a giant breed—the biggest, in fact), we had it done at our home, in part for her comfort and also because my wife had what I thought then was an irrational fear that veterinary clinics sometimes did horrible things to dogs entrusted to them. Two pet-owning ethics lessons—the applicable values are competence, responsibility, loyalty, trust and kindness— from this story are
1) If a vet says your pet needs to be put down, get a second opinion and
2) Be with your pet when it is put to sleep.
What I want to know is this: why did it take six months for an employee of that clinic to alert the Harrises or authorities about Sid’s mistreatment? There had better be more Camp Bowie staff than just Dr. Tierce facing charges…including Mary Brewer. Sid should not have had to wait for her to become “disgruntled” to be rescued.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hug my Jack Russell terrier and give him a biscuit.
Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur