DVM exclusive: Dr. Pamela Corey speaks out about her suspension from ASPCA

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Nov 11, 2011
Jericho, N.Y. — Speaking out for the first time since her suspension from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Dr. Pamela Corey says she was caught in a conflict of interest over a statement released about the death of a New York City carriage horse.

(See related story here).

“I’m very concerned about the fact that as a veterinarian I’ve been put into a real tough situation in this job,” says Corey in a DVM Newsmagazine exclusive interview. Corey has served as director of equine veterinary services for the ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Department since 2008.

The situation has become so unbearable, Corey says she has registered a complaint with the New York Attorney General’s Office over the way the whole ordeal unfolded.

It all started Oct. 23 with the death of a New York City carriage horse and a statement from ASPCA on the horse’s death and concerns about the carriage horse industry, which Corey later corrected. After the correction was issued, ASPCA suspended Corey without pay, and the Teamsters are among the groups calling out ASPCA and demanding Corey’s reinstatement.

“I’ve been trying not to fan the flames, but it’s happening without me,” she says. “I certainly want the vet’s perspective to be heard. Now, as of today, because of the (local) news story last night, I felt like I needed to make a move.”

Corey and ASCPA have been at odds over the handling of the carriage horse issue for several years, she says. On one hand, ASPCA wants to use its law enforcement powers to crack down on equine abuse, and on the other, it is lobbying regulators for a ban on carriage horses, Corey contends. As a veterinarian, Corey says, she has been put in the middle.

“I don’t believe they should really have—based on their stated public policy of wanting to eliminate an industry in the city while having their law enforcement department monitoring them—put a vet in the middle,” Corey says. “It’s not a tenable working relationship. You want to do one thing or another. You want to have objective facts or lobby government to change rules for animals.”

Corey says both are noble goals that she supports, but not hand-in-hand.

“Right now, it’s a pretty tricky situation for me,” Corey says.

In terms of the Oct. 31 statement that triggered problems for Corey, she says she was against making a public statement. Neither Corey nor ASPCA had enough information based on preliminary necropsy results to pass judgment, but Corey says ASPCA pushed for a statement and she—mistakenly—signed off on it.

“It’s a very horrible situation to be in,” Corey says, adding the facts just weren’t there yet. “I really don’t think anyone’s opinion counts. I was supposed to be objective and that’s not what was happening. Me, as the veterinary professional, was put in a really unconscionable position.”

After the release of the statement, which implied that the dead horse had been forced to work with painful maladies, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene—which licenses New York City’s horse carriages—contacted ASPCA for more information about the case. Corey says ASPCA had her correction in-hand, but declined to make any new statements. When she heard the health department was looking for more information, Corey sent over her revised statement Nov. 3 she was suspended without pay by ASPCA the same day. She hasn’t heard from her employer since.

“They’ve been dismissive of me,” Corey says of ASPCA. “They don’t understand what they’ve really made me do.”

Corey says she doesn’t want to resign from her position, but it might come to that. If that happens, Corey says she will have more to say about the whole ordeal.

“There’s a lot more to the story in terms of details,” she says.