Million-dollar lawsuit filed against Texas veterinarian
Millard Lucien Tierce, DVM, a Fort Worth, Texas, veterinarian accused of animal cruelty, has been sued by Jamie and Marian Harris for damages in excess of $1 million. The Harrises are the owners of Sid, a dog they allege Tierce used for experiments and blood donations instead of euthanizing.
The Harrises’ lawsuit, filed in Tarrant County District Court againt Tierce and his veterinary practice, Camp Bowie Animal Clinic, states that Tierce committed gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, breach of contract and fiduciary duty, and theft of property when he failed to euthanize Sid, a 4-year-old Leonberger, as he told them he had. A lawyer for the family says they want to ensure that Tierce is not able to continue practicing.
The filing details some of the injuries Sid suffered while in the care of the clinic. According to a veterinarian who examined Sid after the couple and dog were reuinted, Sid had been “abusively kenneled,” was suffering from stress-induced mange, had significant atrophy in his leg muscles from inactivity, showed signs consistent with having been used as a regular blood donor, and did not have a congenital spine defect—the reason Tierce had given the Harrises for recommending euthanasia.
The lawsuit states that while the dog was being treated at the clinic, an employee caused a back injury by flipping him into a bathtub, “causing him to twist in an unnatural position, land on his back and yelp in pain.” In the days following the bath incident Sid showed signs of being injured and in great pain, but Tierce failed to examine or treat Sid for this injury, the document claims. As a result, Sid has bulging disks in his back and partial paralysis that will require surgery to correct, the suit says.
Tierce is also being investigated by the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, and the Harrises testified at his license suspension proceedings May 9. At the hearing the board continued Tierce’s license suspension, finding him a threat to public welfare, says board spokeswoman Nicole Oria.
Local media have reported that around 30 of Tierce’s supporters made the trip to Austin, Texas, for the hearing, where Tierce asked the board for a second chance, stating that he was a hoarder and “that if he was not M. L. Tierce III, veterinarian, he was nothing.” But the Harrises’ lawyer calls Tierce’s statements making him out to be a kindhearted veternarian who just coudn’t bear to euthanize animals untrue. “He’s demonstrated a total lack of remorse, and we have testimony from witnesses that he was abusive, hitting and kicking animals,” the lawyer says.
The Harrises are asking for more than $1 million to recoup medical expenses they’ve already incurred and for future treatment of Sid’s injuries, and also to alleviate the “devastation and severe emotional harm” they’ve suffered. They say they’re experiencing doubt, fear and guilt related to the treatment of Sid and other pets they took to Tierce’s clinic in the 25 years they used him as their veterinarian.
Historically, the state of Texas has not awarded emotional damages in the loss of a pet. However, the family’s lawyer says the emotional portion of the case would fall under the gross negilgence distinction. “He had a duty to the Harrises to care for their property with honesty and integrity, and he didn’t. And he did so with intentional infliction of pain and emotional harm to the clients,” the lawyer states.
Tierce’s formal disciplinary hearing with the Texas veterinary board will be held no later than June 27, board spokeswoman Oria says. Any criminal charges filed against him could potentially have an impact on the board’s judgment; however, if charges have not been filed at the time of the hearing, the board can review the evidence itself to arrive at a judgment: “No licensee shall commit any act that is in violation of the laws of the State of Texas, other states, or of the United States, if the act is connected with the licensee’s professional practice. ... A complaint, indictment, or conviction of a law violation is not necessary for the enforcement of this rule,” states the board’s administrative code.
At time of publication, 12 other police reports had been filed with the Fort Worth Police Department in relation to the care of animals at Camp Bowie Animal Clinic. While Tierce was arrested, charged and bailed out on one count of cruelty to animals, the case is ongoing and the lead detective on the case is working closely with the district attorney’s office on the investigation, says police department spokesman Sgt. Raymond Bush.
Melody McDonald, public information officer for the district attorney’s office, says prosecutors have not filed any formal charges yet as the case is still under review and that a decision on criminal charges will be made once investigation and evaluations have been completed.