Former volunteer files vet complaint

Deepa Bharath

A former volunteer at a Huntington Beach animal shelter has filed a

complaint with the state Veterinary Medical Board alleging that the

veterinarian who owns the shelter uses unlicensed technicians to

euthanize and perform surgical procedures on animals at his adjoining

hospital.

In her complaint, filed against AAA Animal Hospital and the Orange

County Humane Society, both on Newland Street, Shelly Hunter states

that she is "addressing the illegal, inhumane and unethical

practices" taking place at the shelter and the hospital.

The shelter has contracts with the cities of Costa Mesa and

Westminster to impound and care for their stray animals.

Samir Botros, the veterinarian and shelter owner, has consistently

denied the allegations. On Wednesday, he said the complaint, filed

Sept. 15, was yet another attempt by former volunteers to wage a

personal battle against him.

"If you come to my place and tell me how to run it, and I ask you

to leave, you're not going to be happy," he said. "The fact that

these people are attacking my business straight away shows that this

is personal."

Some of the volunteers quit over differences with shelter staff

members in March. Botros disbanded the volunteer program on Aug. 30.

Former volunteers have since been protesting on and off outside the

shelter, demanding better veterinary care for the animals.

Several former volunteers also spoke up at Costa Mesa City Council

meetings. The city is looking into whether it should continue its

contract with the shelter or take its animals elsewhere. The results

of that investigation are pending.

But the complaint filed by Hunter includes a letter from Costa

Mesa resident Suzanne Bartholemy, who describes an episode at the

shelter in which she witnessed two unlicensed workers attempting to

euthanize a dog while repeatedly trying to jab its leg with a needle,

because they weren't able "to get the vein."

"I was sickened that this poor, doomed animal had to suffer

through this experimentation," she wrote. Bartholemy said she

reported this to the shelter manager, Cortney Dorney, who she said

seemed upset that the volunteer had witnessed the incident and

reacted by imposing new rules that volunteers must leave the shelter

by 5 p.m. and that they should not enter newly restricted areas.

Dorney responded to the volunteers' official complaint, contending

the volunteers interfered in shelter activities without knowledge or

experience.

"I've been a veterinary technician for eight years," she said. "I

specialize in animal behavior. The volunteers have no training or

experience."

They were just getting "too involved," Dorney said.

"We are not asking for much here," Hunter said. "We know that when

there are so many dogs in one place, it's going to be filled with

poop. But we're talking about diarrhea-filled kennels for days and

food crawling with maggots.

"The animals need a dry, clean place and more importantly, food

and water."

Among the many other letters attached with the complaint was one

from Elizabeth Lubin. The Huntington Beach resident wrote about the

veterinarians' alleged sloppy surgery on her adopted dog.

When Lubin brought the animal home, the dog's incision opened up,

and she had to take it to another doctor, who was alarmed at the

inadequate manner in which the incision was closed, Lubin wrote.

"When I called AAA to complain about the suffering [my dog] went

through because of their sloppy work, they stated I should have

brought her back in, and they would have closed the incision at no

extra charge," Lubin wrote. Botros insisted that technicians in the

hospital take X-rays and give medication to animals.

"I don't let them do surgeries," he said. "Surgeries are performed

by the vets. I'm not stupid."

The Veterinary Medical Board conducted an inspection of the

facilities in September 2001 after some complaints, Botros said.

"They're welcome to come in and inspect again," he said.

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