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
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
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
"I've been a veterinary technician for eight years," she said. "I
specialize in animal behavior. The volunteers have no training or
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
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.