An­i­mal re­hab­ber faces drug, abuse charges

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - By AN­DREW CEPHAS acephas@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @CalRecANDREW

A 10-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion has re­sulted in the di­rec­tor of the Or­phaned Wildlife Res­cue Cen­ter in Lusby fac­ing mul­ti­ple drug vi­o­la­tion and an­i­mal abuse charges.

Ron­ald Gene Wexler, 68, of Lusby was ar­rested on 10 counts of pos­ses­sion of con­trolled danger­ous sub­stance — not mar­i­juana and triple counts each of an­i­mal cru­elty and prac­tic­ing vet­eri­nary medicine with­out a nec­es­sary li­cense, ac­cord­ing to court records.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Or­phaned Wildlife Res­cue Cen­ter com­menced af­ter a com­plaint was filed to the Mary­land Wildlife and Her­itage Ser­vice al­leg­ing vi­o­la­tions of wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion reg­u­la­tions, vi­o­la­tions in­volv­ing ra­bies vec­tor species, per­form­ing vet­eri­nary medicine with­out a li­cense, an­i­mal cru­elty and pos­si­ble con­trolled danger­ous sub­stance vi­o­la­tions. The com­plaint let­ter was re­viewed by the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice and the at­tor­ney gen­eral rec­om­mended it be in­ves­ti­gated, ac­cord­ing to charg­ing doc­u­ments.

A search war­rant was con­ducted on the wildlife cen­ter Aug. 6 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, the Mary­land Nat­u­ral Re­sources Police and two vet­eri­nar­i­ans, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

While ex­e­cut­ing the search war­rant, au­thor­i­ties re­port­edly found large amounts of de­merol, pen­to­bar­bi­tal, buprenex, fen­tanyl, oxy­codone, ke­tamine, mi­da­zo­lam, al­pra­zo­lam, phe­no­bar­i­tal and bu­tor­phanol, none of which Wexler had a pre­scrip­tion for, the doc­u­ments al­lege.

“We con­fis­cated a large amount of ev­i­dence from the scene,” Candy Thom­son, pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for the Mary­land Nat­u­ral Re­sources Police, said in a phone in­ter­view Wed­nes­day. “It took us a while to test all the sub­stances we found in the house and to com­pare the records he had in the house to what is per­mit­ted by state and fed­eral law. He does not have any li­censes or pre­scrip­tions to pos­sess any of the con­trolled sub­stances found in his home.”

Ad­di­tional ob­ser­va­tions were made by au­thor­i­ties in­side the cen­ter, re­gard­ing the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of wildlife, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

A lac­tat­ing fe­male Vir­ginia opos­sum with non-treat­able spinal trauma — which re­sults in pain and paral­y­sis — was re­port­edly be­ing kept alive in or­der to feed its lit­ter. The charg­ing doc­u­ments state the opos­sum should have been eu­th­a­nized upon ar­rival since it had no chance of be­ing re­ha­bil­i­tated and re­leased. A cot­ton­tail rab­bit, with the same non-treat­able spinal trauma, was also al­legedly found in­side the cen­ter, caged. An os­prey was re­port­edly ob­served to be in a cage that was too small, re­sult­ing in mus­cle atro­phy and feather dam­age.

When Wexler re­turned to the cen­ter, he was in­ter­viewed by au­thor­i­ties, at which time he al­legedly ad­mit­ted he is not a vet­eri­nar­ian, although the wildlife cen­ter’s web­site iden­ti­fies him as one. The charg­ing doc­u­ments state Wexler, who goes by the nick­name “Doc,” said he has been in­volved in wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion for the last 25 years, but re­port­edly couldn’t an­swer “ba­sic” ques­tions about the con­di­tions of his per­mit and what he can and can­not do re­gard­ing wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. Wexler al­legedly told au­thor­i­ties he has never both­ered to read the terms and con­di­tions of his per­mits.

Dur­ing the in­ter­view, Wexler al­legedly ad­mit­ted to per­form­ing surgery on two dif­fer­ent ospreys whose feet were tan­gled in a fish­ing line around Aug. 3. He said he got the fish­ing line off the birds’ feet, adding that he does this type of vet­eri­nary medicine rou­tinely on in­jured wildlife at the Or­phaned Wildlife Res­cue Cen­ter. Wexler also al­legedly de­scribed a surgery he per­formed on a black rat snake Aug. 5 to re­move an in­gested golf ball, at­tempt­ing to jus­tify the surgery by say­ing, in his opin­ion, the snake was dy­ing. The on-scene vet­eri­nar­i­ans con­firmed a black rat snake could last a cou­ple of weeks with an in­gested for­eign ob­ject be­fore it be­comes dis­tressed.

“He is not a vet­eri­nar­ian, even though his web­site says he is,” Thom­son said. “He’s not per­mit­ted to do what he did un­der state law.”

Au­thor­i­ties re­cov­ered doc­u­ments dur­ing the search war­rant that al­legedly showed Wexler op­posed House Bill 277, which was in­tro­duced into state leg­is­la­ture in 1997. The pass­ing of this bill made it il­le­gal for un­li­censed vet­eri­nar­i­ans to prac­tice on an­i­mals, the doc­u­ments state.

Wexler bailed out of jail early Wed­nes­day morn­ing on a $7,500 bail, records show. He is sched­uled to ap­pear in court Aug. 8.

The res­cue cen­ter is lo­cated on 3 acres in the Ch­e­sa­peake Ranch Es­tates com­mu­nity. Wexler has cared for in­jured and or­phaned wildlife since 1990, ac­cord­ing to pre­vi­ous re­ports in The Calvert Recorder.

Calls made to the wildlife cen­ter were not re­turned by time of press.

Ron Wexler of Or­phaned Wildlife Res­cue Cen­ter in Lusby holds one of the brown pel­i­cans his or­ga­ni­za­tion and St. Mary’s County An­i­mal Con­trol res­cued in 2007 in Ridge af­ter at least one died from what ap­peared to be ex­po­sure to ex­tremely cold tem­per­a­tures.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY DAR­WIN WEIGEL

Ron­ald Gene Wexler holds a fe­male ground­hog that was hit by a car and was re­cu­per­at­ing at a wildlife cen­ter in 2013.

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