The Dallas Morning News

Our Pets Deserve Better Than This

Poodle’s death shows why Texas vet board needs overhaul, but adding it to another board is a bad idea


Ava the poodle went to the veterinari­an for a routine spay surgery in December 2019 and died eight days later after it was discovered that her intestines were sewn up into the wound closure.

The doctor who performed the surgery agreed last month to a one-year suspension and other sanctions by the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, three years after the incident.

The board had already discipline­d the doctor in 2001, 2013 and 2016 regarding his care of three other dogs, two of which also died. The doctor worked at a low-cost spayneuter clinic near Cedar Creek Lake and once boasted of conducting 50 sterilizat­ions a day.

Ava’s death illustrate­s why Texas needs an efficient and responsive agency to oversee the standard of care provided by the 12,500 licensed veterinari­ans, veterinary technician­s and equine dental providers in this state. But we’re concerned that a proposed solution by state officials could make matters worse.

The Sunset Advisory Commission has reviewed the veterinary board three times in the last six years and each time has found it lacked a sufficient database to reliably keep track of licensing and enforcemen­t informatio­n.

A commission staff report this past November also criticized the board’s “responsive­ness to the public.” It found that in 2021, the board took an average of 464 days to resolve a complaint, up from 221 days in 2015.

Without addressing its problems, the board “will continue to struggle to meet its important mission of establishi­ng and enforcing policies to ensure the best quality of veterinary services and equine dental care for the animals of Texas,” the staff report said.

But the commission last month voted to recommend that the Legislatur­e attach the board as an advisory panel to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for the next four years. That agency already has its hands full overseeing 890,000 individual state licenses in 40 different profession­s, from midwives to barbers to auctioneer­s.

A department spokespers­on wouldn’t comment specifical­ly about the commission’s vote. But in a letter in November regarding the review of another state board, Department of Licensing and Regulation executive director Mike Arismendez told the sunset commission “our ability to take on additional responsibi­lities without jeopardizi­ng the quality” of existing services “is not limitless.”

The Texas Veterinary Medical Associatio­n “wholeheart­edly shares the concerns of the Sunset Commission,” but is concerned that the Department of Licensing and Regulation lacks the “highly clinical and technical” expertise of the industry to have “veto power” over the board’s rulemaking.

Rather, the industry group favors combining elements of other oversight alternativ­es, such as the state developing a work group with Texas A&M University, the Texas Medical Board and others to address the veterinary board’s “gaps in knowledge,” and relying on the state licensing agency for advice rather than authority.

The Legislatur­e should consider the concerns of the veterinari­an associatio­n in deciding how to best handle the veterinary board’s problems. Our state’s pets deserve the best possible system to ensure their proper care.

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