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.