Arizona Office of the Attorney General’s Office raps Veterinary Review Board for failure to discipline veterinarians, probe complaints

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1997:

PHOENIX––The Arizona State
Veterinary Medical Review Board “does not
adequately discipline veterinarians,” dismissing
more than 90% of the complaints it
received in three of the past four years, the
Arizona Office of the Attorney General reported
on April 28, following up a 1995 “sunset
review” by the Joint Legislative Audit
Committee, which determines whether or not
state-established organizations should continue
past their original mandate.
“Veterinary consultants retained by
the Auditor General reviewed complaints from
fiscal year 1996,” the Office of the Attorney
General’s report continued, “and found that as
many as one out of every six complaints dismissed
should have resulted in some discipline.

The Board needs to overcome its apparent
reluctance to discipline veterinarians and commit
to carrying out its enforcement duties. The
Board’s record of weak disciplinary actions
may be partly attributable to its failure to adequately
investigate most consumer complaints.
In fiscal year 1996, the Board investigated
only 22 of the 102 complaints it resolved.
Basic investigative steps such as interviewing
the complainant and other involved parties,
such as the doctor’s staff, are generally not
performed. In fact, a complainant was interviewed
in only three of the 102 cases.
“Another problem with the Board’s
complaint process,” the Arizona Attorney
General’s Office continued, “is that the Board
inappropriately limits the extent of the investigation
performed on each complaint. Further,
Board staff need to forward all potential violations
to the Board. While investigating one
complaint, the Board investigator also uncovered
information that the veterinarian in question
was euthanizing animals with household
bleach and other cleaning chemicals,” apparently
to make chloroform, “and disposing of
the animals in plastic bags while they were still
alive. Although the investigator submitted a
report regarding these allegations in December
1995, Board members were not made aware of
this situation until it was brought to their attention
by auditors in November 1996. According
to the Board, this is an active investigation.
However, a review of the investigation file in
April 1997 found no evidence of investigative
activity since December 1994.”
The Office of the Attorney General
recommended restructuring the Board to
include an equal number of veterinarians and
non-veterinary representatives, and concluded
that, “If the Board has not rectified these problems”
within five years, “the Legislature
should consider other alternatives to ensure that
the State’s regulatory responsibilities are carried
out and that the public is protected.”
Arizona State Veterinary Medical
Examining Board chair Robert L. Hatch,
DVM, submitted a response asserting that,
“The Arizona Board disciplines proportionately
more veterinarians more often than veterinary
boards of other states that the audit uses as
examples of innovative regulatory programs.
The impartiality of the Arizona State
Veterinary Medical Examining Board has been
under public scrutiny since publication of a
July 1991 expose of failures to discipline veterinarians
by Terri Greeen of the Mesa N e w
Times. The American Anti-Vivisection Society
in January 1995 asked members to protest
alleged failures of the Board to discipline abusive
ANIMAL PEOPLE over the past
five years has actually received more complaints
about alleged failures of veterinary
review boards in various states to discipline
vets than about individual veterinarians. Just a
handful of veterinarians appear to generate the
great majority of complaints against the profession,
but complaints have continued about particular
vets for a decade or longer in some
instances without significant disciplinary action
being taken.


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