© 2023 MJH Life Sciences™ and dvm360 | Veterinary News, Veterinarian Insights, Medicine, Pet Care. All rights reserved.
Cornell wins legal fight against former veterinary student
Disagreement over biting dog's aggression led to expulsion.
A federal judge in Albany, New York, has sided with Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine over its decision to expel a student in 2009.
Karen Habitzreuther, DVM, the former Cornell student, brought her rescued German shepherd, Shandor, into Cornell's Community Practice Service Clinic on July 11, 2006, because he had an ear infection, according to a court document. Shandor bit the student examining him, and the school's faculty board suspended Habitzreuther for two years for violating the school's honor code on the grounds that she knew about Shandor's history of biting and didn't disclose it when asked if the dog had an aggression problem. Habitzreuther has described the dog as “a playful puppy who was very protective … a traditional alpha male,” according to the document.
Habitzreuther was readmitted a year later in September 2007 on the condition that a final decision would be made in 2008. The faculty board wanted proof that Habitzreuther realized “how [her] judgment as an aspiring professional was impaired” when she didn't reveal her dog's aggression, according to the document. After a hearing in December 2008, the board told Habitzreuther that her petition to return to Cornell was denied.
Having lost three years of school credit, Habitzreuther sued Cornell in October 2014 for $500,000, claiming breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation on the part of the veterinary school.
However, Judge Gary L. Sharpe ruled in federal district court that the breach of contract claim was “inventive pleading” because the university had clearly communicated to Habitzreuther that the faculty board would issue a decision.
"We're grateful that Judge Sharpe approached the lawsuit with such care and are pleased with his carefully reasoned decision,” Claudia Wheatley, senior public affairs officer for Cornell, tells dvm360.
After leaving Cornell, Habitzreuther went on to study veterinary medicine at the American University of Antigua (which closed the program in 2012) before getting her DVM degree from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, according to her LinkedIn profile. Habitzreuther is now is now pursuing a master's degree in public health from Virginia Tech, according to LinkedIn.
Shandor has been euthanized, according to The New York Times.