Accused Fort Worth veterinarian indicted, suspended in cruelty case

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Millard Lucien Tierce, DVM, faces jail time in addition to veterinary boards order.

The Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has suspended the license of Millard Lucien Tierce, DVM, 71, the Fort Worth veterinarian accused of keeping dogs alive months or years after he told their owners the pets had been euthanized. A week after the order of suspension, a Tarrant County grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Tierce that could result in jail time.

Complaints against Tierce arose in April when the Harris family of Aledo, Texas, filed a complaint with the board after being told their 4-year-old Leonberger, Sid, was alive at the clinic months after they thought the dog had been euthanized due to a congenital spinal defect. During their investigation, police and board investigators found unsanitary conditions, bugs and other patients clients thought had been euthanized.

In their October 21 meeting the board discussed the complaints brought against Tierce and found him in violation of rules in the following areas, according to the order document:

> Professional standard of care

> Honesty, integrity and fair dealing

> Patient record keeping

> Patient records release and charges

> Minimum security for controlled substances

> Duty to cooperate with board

> Maintenance of sanitary premises.

In addition to the five-year suspension, Tierce must undergo an evaluation by a mental health professional and receive mental health counseling, complete 20 hours of CE in practice management and record keeping in addition to the yearly CE required to keep his license, pay $1,000 as an administrative penalty, and pass the Texas veterinary jurisprudence exam, according to the board order. Tierce signed the order at the meeting, placing the terms into effect. Failing to comply with the terms, violating the Texas Veterinary Licensing Act, or refusing to cooperate with the board could result in further disciplinary action, including revocation of Tierce's license.

Marian Harris, Sid's owner, spoke at the board meeting, saying she was disappointed with the decision, asking what it takes for a license to be revoked in the state of Texas. “My concern is that if he is in proximity to animals, then he will treat them. If he's managing a clinic, he will be treating animals. He should not be allowed to own a clinic,” she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

In Texas, a veterinarian whose license has been suspended may still own a practice and work in the office in an administrative capacity, according to Loris Jones, public information officer for the board. The veterinarian may not, however, do anything considered to be the practice of veterinary medicine as defined in the Veterinary Licensing Act.

According to the Texas Occupation Code, a person is subject to denial of license or disciplinary action if, among other things:

> The person engages in dishonest or illegal practices in, or connected with the practice of, veterinary medicine or equine dentistry

> The person engages in practices or conduct that violates the board's rules of professional conduct

> The person commits gross malpractice or a pattern of acts that indicate consistent malpractice, negligence or incompetence in the practice of veterinary medicine.

The Harrises have filed a million-dollar lawsuit against Tierce, which is currently ongoing. Other former clients are also suing Tierce after discovering that their pets were kept alive rather than euthanized.

In addition to the board's discipline and civil suits, Tierce is now facing criminal charges as well. The grand jury's indictment, which was filed on October 29, charges Tierce with three separate counts: one count of theft ($1,500 to $20,000), one count of misapplication of fiduciary property, and a third count of animal cruelty, according to a district attorney press release. The first two counts are felonies in Texas, punishable by six months to two years in a state jail. The third is a class a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Tierce remains free on $10,000 bail while awaiting trial. At this time no court date has been set.

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