|Who, age||What||Where||When||Last known address|
|William "Bill" Baber, DVM||inhumane euthanasia practices at county animal shelter||
|November 1, 2007||Gallatin, TN|
|David & Nathan Clariday, DVM||veterinarians who replaced Baber at county animal shelter covered up video cameras||
|August 20, 2008||Mount Juliet, TN|
|Type of Crime||Other Crimes||#/Type of animal(s) involved|
|Misdemeanor, license revocation||dogs & cats|
Veterinarian William "Bill" Baber euthanizes animals for the Sumner County Animal Shelter in Gallatin, Tennessee, but the method of how he euthanizes cats and dogs is illegal and cruel and has even been documented on videotape.
(Photo courtesy of WSMV) Normally, the euthanasia method is made to be as painless as possible. A shot is given to sedate the animal, and then a lethal injection is administered to a vein which leads to the animal’s quiet death.
In the tape, dogs were brought in and Baber lethally injected the animals right into the heart with no sedation. Veterinarians call this method a heart shot, and this method is prohibited by state law from administering it unless the animal is heavily sedated or comatose.
The Sumner County Animal Shelter bans the heart shot which is also known as intracardiac euthansia.
The tape also shows doctors stepping on animals to help control them and then administering the shot. Animals were brought in sometimes as often as once a minute, and in one case, 60 animals were put down in one day.
It’s so quick-paced. It’s just pop, pop, pop. It’s all about the money, a trustee for the Sumner County Animal Shelter said.
Baber is paid $9 by the county for each animal he euthanizes. Last year, he was paid more than $22,000 for euthanizing animals.
In response to what he did on the video, Baber didn’t deny what he is doing and said he isn’t doing anything wrong. Although there are euthanasia guidelines set by law for veterinary technicians to follow, it’s unclear if that also applies to veterinarians.
Baber added, “There’s a difference between shelter medicine and veterinary medicine. It ain’t pretty. I do a difficult job to the best of my ability.
Sumner County Executive Hank Thompson, who hired Baber, said that the county has received previous complaints about Baber and told him to stop.
But he also said Baber isn’t to blame for this controversy. He said the problem starts with irresponsible pet owners who don’t spay and neuter their animals and dump dogs and cats in rural areas.
Thompson said he will continue to employ Baber to euthanize animals for the county.
Update 11/1/07: Every animal care professional who saw what's happening said it is wrong.
For residents who have had to put down a favorite dog or cat, their veterinarian probably made it as painless as possible. A shot is given to completely sedate the pet, then a lethal injection to a vein, and he or she quietly went to sleep and died.
But for some animals at the Sumner County Animal Shelter, death comes differently. The Sumner County Animal Shelter is not associated with the Humane Society of Sumner County.
"It's just a horrible, horrible way for an animal to have to die,” said former euthanasia technician June McMahon.
Some video shows several days in September when animals were put to sleep behind closed doors inside the Sumner County Animal Shelter.
Nine different veterinarians, veterinarian technicians and shelter directors all agreed that what is seen on the tape isn't the way to euthanize animals.
According to the tape, dogs were brought in by trustees from the local jail, pulled up and lethally injected right into the heart with no sedation and were dead within minutes.
The Sumner County Animal Shelter’s own guidelines ban the heart shot.
But, according to the tape, it’s happening again and again. “It's pretty cruel, you know. It's how they do it,” a trustee said. The trustee said he witnessed hundreds of heart shots. He said some were administered so quickly that the veterinarian actually missed the heart. "You know they scream. I've actually seen them just stagger everywhere, just underneath his feet, down the hallway, outside, finally just collapse,” he said.
Then there are the cats pulled in on catch poles. The video shows doctors stepping on them to help control them, then administering the shot.
As with the dogs, the critical thing that is clear is that the cats are also not sedated.
McMahon is among the nine animal care professionals who saw the tape independent of each other. “It's horrible. Any person in their right mind would say that,” she said.
Baber didn't deny what is going on but said he's doing nothing wrong. "There's a difference between shelter medicine and veterinary medicine. It ain't pretty,” he said. He referred all questions to Sumner County Executive Hank Thompson, who hired him.
“You know you'll have people saying, ‘I can't believe this is happening in our shelter,’” Finley told Thompson. "Oh I'm sure, but like I say, we've hired a licensed veterinarian to do that. What else are we supposed to do?” Thompson said.
The county said it has gotten complaints before and told Baber to stop. "I know several months ago, we talked to him about the heart shots shouldn't be used and need to do it another way,” Thompson said. "So you were very clear that the heart shot shouldn't be used?” Finley said. "Well, we talked about it months ago, and that was the complaint that they had,” said Thompson.
Baber wouldn't talk about that but said that he did sedate some animals at the shelter. “I do a difficult job to the best of my ability,” Baber said. He said what was on the videotape is the ugly truth of what happens in a lot of shelters.
WSMV's I-Team checked with six other area animal shelters and humane societies. All of them said that they do not use the heart shot method. "These are animals that nobody wanted in the first place. Does it matter the manner in which they are put down?" Finley said.
"(Of) course it does. Especially so, I would think, because these are animals who have probably never known a kind moment,” McMahon said. “Most of these animals have had horrible lives. If they're going to die, it needs to be with dignity."
Update 11/2/07: State and county officials who watched the report are demanding changes and demanding action. After seeing Channel 4's story, state Rep. and longtime animal advocate Ben West called the Sumner County district attorney and the commissioner of the Department of Health requesting an investigation.
He said he is also drafting legislation to make the practice a felony. "I've already gotten calls from legislators, ‘What are we going to do, Ben?’" he said.
The undercover video has also been reviewed frame-by-frame by investigators with the state Department of Health.
"I've got dogs, and there's no way would I want them treated in this manner,” said Sumner County Commissioner Mike Akins. Akins has called for a formal investigation into the questionable method.
“I'm sure when this hits the news, there's going to be a whole lot more complaints come across my telephone. We'll just have to do it in committee chambers,” he said.
Baber told reporters that he feels he's become a scapegoat and that with so many strays needing to be euthanized.
There's also more concern stemming from the video. Baber is never seen checking any animal for a heartbeat or using a stethoscope to make sure the animals are dead when they're taken away.
Checking for life signs is something nine animal professionals said should be done after every euthanasia. A jail trustee assigned to the shelter for three months said he never saw Baber check for signs of life. Baber disputes the claim that he failed to check animals after the injections.
Animal advocates said they don't want Baber to get another talking to.
"The people in charge of that facility need to be immediately terminated,” said Sumner County animal advocate Peg Olea.
The county government also reminded everyone that the public is not allowed back in the shelter.
The person Channel 4 worked with to get the video was a member of the public.
Update 11/5/07: District Attorney Ray Whitley has requested an investigation concerning recent allegations of animal abuse occurring at the Sumner County Animal Control Office in Gallatin and the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office has opened a case file concerning the matter.
A group of individuals had obtained video evidence of Gallatin Veterinarian Dr. Bill Baber euthanizing dogs in a manner that is alleged to be in violation of state law and accepted veterinarian practices. The video evidence was first released to news media sources but the Sheriff’s Office has now obtained an unedited copy of the original video. The results of the Sheriff's Office investigation will be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office for review.
Update 11/6/07: The public reacted quickly to a videotape that showed animals at the shelter being put down with a needle containing sodium phenobarbital to the heart.
100 protesters gathered in front of the shelter to show their anger at the county for allowing the practice.
The incident has become embarrassing for Sumner County.
“We’re not letting this go. There are 34,000 pet owners in my county where I live and every single one of them usually ends up right there. Now, you saw how they were euthanized. That’s unacceptable. That will not occur again,” said animal activist Peggy Olea.
Olea is one of the many who said they are outraged.
Former Sumner County Commissioner Matt Slone said he was also upset at the images seen on the video. Slone called the shelter “a working death camp.” He said the adoption rate at the shelter is the lowest in the nation and that no one would listen to his calls to clean up the shelter. He said the heart shot method could cause the animal to linger in pain for up to five minutes before its death.
State Rep. Janis Sontany said that after seeing this report, she filed a complaint asking the state to take away Baber's license.
"I think what you uncovered is a vet that's committing an act of animal cruelty in the euthanasia process,” said Rep. Janis Sontany.
The State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners will meet in a specially-called meeting to decide if his license should be suspended.
The board will meet, investigators will present their findings, and the board will have to determine then if they feel Baber poses a threat to animals.Update 11/7/07: A Gallatin veterinarian who sparked outrage across middle Tennessee had his license suspended.
The decision, handed down by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, comes a week after a Channel 4 investigation into how Dr. Bill Baber put animals to death at the Sumner County Animal Shelter.
Animal advocates wept and turned their heads as the undercover video was shown to the Board.
Experts on animal medicine, state investigators and the jail trustee featured in the I-Team report all testified.
This emergency meeting of the Board was called to determine if Baber proved to be a threat by his practices.
The board voted unanimously to temporarily suspend Baber's license.
Animal advocates applauded the Board's decision. “I think they did the right thing,” one advocate said.
Baber did not attend the meeting. A date is set for later this month for a formal hearing that could permanently strip him of his license. Sumner County has terminated its contract with Baber.
Update 11/14/07: The state veterinary board has reversed its decision and lifted the suspension of a Sumner County vet accused of using controversial euthanasia techniques.
Baber and his attorney asked the board to let him treat animals in his private practice until a full hearing next month, saying he had been fired from the Sumner County animal clinic anyway.
"Because he was relieved of his duties, action by the board was not required," said Baber's attorney John Pellegrin.
Last week the board saw for the first time hidden camera video of Baber injecting the chests of dogs and cats without first sedating them.
Board members met by teleconference and some had second thoughts about the suspension and said it was too harsh. "No one sedates animals before they're euthanized," said vet board member Joseph Kendrick.
The board voted to let Baber practice as long as he doesn't euthanize any animals, a vote that the state's attorney did not agree with. "He obviously violated standards," said board lawyer Alison Cleaves.
Baber, who had never talked on camera before, broke his silence and said he was relieved by the decision. He said he wouldn’t say much about the controversial killings now that the Sumner County district attorney told him he will be charged with a crime.
"The DA told me he will be charged with a misdemeanor," said Pellegrin.
One board member said Baber should have known better than to euthanize dogs and cats without sedating them. The member said Baber was playing Russian roulette with his license.
Update 12/13/07: A Gallatin veterinarian was found guilty by the state board of veterinary medical examiners of violating Tennessee's euthanasia rules.
Dr. Bill Baber's license will be suspended until April, he was placed on probation for five years, fined $2,000 and will have to undergo psychological counseling.
The public heard from Baber, who said he was unaware that the heart shot method without sedation had been banned by the state veterinary board.
Lawyers from the state wanted Baber's license taken away and said he should have known that the practice was cruel and outlawed.
But Baber said that because of the sheer number of animals that needed to be put down, he had no choice but to use the quick method without sedation even if he felt overwhelmed.
The Channel 4 I-team investigation into this story has prompted many changes at the Sumner County animal shelter.
A new manager will be hired to oversee the animal control program, and the shelter will be watched by a team of inspectors, which includes the sheriff, a vet, a county commissioner and an animal rescuer.
Update 1/3/08: Criminal charges have been placed against a Sumner County veterinarian after he used a controversial method to put animals to death.
Dr. William Baber was arrested and charged with 12 misdemeanor offenses, including animal cruelty.
Baber already had his license suspended and his practice temporarily shut down in December.
Channel 4 showed how the cats were treated, which resulted in two counts of animal cruelty.
The station exposed the method the dogs were put to death, which resulted in two more cruelty counts.
Also reported in Channel 4's stories was that there wasn't any indication of Baber checking for signs of life afterward. This resulted in charges of four counts of violating the humane death act.
The fact that many of the animals weren't sedated led to two counts of violating the state's euthanasia law.
Finally, Baber will face two counts of falsifying government records.
Update 4/24/08: Dr. Bill Baber received his veterinary license back and can now become a practicing veterinarian again.
Update 7/18/08: An embattled Sumner County veterinarian pleaded guilty to charges including animal cruelty.
As part of the plea, Dr. Bill Baber will not have to serve any jail time, will pay a fine of $5,000 and also serve 200 hours of community service. He was also sentenced to supervised probation.
Baber had been charged with 12 misdemeanor offenses, including animal cruelty.
"There are people who would oppose this resolution, but we have to follow the law no matter what public opinion is," said Asst. District Attorney Thomas Dean.
Baber lost his license and was charged with animal abuse after a Channel 4 I-Team investigation last November.
He regained his license in April and has been practicing since.
Baber remains on probation with the Veterinary Licensing Board for the next five years, which means he'll have to appear before the board every year for the next five years to give board members an update on his status.
Update 8/19/08: Animal advocates claim there is a cover-up inside Sumner County animal control.
But what was being concealed remains a mystery.
Last year, a veterinarian was suspended for euthanizing dogs and cats in an illegal manner.
Two vets who succeeded him admit they physically covered surveillance cameras at animal control to block the view of county officials.
The new veterinarians are father and son, Drs. David Clariday and Nathan Clariday of Mount Juliet. Nathan Clariday said he and his father blocked the cameras at animal control.
The men are off the job.
"And it's not fair. It is not fair to the animals. It is wrong," said Jules Wortman-Pomeroy, an animal rights advocate and Sumner County resident.
It is not known whether the undercover video featuring their predecessor putting down dogs and cats inhumanely or if the sheriff's need to monitor jail inmates on cleaning detail prompted the county to authorize and install four surveillance cameras.
Regardless of motive, the cameras were installed to record what happens inside the facility.
While being covered is questionable, the action isn't illegal, said Sumner County Sheriff Bob Barker.
"It'd be no different than janitorial service coming in and closing the blinds when they clean," he said.
It is unclear what the Clariday's used to shield themselves from the cameras. But Nathan Clariday said it is their right and in no way means he or his father was trying to hide anything.
"If the county has paid to have cameras in there, they've done it for a reason, " Wortman-Pomeroy said. "And that's because they want to be seeing what's going in that room."
Barker said the room where euthanasia occurs is not visible from any cameras, which only adds to the mystery of the Clariday's' decision to cover the cameras.
Barker looks forward to taking over animal control. He wants to give the building a makeover and clean up its public image.
Update 4/10/09: Bill Baber is still practicing veterinary medicine at 301 S Water Ave, Gallatin, TN 37066
Drs. David & Nathan Clariday are still practicing veterinary medicine at MT Juliet Animal Clinic, 11161 Lebanon Rd, Mt Juliet, TN 37122.
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