BARC Vet Who Helped In Controversial Case Has A Reprimand On Her Record

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The Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care's chief vet, who was instrumental in the decision to operate in-house on a severely injured dog -- who did not survive surgery -- was reprimanded by Virginia's veterinary board in 2007.

According to documents filed with the Virgina's Department of Health Professions, M'risa Mendelsohn's unlicensed veterinary assistant failed to adequately prep a dog who then died during what should have been a routine spaying procedure. Mendelsohn did not admit or deny the following, but agreed to a $500 fine:

"On or about November 1, 2005, Client A presented with 'Angel,' a canine, for a routine spay. Angel was intubated by Dr. Marcus [Mendelsohn's maiden name] and taken to the operating room by Dr. Marcus's veterinary assistant, who then connected her to the operating room anasthesia machine. The veterinary assistant failed to open the 'pop off' valve on the machine, which resulted in Angel's death. Dr. Marcus failed to provide adequate supervision of her veterinary assistant."

Another document states: "You allowed an unlicensed employee to perform duties outside the scope of her education and abilities, and failed to provide appropriate supervision of this employee."

After an "informal" hearing for disciplinary action, Mendelsohn appealed the findings, which paved the way for a June 2007 formal administrative hearing. However, in May 2007, Mendelsohn entered into a consent order where she didn't contest the findings. The documents state that her Virginia license would expire in December 2007.

Hair Balls had hoped to speak with Mendelsohn about her (and others') decision to operate on Keiko at BARC, a facility that does not have the diagnostic and surgical equipment that a lucrative private practice can afford. We asked BARC Spokesman Chris Newport, who said he'd take it under advisement, but we're pretty sure we will at no point be allowed to speak with a BARC vet, which means the public will not be able to hear -- directly from a medical expert -- the reasons behind certain decisions. We feel this robs both the vets, and the public, of fair treatment.

The Virginia disciplinary action appears to show that Mendelsohn's medical judgment has been called into question before, at the expense of a dead dog. There might be an adequate explanation for this that was lost in the Virginia board's documents, but we may never hear it from Mendelsohn's mouth. And actually, we're a bit unclear as to why, after spending a princely sum on consultant Gerry Fusco and appearing to get rid of BARC's bad vets, the city found it wise to choose yet another chief vet with a disciplinary record. 

From a PR perspective, it's pure idiocy. And PR shouldn't matter when it comes to a city pound, but BARC has proven not be a typical city pound, but a bastard back-room of neglect, malfeasance, and lack of transparency. We are hoping that this new regime is really on board with running a tight ship, but without hearing directly from the vets -- and while we're still waiting to hear from Dr. James Swanson, the specialist who allegedly concurred with BARC's vets that Keiko should be operated on at BARC -- there will still be the whiff of impropriety.

It's old, it's annoying, and, frankly, it stinks.

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