Much-Loved Veterinarian Fired by BARC

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Gil Costas, a part-time veterinarian at Houston's Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, was fired today for lack of state-mandated certification, Houston Health and Human Services Spokeswoman Kathy Barton told Hair Balls.

The news was originally broken by Nicole Sica, editor of the animal-welfare blog Poocini and a writer for the Houston Animal News Examiner.

"The official reason is that his services were no longer needed," Barton told Hair Balls, "but...we also determined that Costas was missing some [credentials] and so we didn't feel like we had any choice."

Barton said Costas did not have the Texas Department of Public Safety's controlled substances handling credentials - which another BARC vet, David Rundell, did not have for most of his tenure at BARC. Rundell is currently under suspension and is facing a hearing Thursday over his continued employment .

Chief Veterinarian Dr. Eunice Ohashiegbula-Iwunze is now the facility's sole full-time vet, but Barton said veterinarians from the Spay-Neuter Assistant Program will be filling in.

"We won't be shorthanded," Barton said.

The Texas DPS Web site shows Costas has a controlled substances registration, but Barton said the registration is site-specific. (Costas's registration lists another institution.)

Sica, like many others in Houston's animal welfare community, was livid over Costas's firing. "There was no excuse to let him go," Sica told Hair Balls. "He's the only one who gave a damn. And they're letting him go. It's heartbreaking."

She added: "It's a broken system, and nobody wants to fix it. Everybody's waiting until they get elected to the next position."

Costas in 2008 accused Rundell of animal cruelty by neglecting to euthanize a dying puppy in a timely manner, allowing it to sit on a cold cement floor for hours while Rundell performed other duties, such as taking a cigar break. In a subsequent Houston Police Department Inspector General's investigation, Rundell accused Costas of fabricating the complaint as a retaliation for accusations Rundell previously made against Costas. (Those accusations including the falsifaction of medical records.)

Sources for the Houston Press's recent story on problems at BARC described Costas as a compassionate, competent veterinarian.

In his complaint to then-BARC Director Kent Robertson about Rundell's alleged animal cruelty, Costas seemingly foretold his future: "More often than not, employees at BARC tend to not want to be involved. There have been examples in the past where the messenger ends up suffering the consequences."

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