Chronicle Story: Houston BARC Veterinarian Under Fire
BARC vet under fire for past problems in New Jersey
By BILL MURPHY
Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Jan. 12, 2009, 10:04PM
The chief veterinarian at the Houston animal pound had her license suspended in New Jersey and was placed on probation for three years after a veterinary board in 2004 found that she had provided substandard care to three dogs.
Eunice Ohashiegbula-Iwunze didn’t note the New Jersey suspension on her application for the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care job in 2007 and omitted it from her application for the top post at BARC several months ago — though the applications may not have required such information.
Animal welfare advocates, who uncovered the information about the veterinarian, called on the city to fire her.
“The city should not have hired Doctor O, and she should not remain on staff at BARC,” said Kelly Cripe, an activist who served on an animal task force created by Mayor Bill White in 2005. “Animal owners in Houston need to understand that if their animal goes missing, it is one truck ride from BARC. You wouldn’t take your animal to a vet in private practice with this track record, and you shouldn’t have to at BARC.”
No longer candidate
Michael Terraso, who has oversight of BARC as assistant director of the city health and human services department, said that as far he knows, the city did not learn of Ohashiegbula-Iwunze’s suspension until Monday.
Kent Robertson, while BARC bureau chief, hired her in May 2007 and likely would have told his superiors that he was hiring a veterinarian who had been suspended elsewhere if he had known such information, Terraso said. Robertson resigned in September.
Terraso said Ohashiegbula-Iwunze had been a serious candidate for BARC’s top job as bureau chief, but she would no longer be considered.
The city’s human resource department will look into whether the veterinarian gave false answers on her job applications or lacked needed credentials. She earns more than $90,000 annually, Terraso said.
Ohashiegbula-Iwunze said she did not want to discuss her suspension unless city officials gave her permission to be interviewed. After receiving permission, she told city officials that she did not want to talk to reporters.
On probation 33 months
The New Jersey state board of veterinary medical examiners suspended her license in November 2004 for three years after concluding her treatment of the three dogs constituted “gross negligence, gross malpractice and gross incompetence.”
But according to the board’s ruling, her license was under active suspension for only three months out of those three years, and she was placed under probation for the remaining 33 months.
The incidents happened while she was running her own veterinary clinic, Banfield, The Pet Hospital, in Watchung, N.J.
In the first incident, Daniel and Barbara Jones brought their 6-year-old dog, Otto, to Ohashiegbula-Iwunze to treat a lesion on a paw in early October 2003.
Ohashiegbula-Iwunze prescribed two medications, and the couple told the veterinarian two weeks later that Otto seemed dazed and had vomited after taking the medicine. Otto died Oct. 31, 2003.
The board concluded that the dosages of medicine were too high.
Robert and Teresa Zains brought their chihuahua, Tobie, to the Pet Hospital to receive a vaccination for distemper and heartworm Jan. 13, 2004. The Zainses brought Tobie back to the clinic two hours later because his eyes and mouth had begun to swell.
Ohashiegbula-Iwunze gave the dog epinephrine and discharged him. Tobie began to bleed from the nose and died the next day.
The third dog died of bleeding after suffering a post-vaccination reaction.
The board ordered Ohashiegbula-Iwunze to take 100 hours in veterinary continuing education courses. It fined her $7,500.
She moved to Katy and received her Texas veterinary license in December 2005. She informed the Texas board of veterinary medical examiners that her license had been suspended in New Jersey.
Ohashiegbula-Iwunze worked at the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, according to her city job applications.
Terraso said Ohashiegbula-Iwunze appears to have been doing satisfactory work at BARC.
“No one is banging on the door to be a vet at the city of Houston shelter,” he said. “We don’t have the top of the Texas A&M vet school banging on the door to work at BARC.”