A South Florida veterinarian could lose her license after a state investigation found evidence of "incompetence or negligence."
The state’s findings are a painful reminder to Cheryl Postel about what she says her dog, Charlie, endured while in the care of Dr. Haydee Perez-Tirse at Panda Animal Clinic.
“I see so clearly that they neglected him and they’re the reason he died, that he suffered. He didn’t just die—he suffered. We all suffered,” said Postel.
Postel took her nine-year-old terrier mix to the Hialeah clinic two years ago. She expected a routine visit.
“He was due for his rabies shot. He had not been feeling well. He had been sick to his stomach," she said.
Charlie stayed at the clinic a few nights after tests showed his liver wasn’t functioning well. At first, Postel says he seemed to get better.
“My dog’s happy and licking us and barking and wagging his tail and he was absolutely fine,” said Postel.
But Postel says that all changed when no one was there to monitor Charlie for 24 hours because the office is closed on Wednesdays. She says when she saw Charlie again he was lethargic, nothing like the energetic dog she knew.
On the way home, Postel says Charlie started convulsing. She says she raced back to Dr. Perez-Tirse's office but says Charlie’s condition just got worse.
Three months later, she says she had him put him down rather than seem him suffer.
“A beautiful animal was destroyed. A family was destroyed…” said Postel.
Postel filed a complaint with the Florida Board of Veterinary Medicine against Perez-Tirse. The state investigated and according to its administrative complaint Perez-Tirse “…failed to accurately assess and treat the condition…” Charlie was admitted for and the vet also left him “unmonitored” for 24 hours. The result, the complaint alleges, Charlie had “seizures and damage to his brain...”
The state also alleges Perez-Tirse is “guilty of incompetence or negligence…” and that she "made changes ...to the medical records submitted..." to the state.
Alicia Morgan, whose kitten was treated by Perez-Tirse says she is relieved the state is taking action.
“She was my baby. She wasn’t just a cat. I miss her every day,” said Morgan.
Morgan says her kitten, LJ, developed gangrene after being declawed by Perez-Tirse. The state is investigating her case, too.
“To think that she was a seven month old cat completely healthy and that she stripped her from my life…She hurt me a lot," said Morgan.
Team 6 investigators went inside the clinic last fall to investigate claims made by former employees that Perez-Tirse put animals in danger by reusing medical supplies, including needles, some of them used so many times, former employees say, the tips were dull.
“If you see this needle--is a little bent,” said an employee who asked that his name not be used.
Former employees, including several who asked us to conceal their identities for fear of retaliation, claimed that pet body parts weren’t discarded after surgery either.
One employee said “There is a container of testicles and ovaries and all that stuff removed from animals that were neutered and spayed in a freezer. And day by day they normally take some out to put in the food to be able to feed the dogs in the back.”
“There were some animals that didn’t want to take it so I literally had to shove it down their throat so I was like what is the purpose?”
Team 6 investigators obtained photos that appear to be taken at the vet clinic. NBC6 showed the photos to Dr. Robert Foley, a practicing veterinarian and attorney who teaches veterinary law. He tells us the images are dog uteruses.
“That act is almost beyond words and description. It’s near unbelievable and I’ve seen the photos. It’s left me speechless,” said Foley.
Foley says the hormones, bacteria and other infectious organisms in animals’ reproductive organs can be dangerous if eaten.
Perez-Tirse declined our request for an interview. But in November, she called allegations of reusing medical equipment in an unsafe manner and using body parts for food lies .
“I would never harm or compromise any animal under my care under any circumstances,”said Perez-Tirse.
As for Charlie, in a letter to the state, Perez-Tirse says Charlie “received all the necessary treatments…” and claims Postel took her pet home against her advice. She says that move “made the pet worse.”
The state says Perez-Tirse failed to document Charlie’s treatment and she treated him with a drug taken off the market in 1977, 37 years ago.
“He was my best friend. My life hasn’t been the same without him.”
Dr. Perez Tirse has 21-days to dispute the state’s findings. If she does, an administrative judge would hear both sides and issue an order.
If she concedes the state’s finding, the state veterinary board will decide her fate. In that scenario, Perez Tirse could lose her license permanently.