Flathead pet clinic draws fire from vet 

A volunteer group dedicated to lowering the number of unwanted cats and dogs killed each year has been called to Helena to answer a complaint filed against them by a veterinarian who participated in a spay/neuter event in the Flathead Valley last fall. The hearing before the Montana Board of Veterinary Medicine is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Friday in Helena. It will be open to the public at the insistence of the Western Montana Spay/Neuter Task Force.

In the past three years the task force has conducted 31 free clinics, spaying and neutering more than 5,500 cats and dogs. Forty-five veterinarians from around the nation have participated in those clinics that have taken place in Montana communities, on six of the state’s seven Indian reservations and at the state hospital at Warm Springs.

Dr. Lesley Colby and her assistant participated in the first day of a two-day clinic held in Kalispell Sept. 11-12, 1999. Neither worked the second day. Colby filed a compliant on Sept. 16. She moved to Virginia on Sept. 30.

According to Colby’s five-page complaint, controlled drugs were not secured properly during surgery, background checks were not required for volunteers working in the surgical area, untrained assistants worked with the animals, a veterinary assistant performed neuters on cats, sanitary conditions and equipment were not up to her standard, pet owners supervised their animals’ recoveries and children were allowed in every portion of the clinic.

But according to a rebuttal letter written by Charles Hansberry, attorney for the task force, everything in Colby’s complaint is exactly what the spay/neuter events try to accomplish. The events, he says, are part education, part awareness training, and part mobile MASH unit, performing high-volume surgeries in a short period of time.

“It is disappointing that Dr. Colby was so focused on finding aspects to criticize, that she missed the entire point of involving the community as a whole in the clinic,” Hansberry wrote in his letter to the board.

In the Kalispell clinic, 390 dogs and cats were spayed and neutered in two days. In comparison, a six-day clinic in November 1998 on the Flathead Indian Reservation resulted in 1,336 dogs and cats being spayed and neutered. From January 1998 to November, the reservation’s Animal Control Officer had to destroy more than 600 unwanted dogs. In the year since the task force clinic, he has only destroyed 26 dogs. In 1998, the Mission Valley animal shelter took in 6,037 animals. In 1999, they took in only 672.

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