Clarion Co. Veterinarian Under Investigation for Practicing Without a License

| May 30, 2019

smith-vetSHIPPENVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – A local veterinarian, who in 2011 was issued a civil penalty for practicing with a suspended license, is under investigation again for treating animals without a license.

(Photo of Dr. Norman Smith courtesy WTAE)

According to documents obtained from District Magistrate Timothy Schill’s office, a search warrant was issued on May 9, 2019, for the Veterinary Associates building located at 155 McClain-Watson Road in Paint Township, Clarion County.

The warrant alleges Dr. Norman Elliott Smith was practicing veterinary medicine without a license and also violated Act 64 – the Controlled Substance, Drug, Devices, and Cosmetic Act.

Smith was previously investigated for practicing with a suspended license in 2011. A Final Adjudication and Order issued by the State Board of Veterinary Medicine on May 25, 2011, found that at that time, Smith “remained fully engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine after his license was suspended and he was specifically prohibited from practicing,” and ordered him to pay a civil penalty of $250.00 for each violation, for a total of $24,000.00.

A memorandum order filed through the PA Department of State indicates that the State Board of Veterinary Medicine revoked Smith’s license effective June 24, 2011. Smith was ordered to “cease and desist from the practice of veterinary medicine.”

The board denied a motion for reinstatement in July 2011.

According to the most recent affidavit of probable cause, on February 6, 2019, Trooper Norbert, of the Clarion-based State Police, interviewed a known woman who related that she had an online order filled by Dr. Smith.

The woman said she used the services of two other veterinarians employed by Veterinary Associates, but the first one left the practice “some time ago,” and she believed the second one was still practicing at Veterinary Associates. However, she stated that when she received her prescription, she noticed that Dr. Norman Smith’s name was on the bottle, and she thought that Smith did not have a license, so she called a second known woman who formerly worked at Veterinary Associates.

The woman provided Trooper Norbert with the pill bottle with Dr. Smith’s name on it and a prescription file with Smith and another veterinarian’s authorization for the prescription of Rimadyl (an anti-inflammatory).

On February 19, Trooper Norbert then interviewed the former employee who the woman had spoken to.

According to the affidavit, the former employee related she had worked at Veterinary Associates for approximately 17 years and quit on October 15, 2018, on the same day that the second veterinarian (mentioned earlier) left the practice.

The former employee went on to state that in August 2018, a client came to the office with two dogs – a Golden Retriever with porcupine quills in its face and a Jack Russell Terrier that needed to be euthanized. She said she put the terrier on the table and took the retriever to weigh it while Smith was supposed to get the solution to euthanize the terrier. She said that the solution Smith retrieved was not the same solution that she had seen before. She noted that the other veterinarians would rarely give a tranquilizer “because it restricts the blood flow,” but Smith proceeded to give the dog a tranquilizer.

The employee said she then left the room because UPS had just delivered vaccines that needed to go directly into refrigeration while a second employee stayed in the room with the dog and the dog’s owner. She noted that the second employee was trying to talk the dog’s owner to leave the room before they euthanized the dog, and the owner then went back to the front of the office. The employee related that she was putting away the vaccines when Smith became upset and hit the box, causing the vaccines to go everywhere. She said the second employee yelled at her and stated, “what are you going to do, quit.” She then proceeded to the front of the building where she apologized to the customer because of Smith and the other employee yelling.

According to the affidavit, the employee reported that she then returned to the room with the dog, and Smith came back with a second injection. She said she advised that he needed to put the needle in a vein and pull back to get blood in the needle to be sure it was in a vein, but said that Smith never hit a vein, and there was no blood draw. She also noted that the other veterinarian was not present during this incident. She went on to say that Smith grabbed the dog out of her hands by the neck and jabbed the needle into its chest when he gave it a second shot. The employee noted to police, “this is not what a professional doctor should be doing.”

The employee also stated that the euthanizing drug is pink, but what Smith retrieved was not pink. She did not know what he gave the dog. She said she told Smith that if he didn’t hit the vein, it might take a while for the drug to take effect and said Smith then left the room. When she went into the same room as Smith, he yelled at her to leave, so she grabbed her things and left, as she needed to go to an appointment.

She stated that when she contacted the second employee to see if she could come back to work, the second employee “acted as if nothing happened” and told her that the dog they put down was “healthier than the owner thought” and said it took four shots to put the dog down.

The former employee told Trooper Norbert “it’s not right” and that she didn’t think Smith could think soundly to measure the drug use.

She also told Trooper Norbert about another incident in which a larger dog was brought in for Lyme Disease treatment, and Smith gave it Doxycycline and noted that the prescription was 100 mg per day. But, with the size of the dog, it should have been 500 mg per day. She advised that Smith “is just not figuring the right amount of medications,” and related that she has been around the other doctors long enough to know what was needed and was afraid of someone losing a pet.

The employee said she contacted a veterinarian who had previously worked at the practice, and he advised that she needed to speak to the one veterinarian who still worked at the practice at that time. She also noted that the other veterinarian at the practice kept a log book for the narcotics, and there were several times that the narcotics came up short. The veterinarian asked her to go back and look at the surgery records because of the missing drugs, and after everything was checked, she realized Smith was allegedly using the drugs and not logging them in the log books. She noted that the veterinarian who had left the practice had noticed the same issue previously.

The employee provided Trooper Norbert with two receipts of customers who had their dogs checked by Smith and were provided with a Rabies Certificate with Smith’s signature, though the certificates would not be valid as Smith did not have a license to practice.

She also related that after the second veterinarian left the practice, there were no narcotics in the office and noted the drugs had been locked in the safe, as the other veterinarian trusted Smith not to get into it, but Smith was allegedly using the drugs without authorization.

In the affidavit, it notes that when Trooper Norbert asked the former employee about the labeling of drugs, she noted that when the other two veterinarians were still at the practice, she crossed out Smith’s name and the name of a previous veterinarian, who previously worked at the practice, and hand wrote the other two veterinarian’s names and then made copies to be placed on the prescription bottles, in order to save money.

She said that the woman who had the online order filled at the practice called her in November 2018 and said the doctor who left in October gave her a prescription, and she told the woman that doctor had already left the practice and wouldn’t have approved that. She also reported that another individual took her dog to Veterinary Associates to be checked and said that Smith just “rubbed the dog’s back and stomach” and gave it two vaccines and the appointment was over. The individual said Smith never did blood work and never checked the dog’s ears and the appointment was “done in two minutes.”

On May 7, 2019, Troopers Norbert and Needham utilized an undercover vehicle to check on the Veterinary Associates location.

According to the affidavit, they observed three vehicles in the parking lot, one which was registered to Norman Smith, and two others. Around 9:52 a.m. the officers saw a female exit the building carrying a green pet carrier and leave in one of the vehicles. They also observed another vehicle pull into the building, and a female took a small dog into the building.

Based on the investigation, Trooper Norbert applied for a search warrant for the Veterinary Associates building on May 9, 2019.

Multiple police vehicles were at the practice on May 9 as troopers executed the search warrant.

The search warrant included the office space, examination rooms, filing cabinets, out buildings, and vehicles parked on the property.

Clarion-based State Police told on Thursday evening that the investigation is “very active.”

Calls to Smith for comment were unsuccessful as the phone number listed for Veterinary Associates has been disconnected.

According to information gathered from the PA Department of State website, Smith’s license was originally suspended in February 12, 2009, after he sold a rabies vaccine and a syringe to an undercover investigator, rather than administering it himself. He also reportedly violated veterinary regulations when he muzzled a dog by putting a stick in its mouth, causing it to lose multiple teeth.

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