7/21/2014 6:40:00 AM,
Jeff D. Gorman
(CN) - A veterinarian whose "restraint technique" on a puppy led to its death was properly reprimanded, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled.
Eric Bloomfield treated a Shih Tzu puppy named Toby and two other puppies in August 2007. The puppies' owners brought them in for their regular vaccinations and de-worming.
Bloomfield asked the couple if Toby had any behavior issues or showed dominance. They replied no.
The vet stated that Toby was dominant and showed the couple a dominance-submission technique. He grabbed Toby by the scruff of the neck and pinched his snout.
Toby urinated, defecated and began bleeding from the mouth. Later that day, Toby died of a non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema.
In 2010, the couple complained to the New Hampshire Board of Veterinary Medicine.
Bloomfield moved for a dismissal, arguing that at the time, it was not "known sufficiently in literature" that Shih Tzu puppies were that sensitive to muzzling techniques.
The board denied Bloomfield's motion. After a one-day hearing, the board determined Bloomfield did not display "unfitness or incompetency to practice the profession," but that he had made other mistakes.
The board stated that Bloomfield failed to respect the owners' opinions and failed to conduct an exam on Toby before the demonstration.
Also, the board ruled that "the restraint was excessive, especially given the breed."
Bloomfield failed to convince the board to reconsider its reprimand, so he took the case to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which agreed with the board in a decision written by Justice James P. Bassett.
He cited the following testimony of the board's investigator: "To restrain a puppy to the point where it's urinating and defecating and continuing to restrain it through the whole episode, I would consider excessive for any puppy."
In addition, Bassett agreed with the board that Bloomfield's actions constituted "unprofessional conduct" and that the term is not unconstitutionally vague.
Bassett also refuted Bloomfield's argument that the board should have relied on expert testimony, noting that six veterinarians sit on the board.
"The respondent's violations - excessive handling of Toby, not respecting the owners' opinion that Toby had no dominance issues and failing to conduct an initial examination - are not so complex as to be outside the competence of the Board to decide in the absence of expert testimony," he wrote.