St. Louis County Failed to Fully Sedate Dogs Before Euthanasia, Staffer Says

A county veterinarian forced down dogs to administer lethal "heart sticks," a former vet tech says

click to enlarge Bulfin family dog, Daisy.
Courtesy Mark Pedroli
Bulfin family dog, Daisy.

Testimony under oath by a former employee at St. Louis Animal Care and Control is raising concerns about the agency's manner of euthanizing dogs.

In a deposition, a former veterinary technician at the agency's Olivette facility stated that she heard complaints about and witnessed a veterinarian "slamming" dogs down on their sides when they were not fully sedated — a way to gain compliance so the fatal drug could be administered to end their lives.

The deposition is related to the ongoing lawsuit stemming from a dog that was allegedly wrongfully euthanized — Erin Bulfin's dog, Daisy.

In December 2019 Daisy nipped at Bulfin's daughter. According to her lawsuit, Bulfin called county animal control and was told that Daisy needed to be quarantined for 10 days in an animal-control facility or at a veterinarian's office or in a boarding facility.

Wanting to follow the proper protocol, Bulfin's husband took Daisy to the St. Louis County Animal Care and Control facility in Olivette.

However, Bulfin soon found out the dog could be quarantined at home, so she returned to the animal shelter the next day to retrieve Daisy. But Daisy had been euthanized less than two hours after being dropped off.
Bulfin's attorney Mark Pedroli has previously described the Olivette facility as “ghoulish” and a "house of horrors.” Testimony in the ongoing litigation seems to buttress those allegations.

A former veterinary technician deposed for the case testified that ideally when euthanizing a dog, the staff at Animal Care and Control first gave the animal an intramuscular injection of a sedative.

Then, when the animal was sedated, a veterinarian administered Euthasol via an intracardiac injection, what is also called a "heart stick."

However, according to the former vet tech's deposition, the county has seen multiple instances of a dog not being sedated adequately prior to being given the heart stick.

The technician said that the Bulfin's dog, Daisy, was not euthanized in this manner. However she did say that even though she was "rarely" attendant to euthanasia, she did see at least one instance of an inadequately sedated dog given a heart stick and heard complaints of it happening on multiple occasions.

"Have you ever seen a dog forced down, slamming it down on its side, when it was not sedate enough so that they could administer the heart stick?" asked Pedroli, who conducted the deposition.

"Yes," affirmed the technician. She went on to say that she saw a veterinarian at the facility force the soon-to-be euthanized dogs down.

"And I'm sure that's a gruesome thing, isn't it?" Pedroli asked.

"Yes," the technician replied.

Pedroli tells the RFT that he believes "the behavior described in the deposition warrants an immediate investigation by the St. Louis County Council and even the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney."

He adds that lawsuit filed by Bulfin has continually uncovered "seriously questionable behavior" at Animal Care and Control as well as "a complete failure to supervise and discipline government employees."

Director of Communications at St. Louis County Department of Public Health Christopher Ave said that his office could not comment on issues related to pending litigation.

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About The Author

Ryan Krull

Ryan Krull is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times. Find him on Twitter @ryanwkrull
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