Veterinary Board Clears Arizona Vet Accused Of Punching Dog, Still Faces Criminal Case

VetIn June of this year, an Arizona veterinarian was accused of punching a Chihuahua while he was examining her. Dr. Joshua Winston allegedly hit Bella, the Chihuahua, 3-5 times in the head causing her eye to dislodge. Two veterinary technicians witnessed and reported the incident. Winston denied all charges.

The Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board has found no signs of animal abuse or malpractice in Winston’s case. The board agreed that there was no evidence that he had acted unprofessionally, and the animal abuse complaint was dismissed against him. Five of the nine board members voted in favor of Winston, while two voted against him, and the other two were absent.

In regards to how Bella’s eye was dislodged, one board member said: “It does happen when you restrain the little dogs. They get pressure on the sides, with no physical harm.” He added that there was no indication of bruising or any other injury that proved Winston hit the dog.

Despite the veterinary board dismissing the animal abuse claims, Winston still faces the criminal case against him.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas called the board decision “disappointing and contrary to the weight of the evidence” and said they will continue to prosecute Winston.

After the board made their decision, Winston said “(The board) saw what they saw, and I’m just glad they saw what I saw. I can’t say much more. . . . It’s been a really difficult time for me.”

Source: Arizona Republic

15 Responses to “Veterinary Board Clears Arizona Vet Accused Of Punching Dog, Still Faces Criminal Case”

  1. highnote says:

    If this is true what the board member said about little dogs and having pressure on the side when restrained then this vet knew about this too and certainly should have taken more care with this little dog. I feel he is still at wrong!

  2. Ruth says:

    “The board agreed that there was no evidence that he had acted unprofessionally,”

    So what Winston did was considered “Professional” and in line with his service to Bella.

    What about Bella? I guess she hasn’t had a difficult time.

    The Vets who voted in favor of Winston IMO are a bunch of morons too. Makes me wonder how they have treated animals.

    I hope they prosecute Winston. Any injury to an animal no matter the size was completely unprofessional.

    What do Bella’s owners have to say about this? And how is Bella doing?

  3. Shaun in Tucson says:

    The AZ vet board is famous for doing nothing, as I learned when I brought a case against a vet who was negligent in treating my dog, which led to the dog’s death. Two other vets told me to file the case, as the maltreatment was so blatant, but the vet board only issued a letter of reprimand. I found out mine was the fourth complaint this vet had had in the last couple of years.

  4. Sharon says:

    Someone needs to publish the names of the vet board. Can these individuals be sued in civil court? I am sick of people who are supposed be doing oversight and protecting us protecting their own instead. Let’s find a way to take away their power and make them pay for their lack of conscience.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Boycott! Submit email/letters of protest! The wild fire of the internet will help us all!

  6. Jenny Bark says:

    Would not even take the word of 2 techs. All that matters is protecting their own. I’m so sick of all of this. I can only guess of what else he has done. The poor babies.

  7. Klondike says:

    I’m shocked, too, that the vet techs were ignored. That is going to discourage other techs from reporting abuse. The system in AZ is broken as far as protecting pets from abuse by veterinarians.

  8. Anony says:

    Veterinary Board Is Lax On Discipline, Some Say
    The Arizona Daily Star, June 29, 2003

    by Kimberly Matas

    Few Arizona pet owners file complaints against their veterinarians, and vets rarely lose their licenses in this state.

    “Somebody has to really screw up really bad,” said Robert Kritsberg, a Glendale veterinarian who is chairman of the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board.

    “There are a lot of good veterinarians in Arizona. For the most part, all of the veterinarians are good.”

    The board in 1999 censured and fined one Tucson veterinarian with two previous violations who was rude to a pet owner.

    It placed another Tucson vet on probation in March after a cat he vaccinated died.

    A Bullhead City vet who neutered a dog that was not fully anesthetized was placed on probation in 1999. She admitted that other animals would “moan, whine and move during surgery,” according to the board, “indicating insufficient anesthesia and/or analgesia during these procedures, causing unnecessary pain and suffering.”

    About 1,600 veterinarians are licensed in Arizona. A review of complaints to the board and punishments imposed since Jan. 1, 1998, shows:

    * Of the nearly 100 complaints that reach the board every year, more than half are dismissed.

    * Only one license is revoked on average every year, usually for drug abuse by the veterinarian, not animal mistreatment.

    * Most of the penalties against Tucson-area veterinarians in the last couple of years were for failure to notify the board of an address change. No licenses were revoked.

    * The board’s own records are incomplete, inconsistent and inaccurate. A board database uses a variety of abbreviations to refer to the same disciplinary action. It lists addresses where vets practice, but many of those identified as being in Pima County aren’t.

    Louise Battaglia, the board’s executive director, said the board does not track complaints by county.

    Vicky Kamm, the board’s chief medical investigator, said only two Tucson-area vets have faced probation or more serious penalties in the past five years for animal care or client interaction.

    Vet Eric Boshoven was placed on probation in March following an investigation into the death of Blanca, an 18-month-old cat belonging to Krista and Jeff Fields.

    The Fieldses took their cats, Blanca and Mocha, to a vet clinic in July 2001 for vaccinations and nail trimming. Boshoven, who was filling in at the clinic, took the cats into a back room. When he returned their pets, Blanca vomited three times. Boshoven told them it was “typical” because the cat was scared, Krista Fields said.

    By the time the Fieldses returned home, Blanca “was not moving on her own, her breathing was labored, and her eyes were fixed,” Fields wrote in the complaint. Jeff Fields tried to call Boshoven, but the clinic had closed. He called an emergency clinic and was advised to bring the cat in immediately. Before they could get Blanca to the clinic, she died. The clinic staff suspected a bad reaction to a vaccination and had the couple bring in the other cat, which had begun vomiting, too.

    “I didn’t want him to lose his job forever,” Krista Fields said of her decision to file a complaint. “I’d like to think he felt horrible. We were pleased that they held him responsible for his actions.”

    The vet board concluded that Boshoven failed to recognize the vaccine reaction and did not record symptoms in the charts. He was required to complete 18 hours of continuing education.

    “I have … learned that unforeseen things do occur in medical science, whether human or animal,” Boshoven, who now practices in Maryland, said in an e-mail. “Sometimes we will never know exactly what happened to cause the death of a pet. This unfortunate accident with Blanca is an example of this type of situation.”

    For months after the vaccinations, Mocha’s fur fell out around the injection site and she had to be treated by a veterinarian, Krista Fields said. Almost two years later, her fur still hasn’t grown in, and the Fieldses are still paying veterinary bills related to the vaccination reaction.

    Tucson vet Shananne Edwards was censured following a 1998 incident.

    In April 1998, Michael Caruth and his pet-sitter Lonnie Kelly brought Caruth’s 4-year-old yellow Labrador, Misty, to Edwards, their regular vet at Arizona Small Animal Clinic. Misty had given birth to puppies two days earlier and Caruth suspected she had an infection as a result.

    In their complaint to the vet board, Caruth and Kelly said Edwards told them they were “stupid” and unfit pet owners.

    “She was just outright friggin’ nasty,” Kelly said. “There’s no other way to put it.”

    After taking X-rays of Misty’s abdomen, Edwards said she couldn’t help the dog and referred them to another veterinarian, Kelly wrote in her statement. The other vet said the dog had an inflammation and successfully treated her, Kelly said. In their complaint, Caruth and Kelly said Edwards also mixed up Misty’s medical records with those of Caruth’s other dogs.

    The board concluded that Edwards’ actions were unprofessional and that she did not maintain adequate records for the visit. She was given a letter of concern, a non-disciplinary document that “indicates there are conditions that can lead to a violation if not corrected,” said investigator Kamm.

    Based on Edwards’ past disciplinary history, though, the board also censured her, fining her $250. In 1992, the vet board denied her a premise license because an inspection turned up expired medications and other violations. Edwards was placed on probation in 1994 after a dog she neutered bled to death.

    “All they really did was smack her fingers and fine her, and she’s still allowed to practice,” Kelly said.

    Edwards said she’s made efforts, with the help of the vet board staff, to improve record keeping and client communication skills since the 1998 incident.

    “Everyone makes mistakes and being able to talk about your mistakes helps you correct them,” Edwards said.

    Board members say their ability to impose penalties is determined by state statutes. They do not deal with fee disputes.

    “If there isn’t anything there mandated by statute, it isn’t a violation,” said Battaglia. “You just can’t say there’s a violation because someone’s not satisfied.

    “Every case gets its full hearing. There are no shortcuts.”

    Communication is a common concern, said chairman Kritsberg.

    “A general theme that runs through a lot of complaints is a lack of good communication that runs from the veterinarian to the pet owner,” he said.

    “Occasionally a veterinarian will come before the board for some mistake or lack of communication where there isn’t really a violation to be found. It’s more of a misunderstanding of the actual rules and statutes.”

    James Collins, head of the veterinary science and microbiology department at the University of Arizona, joined the board this year.

    “I’ve only been on the board a short time,” he said, “but at least half or more of the cases are from communication, and the veterinarian tries to explain something and either the owner is stressed out or doesn’t understand the terms. That’s a tricky issue, even with people and their own doctors.”

    The vet board has nine members. Five are licensed vets, three represent the general public, and one represents the livestock industry, according to Arizona statutes. The governor appoints board members for five-year terms. Each member can serve only two terms.

    About four years ago, an investigative committee was formed to review complaints and make recommendations to the board. Board members consider the committee’s recommendations, review the cases themselves and decide whether to dismiss complaints or docket them for further hearings.

    If a case is dismissed, it will not appear on a vet’s record. If it is docketed, no matter what the outcome, it will go on the vet’s permanent record that follows him or her from state to state, Battaglia said. Before the investigative committee, the board heard all complaints and all complaints went on a veterinarian’s record.

    “The board’s action is to be rehabilitative, not punitive,” Kamm said.

    The hearing process is “really an opportunity to assist and encourage veterinarians to maintain high standards and do things in a quality and accountable way for our animals,” Collins said.

    Tucson board member Lawrence Shamis, a vet at Cortaro Equine Hospital, said a lot of violations are for record-keeping errors and omissions, because records “gives us a handle on what’s going on while the animal is under anesthesia or knowing the animal is healthy before it’s vaccinated.”

    “The less accurate the records are, the less accurate we can be in terms of the kinds of decisions we can make. We’ve taken the position that if it’s not in the record, it didn’t happen.”

    Michael Lent, a vet at Pantano Animal Clinic, said sometime the board “can seem like it’s nitpicking.”

    “But a lot of that stuff can help us practice better. They’re pretty stringent in this state. It’s a consumer-oriented board, one of the tougher examining boards in the country.

    “In some ways, it’s a really good thing. It keeps vets on their toes.”

    * Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at 807-8431 or at

    To see more of The Arizona Daily Star Online, or to subscribe, go to

    © 2003 The Arizona Daily Star Online. All Rights Reserved.

  9. Carol Johnson says:

    And so they just ignored the testimony of the vet techs?? And the dog’s condition? IMHO…..any vet who causes a dog’s eye to pop out should be slinging burgers at McDonalds.

  10. Nancy G. says:

    This is ludicrous. A dog’s eye does not pop out under normal handling. And what about the two vet techs who saw this abuse and reported it? Do their statements mean nothing? Another disgusting case of professionals protecting their own.

  11. Buster says:

    By and large, the “veterinary board” is a group of good old boys who know the vets in the area, and vice versa, and who will admit that they do, and who will run interference for each other. It is gross conflict of interest. They may be appointed by some arm of government. A “citizen member” may be on the board placed there as a token, who usually won’t have a clue regarding medical matters or evidence. Having lodged a complaint against a vet, and dealt with the Board in my state, I have learned this first-hand.

  12. rohan says:

    well sincerity is the best way to get sucess,vets are also good enough
    cureing the pets is a great job
    but co-operation from all the supporters is the most

    Addiction Recovery Arizona

  13. joe says:

    I came across this link…it is obviuos the vet did nothing and that is why he was found innicent not only in front of the vet boeard but in front of a jury!

  14. anonymous vet says:

    This is a response by a veterinarian. I am keeping myself anonymous because I do not want the negative firestorm which will accompany my response. I do believe that the testimony of the technicians must be weighed heavily. However, unless we were present to hear the testimony in person we do not know how well the testimony was given or who seemed truthful. It is a medical fact that the eyes of brachycephalic (generally small dogs with bulging eyes) breeds do tend to proptose (pop out) easily. It is very possible and has happened on many occasion that during normal physical restraint an eye is proptosed without actual neglect, abuse, or intent.

    Contrary to the responses of several individuals, The Arizona Veterinary Examining Board is known to be particularly critical of veterinarians. It is true that a large number of complains are dismissed. However, a large number of complaints are centered around money. The Board does not involve itself in financial disputes. The Board’s purpose is to insure the quality of care and the standards of conduct and medicine are upheld.

  15. Pat D says:

    We do not want him here practicing on our beloved pets. Wonder why he left Arizona to come here to hurt animals like he did in there? He will be exposed her in Maryland this will not be kept a secret.I believe he does not belong any ani,al field.

E-mail It