Horse Racing

Denied on Blea Veterinary Licensing Suspension

A hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday morning led to the denial of the California Horse Racing Board’s (CHRB) medical director’s request to suspend the California Veterinary Health Commission’s request to temporarily suspend the request. The suspension of his veterinary license means that the California horse racing industry continues to operate without a chief veterinarian at least for the foreseeable future.

According to George Wallace, Blea’s attorney, Judge James Chalfant was not convinced by the argument that Blea and the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) would be irreparably harmed if the temporary suspension was upheld. , pending a formal hearing on the merits of the veterinary agency’s allegations against him.

UC Davis placed Blea on administrative leave from his role as equine medical director on January 12. That position was first appointed by the principal of UC Davis, then contracted with the CHRB for services. duties of the appointee.

Since then, UC Davis has employed various school personnel to fulfill the duties of equine medical director for the CHRB.

“Basically, [the judge] the balanced conclusion that the benefits of lifting the temporary suspension, even partial, do not outweigh the harm the temporary suspension is causing. And he doesn’t really seem to match the irreparable harm of Jeff Blea being unable to do his job, or the public policy harm caused by the CHRB having to operate without an equine medical director. chosen,” said Wallace.

End of last month, Blea has filed a proxy petition with LA County Superior Court seeking to formally lift the veterinary board’s temporary suspension order. The February court filing also sought declarative relief and injunctions, arguing that the position of equine medical director does not require a license to operate, and that Blea, UC Davis and CHRB would continue. continue to suffer “irreparable harm” if the California racecourse chief veterinarian remains unable to fulfill his duties.

According to Wallace, the judge will set the next due process hearing on the case on April 7, at which point the date of a formal hearing on the trust petition will likely be scheduled.

A fully deserved hearing on the veterinary panel’s charges against Blea – which will be conducted before an administrative law judge – has yet to be similarly set up. This could theoretically happen before a written trust petition hearing in LA County Superior Court, Wallace said.

In the interim, CHRB – which supported his public behind Blea–It is possible to intervene in the matter with a legal challenge to the veterinary panel’s jurisdiction in the case, Wallace said.

Indeed, a court filing to the Supreme Court on Monday explained that CHRB chairman Greg Ferraro, who previously served on the California Veterinary Health Commission, issued a joint statement explaining that The Veterinary Council is basing much of its charge on “due to a misconception about how veterinary medicine is practiced in a racing environment (which in many cases resembles farming or herd operations). herd rather than common practice for small animals) and misinterpretation of management regulations. “

According to CHRB chief executive Scott Chaney, the agency is weighing its legal options under Wednesday’s ruling.

“We are clearly disappointed with this decision,” added Chaney, “but we hope that ultimately justice will be done.”

Earlier this year, an administrative law judge issued an order to temporarily suspend Blea’s veterinary license for a number of violations that the veterinary panel alleges, including the willful use of drugs on racehorses. without prior examination, without diagnosis and without medical necessity.

The Veterinary Council also stated that Blea posed a “danger to public health, safety and welfare”, due to his oversight as chief equine medical officer during the acute investigation. high on the death of Medina Spirit coached by Bob Baffert (Protonico), Kentucky Derby Winner, who collapsed and died after a scheduled practice session on December 6 in Santa Anita.

Blea hasn’t practiced in private veterinary since taking over as equine medical director last June.

The autopsy and post-mortem examination of Medina Spirit’s death have now been completed, with the cause of death still undetermined. The executive vice-chancellor of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine ultimately oversaw the necropsy examination.

According to various leading veterinary expertsThe veterinary panel’s accusations against Blea were primarily due to lax record-keeping.

They also suggest that the veterinary panel’s investigation is likely to fail to explain the unusual nature of behind-the-scenes veterinary practice, where veterinarians – even those with multiple pens, receive them. care – can build everyday relationships with their animals without the traditional small animal practice.

Various medical and legal experts have described the veterinary panel’s case against Blea as a litmus test that has the potential to significantly affect not only equine veterinary practice in California but also for large veterinary operations in general.

Kathryn Papp is an East Coast veterinarian and strong critic of overuse in horse racing, who still describes Blea’s suspension as unreasonable.

Papp told TDN in January that if she was interning in California, she would be “frightened” to have to second and third guess “every diagnosis I had or procedure I had.” She added that if “our livelihood and right to work would be threatened and, or unjustly punished,” “I don’t see why anyone would want to continue to be a equestrian practice in California.”

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