Alabama veterinary board appointee focus of complaint

Hearing scheduled 10 days before appointee takes seat

August 12, 2014 (published)
By Edie Lau

A veterinarian facing a licensing complaint alleging gross negligence, incompetence and/or malpractice, among other charges, has been appointed by the governor of Alabama to serve on her state’s Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners — the same panel that filed the complaint.

In a document dated July 17, the board laid out 30 charges against Dr. Margaret Ferrell related to her practice as a spay-neuter surgeon at the Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic Inc. The following week, Alabama Gov. Robert J. Bentley appointed Ferrell to the oversight board effective Oct. 10.

Bentley was aware of the administrative complaint when he made the appointment, according to his communications director Jennifer Ardis. By email, Ardis stated, "She is well qualified for the position and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the board." She did not respond to a question of whether the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, which is scheduled for Oct. 1, would affect the appointment.

Ferrell received a DVM degree from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. She has practiced since 2010 at the Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic Inc. in Birmingham, where she has performed more than 22,000 sterilization surgeries.

The clinic is the subject of a separate complaint by the board, as is the as is the veterinarian who holds the premise permit for the nonprofit clinic, Dr. William Weber.

On June 11, the board suspended Weber's license for a year and fined him $5,000, a decision Weber said he intends to appeal. The clinic will remain open during that process.

The conflict between the licensing board and the veterinarians involved with the spay/neuter clinic echoes tensions around the country between veterinarians in private practice and operators of nonprofit clinics over competition for business and standards of patient care.

The allegations against Ferrell largely relate generally to her role at the spay/neuter clinic, but two charges specify harm to individual patients.

Ferrell told the VIN News Service that she is concerned that the complaint paints a negative picture not only of her but of the arena in which she practices. "The complaint makes me sound incompetent and very negligent. It's upsetting to think that people are reading it and possibly believing that about me. ...I hope the truth will come out in the hearing and clear up any confusion or misinformation. I don't want the allegations to be a black eye on spay/neuter programs across the country." 

Jennifer Fiala contributed to this report. 

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