Veterinarians react to allegations colleague dumped dead pets

Roadside carcass disposal 'disgusting' but not unique, some suggest

June 1, 2012 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Colleagues of Dr. Andrew Manesis are struggling to come to terms with allegations that the veterinarian from New York City dumped the remains of dogs, cats and a lizard in woods along a Westchester County highway.   

Manesis, 66, of the Bronx, faces four misdemeanor charges: two counts of petit larceny and one count each of scheme to defraud and the illegal disposal of animal remains. Each charge carries a maximum year in prison. The veterinarian was arrested May 25 by Westchester County Police but released because there was no judge available to hear the case due to the holiday weekend. He is scheduled to appear June 5 in Harrison Town Court where he will be arraigned and is expected to answer to the criminal charges against him.    

A call to Throggs Neck Animal Hospital, the Bronx practice owned by Manesis, was picked up by voice mail. A message from the VIN News Service was not returned.   

Members of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), an online community for the profession and parent of the VIN News Service, conveyed disgust and surprise upon reading local news reports about the allegations. Some looked for motives, surmising that the veterinarian had fallen on hard times and perhaps couldn’t pay his crematory bill, while others expressed doubt that Manesis could be to blame.  

“Wouldn’t it be possible that it was the crematory service that did this or a disgruntled employee?” asked Dr. Karen Comer of University Place, Wash., in a message board discussion. “… I find it difficult to believe that a veterinarian would dispose of animals in this way.”

So did Westchester County detectives, said Kieran O’Leary, spokesman for the police department.   

“Our detectives were surprised in the end that the person allegedly involved was the veterinarian himself,” O’Leary said. “He probably would have been our last bet. We thought the odds were it could come down to an employee or a (crematory) service.”  

However, records seized by police during a search of Manesis’s practice showed that the veterinarian hadn’t used a crematory service in the past six to eight months as he had previously, O’Leary added.   
According to police records, authorities had been investigating the dumping of animal carcasses along the northbound Hutchinson River Parkway in Harrison, N.Y., since April 5, when workers conducting routine maintenance along the highway discovered black trash bags containing bodies.

Most of the 35 animal bodies found were in an advanced stage of decomposition, but seven cats appeared to have been more recently dumped. One cat was contained in a shoebox that originally held a pair of shoes purchased online. Detectives, with assistance from the store selling the shoes, were able to trace the cat's owner through the bar code and SKU number on the box.

“We tracked down the owner, and she said, ‘Yes, that’s my cat,” O’Leary stated. The cat reportedly died at home, and she gave its body to Manesis for disposal, O'Leary added.  

Another cat dumped at the site was traced to its owner via a microchip. Necropsies of the remains revealed that the animals had died of natural causes or were euthanized.   

“This wasn’t an animal welfare case,” O’Leary said.   

In a news release, Public Safety Commissioner George N. Longworth chastised the accused veterinarian for allegedly defrauding owners who’d paid between $100 and $315 to have their animals cremated or otherwise disposed of.   

“Dr. Manesis was entrusted by his clients to dispose of their pets’ remains in a proper and dignified manner. Instead, it appears he simply pulled off to the side of a local highway and tossed the animal carcasses into the woods,” he said.   

While unusual to have a veterinarian at the center of such controversy, Dr. Bill Folger, a board-certified feline practitioner in Houston, reminded his colleagues on VIN that illegal practices involving the disposal of animal carcasses is not new.   

“In an infamous scandal here in Houston, a low-cost spay/neuter clinic … was filmed dumping dead animals in the dumpster out back of their clinic. The investigative reporter for the ABC affiliate here had a weeklong investigative piece on their practices,” he said.  

In February, a NBC affiliate in Virginia reported the arrest of two men for allegedly dumping the bodies of 150 calves in a field. Last week, authorities in Nelson County, Va., reported seeing several dead animals floating down a river, leading them to suspect that someone had illegally dumped the carcasses. 

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