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Vet Is Disciplined but Plans Appeal

Owner of Fountain Valley practice is given three years' probation and assessed $83,000 in court costs.

August 29, 2003|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

A nationally acclaimed Fountain Valley veterinarian has been disciplined by a state administrative judge for allowing an unregistered technician to perform medical procedures on animals and misrepresenting staff veterinarians as specialists.

Dr. Robert L. Rooks, whose All-Care Animal Referral Center treats about 30,000 pets a year, was placed on three years' probation and ordered to pay $83,000 in court costs, but he was allowed to maintain his practice.

Judge Alan S. Meth noted that none of the animals under Rooks' care was harmed.

Rooks, a veterinarian for 25 years, said Thursday that he would appeal the ruling "in the hope no other veterinarian will ever be forced to defend him or herself against such vague and ill-defined charges." In a written statement, he said the veterinary laws and regulations that apply to doctors who are called specialists and the use of unregistered technicians lack specificity and are not understandable.

California Veterinary Medical Board officials had accused Rooks of nine violations. But he was convicted only of the charges surrounding his use of an unregistered technician and passing off doctors as specialists when they were not.

Meth rejected the state accusation that Rooks had allowed a former heavy-equipment operator to perform surgery on a cat. The judge ruled there was no evidence that the man, Michael Wilt, had performed surgery. But he said Rooks had illegally allowed Wilt to perform medical procedures such as anesthetizing animals.

The judge also rejected charges that Rooks had ordered Wilt to alter medical records.

Wilt made the allegation in interviews with state investigators, but Meth rejected Wilt's testimony as "not credible." He noted that Wilt was fired after failing a drug test and that Wilt had unsuccessfully sued Rooks over ownership of a home that Rooks had let him use.

Meth also rejected the testimony of other prosecution witnesses.

The judge agreed with the board that Rooks misrepresented some doctors at his clinic as specialists.

Meth heard the case in April and May without a jury and issued his written decision Aug. 7. The Veterinary Medical Board accepted the ruling last week.

Board officials filed charges against Rooks after receiving numerous complaints from pet owners and other veterinarians. However, animal-rights advocates also demanded disciplinary action against him and the clinic, charging that some pets were injured because of inadequate care.

Meth found otherwise and called Rooks a "caring, dedicated and highly competent veterinarian and surgeon."

Rooks and All-Care are nationally known for specialized care and high-risk brain and spinal surgery on animals.

According to the terms of probation, Rooks, a former national veterinarian of the year, must treat animals at least 24 hours per week for six months instead of spending all his time running the business.

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