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Fargo woman alleges veterinarian euthanized her dog without permission

FARGO -- A Fargo woman is filing a complaint against a local veterinarian, alleging he euthanized her dog without permission. However, Fargo veterinarian Dr. Robert Elliott - who finished a month-long suspension of his license in February that wa...

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Sue Maack of Fargo says a local veterinarian, Dr. Robert Elliott, euthanized her elderly dog at her home without her permission. David Samson / The Forum


FARGO -- A Fargo woman is filing a complaint against a local veterinarian, alleging he euthanized her dog without permission.

However, Fargo veterinarian Dr. Robert Elliott – who finished a month-long suspension of his license in February that was tied to a separate euthanasia complaint – is adamant that her claim is untrue.

Elliott says Sue Maack asked for her dog to be euthanized, then changed her mind halfway through the procedure.


Maack says she called Elliott on Oct. 19 and asked him to make a home visit to look at the infected eye of her 16-year-old shih tzu, Chloe.

Instead of examining the dog’s eye, Maack said Elliott took a syringe and injected the dog with a sedative. Then Chloe collapsed in her arms, she said.

She protested, asking him to reverse the procedure. But Elliott told her it was too late to stop the process, and that he had to administer a drug to halt the dog’s heart, she said.

“I am heartbroken. It was murder. She could have lived six months. She could have lived two years. He didn’t look at her. Didn’t do nothing but shoot her up,” she said Friday.

Maack said she went to another room because Elliott warned her that Chloe could have seizures, and she didn’t want to see that.

She said she heard Elliott tell her son that there had been a miscommunication.

She insists there was no miscommunication.

“He shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing,” Maack said. “He knew what he was going to do.”


She now wears her dog’s tiny pink collar as a bracelet.

“She was a good girl. She was the best,” Maack said. “I’m not going to stop until he’s stopped.”

‘It’s just a fluke deal’

Elliott said Chloe was an elderly dog with two tumors and she couldn’t stand up.

“We talked it over and we decided we would euthanize the dog,” he said Friday.

“And she agreed to it. And so I gave her the shot to tranquilize her, OK. And then she said, ‘NO! NO! NO! NO!’

“Well, you can’t agree and then disagree once the shot is given,” Elliott said.


“It’s just a fluke deal. I have never had it happen before in 34 years of practice, so I wasn’t too worried about it to be honest with you,” he said.

“She’ll probably think it over and decide that, maybe it was, she’d given me permission,” Elliott said.

“I tried the best I could. I’m only a simple veterinarian trying to do the best I can,” Elliott said.

Complaint received

The process is now in motion to put the case in front of the North Dakota Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners at its Nov. 18 meeting.

The board’s executive secretary, Dr. John Boyce, confirmed in an email sent Saturday that a required hard-copy of Maack’s complaint had arrived in Bismarck.

Boyce said he planned to send a copy of the complaint to Elliott later Saturday.


Boyce said that in accordance with the board’s rules, Elliott now has 20 days to respond to the complaint.

Boyce said “we will make every effort” to have the matter before the board at its meeting in Bismarck on Nov. 18.

Complaints and other business will be taken care of in the second half of the meeting, starting at 1 p.m. in the Peace Garden Room of the state Capitol, the board’s website says.

The board usually meets two times a year, which necessitated asking Maack to file her complaint promptly, Boyce said.

Cease and desist

Records show Elliott has been the focus of a few complaints in the past half-dozen years.

In 2008, Elliot was issued a cease and desist order for practicing veterinary medicine without a license in Minnesota.


Three other complaints are on file in North Dakota, one of which – also related to the home euthanasia of a dog – resulted in a suspension of Elliott’s license.

The State of Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine issued a cease and desist order against Elliott on Aug. 26, 2008, for practicing veterinary medicine in the state without being licensed there.

He had been accused of providing veterinary services, including administering vaccinations, on Jan. 31, 2006. However, the order did not include the particulars of the case.

If Elliott violates the order, he could be subject to civil penalties of up to $1,000 per violation, plus “any other remedies provided by law.”

Elliott agreed to the order on Aug. 17, 2008.

Vaccination issues

Elliott’s first North Dakota complaint was filed June 20, 2008, and received by the state board July 23. 2008.


Horace resident Barb Mischel said she called Elliott to her home to administer rabies vaccinations to a dog and two cats.

In the complaint, Mischel said she told Elliott that the only vaccination the animals needed was for rabies because she gave them their other vaccinations.

Despite this, she said Elliott said he gave each animal “the works” in their vaccinations and said that when he gave shots he “does it right.”

Mischel said she argued with Elliott and told him he had no right to double-vaccinate the pets. In the complaint, she told the board she also worried that double-vaccinations could have caused an elderly cat health problems.

She paid Elliott, but shortly after tried to stop payment on the check because she felt that she had been overcharged $93 for unneeded vaccines. However, Elliott had apparently cashed the check within about 20 minutes of receiving it, Mischel said.

In his response, Elliott said he had discussed his fees with Mischel, and that he had given the other vaccines because he “was doing what was best for the animals involved at no extra charge.”

The complaint was dismissed, with Assistant Attorney General Bill Peterson saying there was not enough evidence to indicate Elliott violated the Century Code or the rules of the board.

Veterinarian worried

On Aug. 12, 2010, Fargo-area veterinarian Tracie Hoggarth wrote to the board about “my shared concerns for the inhumane treatment of animals” by Elliott.

Hoggarth said she had people from North Dakota and Minnesota complain about Elliott’s work.

“The foremost concern that needs immediate attention is the method of euthanasia of animals,” Hoggarth wrote, saying pet owners said the injection was difficult to watch and the death of the animals was not peaceful.

“Notably, a most recent euthanasia was performed in Minnesota, wherein he asked the client to ‘keep quiet’ because he was only supposed to practice in North Dakota,” Hoggarth wrote.

Hoggarth said she was also concerned about complaints that Elliott was dispensing medicines without proper labeling; not administering them appropriately; and couldn’t provide medical records for follow-up care.

She gave the names of three people who had complaints with Elliott’s work.

The board sent letters to Melanie Rudnick of Fargo, Bonnie Sorensen of Moorhead, and Dawn Cox-Hendrickson of West Fargo.

Only Rudnick replied in a letter dated Aug. 20, 2010.

She said they called Elliott to handle the euthanasia for their dog.

Rudnick wrote that Elliott rushed her to write a check for his work and the cremator after declaring her dog dead.

“I felt his service lacked compassion, sensitivity, and professionalism especially for a very emotional time,” Rudnick wrote.

Lapsed DEA paperwork

That investigation also turned up that Elliott’s Drug Enforcement Administration registration to obtain and use drugs for animal euthanasia had been expired for 15 years.

In an Aug. 27, 2010, letter to Jack Henderson, the Minneapolis-based group supervisor for the DEA, Boyce wrote that a DEA representative told him that Elliott didn’t appear to have a current DEA registration.

“If the euthanasia was performed using a controlled substance, he would appear to be in violation of the law. If it was done using another substance for euthanasia, the procedure may not have been done humanely,” Boyce wrote.

Andrew Bird, an investigation assistant with the DEA in Minneapolis, told Boyce in an Oct. 5, 2010, email that Elliott’s DEA number was retired April 1, 1995.

In a Nov. 19, 2010, letter, Boyce told Elliott that the board was initiating a complaint against him “for possession and use of controlled drugs without a current DEA registration.”

Ten days later, Elliott replied that he had applied for and received a DEA registration and number.

He apologized for the lapse.

On Dec. 10, 2010, Elliott was told in a letter from Assistant Attorney General Bill Peterson that the complaints by Rudnick and the board were dismissed.

The board did forward its records of Elliott’s use of the euthanasia drug Fatal Plus to the DEA for their review.

License suspended

It was a 2013 incident that resulted in Elliott’s license being suspended.

In an Aug. 13, 2013, complaint letter to the board, Susan Anderson of Fargo described the euthanasia of her beagle.

“I was on the couch with Sam’s head on my lap, my husband was kneeling beside him, when Dr. Elliott came up from behind us, and holding the syringe with all his fingers wrapped around it, raised his arm and stabbed the needle into Sam’s thigh with such force that Sam let out several loud yelps and tried to jump onto my lap.

“I cried because I had never seen such force used on a small dog. The Dr. was unable to inject the medication because the needle came out,” she wrote.

Elliott had to repeat the procedure and then finished the euthanasia with a larger syringe.

“I have been an RN (registered nurse) with Fargo Cass Public Health for 26 years. I know how to give injections, and I know about treating others with respect and dignity,” Anderson wrote.

“I have witnessed 3 other dog euthanasias. All were painless and fast. The vets involved were kind, caring, and professional. I did not witness anything humane in Dr. Elliot,” she wrote.

She closed, saying, “Please do something about him so he doesn’t do this again to some poor, unsuspecting family and the pet they love.”

The board reviewed the case at its Dec. 3 meeting.

The state Attorney General’s Office offered a settlement agreement to Elliott Jan. 3 to informally resolve the case.

The agreement called for Elliott’s license to practice veterinary medicine be suspended until the board was provided with documentation that he had been trained in humane euthanasia techniques by a licensed veterinarian.

His license was suspended Jan. 22, 2014, and was reinstated by the board on Feb. 21, 2014.

But, the board has “serious concerns” regarding Elliott’s planned protocol for in-home euthanasia, Assistant Attorney General Ann Schaibley wrote in a Feb. 26 letter.

He was urged to review the protocol with the veterinarian who had overseen his euthanasia training. It was also strongly recommended Elliott use different drugs or alternative doses of drugs listed in his protocol, Schaibley wrote.

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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