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Dr. Roque Gonzalez leaves Animal Care Svcs

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  • Laura McKieran
    Dr. Roque Gonzalez, the veterinarian at Animal Care Services who used to report to Dr. Ned Lammers, has separated from the city as of yesterday. Please follow
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 16, 2006
      Dr. Roque Gonzalez, the veterinarian at Animal Care Services who used to report to Dr. Ned Lammers, has separated from the city as of yesterday.  Please follow the link below to read Laura Jesse's article in the Express-News.  Laura Stanford, Steering Committee Chair, is quoted on behalf of Citizens for Pound Reform.
      Of course the most important thing now is to fill both vet positions - temporarily and then permanently - with qualified, progressive veterinarians who understand the needs of shelter animals. 
      While Citizens for Pound reform focuses heavily on reducing the number of animals going into ACS and increasing the numbers coming out through reclaims, adoptions, and transfers, improving conditions for those animals who must be there - the overwhelming majority of whom will still die there - is absolutely critical. 
      A strong shelter medicine program is crucial not just for humane euthanasia by injection and humane conditions prior to euthanasia, but also for infection control and the basic pre- and post-adoption treatment required for a successful adoption program.
      Many thanks to those people and organizations committed to our No Kill by 2012 Strategic Plan, and many thanks to the San Antonio Express-News and Laura Jesse for the continuing coverage of these issues.
      CPR Steering Committee

      Full-time vet, city animal shelter part company

      Web Posted: 11/15/2006 10:43 PM CST
      Laura E. Jesse
      Express-News Staff Writer
      The city's only full-time staff veterinarian at Animal Care Services was let go by the municipal shelter Wednesday, ACS Director Jef Hale said.
      Animal activists, who long have complained veterinarian Roque Gonzales didn't treat animals well, applauded the decision.
      "He just didn't care enough to get things done that needed to be done," said Cheryl Bodenhamer, a former volunteer who ran the shelter's foster care program but quit in frustration in June. "There was not the interest in taking care of the dogs or cats."
      For the past four years, Gonzales had been the primary caregiver to the tens of thousands of stray and homeless animals entering the shelter in Brackenridge Park.
      But change has been in the air since a San Antonio Express-News series two years ago showed the city was killing almost nine of every 10 dogs and cats that entered the shelter.
      Gonzales, whose job it was to pick which animals made it to the adoption center, said then that he looked for the tail waggers that "jump up and say, 'Take me! Take me! Take me!'"
      During that same interview, he selected only three of some 200 animals to be spared death in a carbon monoxide chamber.
      Gonzales explained his actions then, offering various reasons why he considered each animal unadoptable, but could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
      Hale, the Animal Care Services director, stopped just short of saying Gonzales was fired.
      "He is an at-will employee and the decision was made to separate," Hale said. "He is going his way and we are going our way."
      This is the first major personnel matter Hale has handled since he took the shelter's top job less than two months ago.
      The decision comes a week after an Animal Care Services Advisory Board meeting at which Gonzales bungled an otherwise routine report on veterinary services provided at the shelter for the past month.
      After he couldn't justify figures he cited or answer basic questions, a discussion ensued among board members about accountability — or lack thereof — at the shelter.
      But Hale said no single event led to the decision.
      Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni, who is on the advisory board and to whom Hale reports, said the shelter is moving in a new direction and more changes can be expected.
      "We are committed to our strategic plan and we are committed to improving the Animal Care Services facility," DiGiovanni said. "This is one in a series of changes that will occur — change is inevitable here."
      Shortly before he was hired by the city in 2002, Gonzales received an official reprimand and $500 civil penalty from the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners after he waived his right to a hearing.
      According to the board's official order, Gonzales violated the professional standard of humane treatment set out in the Veterinary Licensing Act when he failed to tell a woman about the changing condition of a dog she was boarding at Highland Animal Hospital, which Gonzales operated.
      The report said Gonzales failed to treat the dog for three days, even though he noted the dog couldn't stand on its own. When the woman's daughter picked up the dog, according to the report, Gonzales did not tell her about the dog's condition.
      After the Express-News series, Gonzales largely was viewed by the animal welfare community as part of the antiquated "catch-and-kill" mentality that led to few animals making it out of the shelter alive.
      Some said the decision made Wednesday shows the city intends to make the needed improvements.
      "Now that the strategic plan is in place, it's clear the city has the intent to move into an advanced time, to bring the shelter to the current national standards," said Laura Stanford, a member of the Citizens for Pound Reform steering committee. "It will take staff who are willing to accept and embrace new philosophies."
      Because Citizens for Pound Reform is an umbrella organization of animal welfare groups, Stanford said she often has heard of negative encounters or experiences with Gonzales.
      "Those reports indicated that he didn't seem to appreciate the change happening," she said.
      Gonzales' departure means the shelter will have to use contract veterinary services until his position and the veterinary services manager position are filled. The manager's position has been open since William Lammers left the city early in 2005.


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