Clients come to Dr. Ed LaBrash’s aid
by Phil Ambroziak
“It’s hard to really say anything.”
Dr. Ed LaBrash was somewhat speechless when discussing the strong showing of support by his clients following a ruling by the the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA) that would have cost the animal doctor thousands of dollars.
LaBrash, who was found guilty of professional misconduct by a SVMA discipline committee in late September, was required to pay a $5,000 fine by Jan. 31. He was also expected to pay $30,000 throughout the course of the year to cover 90 per cent of hearing costs. SVMA officials confirmed LaBrash paid his fine and also paid the additional $30,000 in full. LaBrash, however, said this isn’t entirely true.
“I didn’t pay anything,” LaBrash stated. “Brent Brooks at the Meadow Lake Stockyards initiated a little fundraiser and was able to come up with around $40,000 in 10 days or so. I didn’t pay it – the clients paid it for me.”
Brooks explained the stockyards simply served as a focal point for many of LaBrash’s clients to contribute funds.
“Quite a few area producers came in wondering how they could help Dr. LaBrash,” Brooks said.
Calls went out requesting support for LaBrash Jan. 13 and by Jan. 19, close to $35,000 was collected.
“It came down to pet owners here in town to some of our bigger cattle producers from throughout the area,” Brooks continued. “We need veterinarians here, and that’s not just singling out Dr. LaBrash. We have qualified vets in the area, but Dr. LaBrash definitely has a strong following. I think this is mostly because of his strong work ethic.”
LaBrash said his “extreme thanks” will be forthcoming for years to come.
“We didn’t do anything special here,” Brooks noted. “Our company lawyer just made sure the money got to the proper place at the proper time. It was really the producers who did it.”
According to a recent SVMA report, LaBrash faced three charges stemming from 2007-2009.
Charges included: Failing to create proper medical records; dispensing narcotic and/or controlled substances without evidence of having first performed a physical examination; and failing to correct 44 minor deficiencies noted during a scheduled inspection of his practice.
LaBrash pleaded guilty to the first and third charge and, following witness testimony, later pleaded guilty to the second charge.
During the hearing, the committee called for a subpoena of LaBrash’s narcotic records and a list of specific client/animal names.
LaBrash could only provide a list of chuckwagon clients to who it appeared he was dispensing anabolic steroids in large quantities without examination of the animals and with no written record. The committee, meanwhile, concluded it was evident from the large quantity of purchases and sales of steroids, the drugs were used for performance enhancement. LaBrash explained it is common practice for chuckwagon drivers to use anabolic steroids on their animals for this very purpose.
“That is just the way things have been done around here for years,” LaBrash said. “Different clinics have been doing the same thing for 40 or 50 years, but no one was ever punished until now.”
While it may have been more prevalent in the past, the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association (CPCA) now has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to performance enhancement drugs.
“This policy came about in 2010,” remarked CPCA president Ray Mitsuing. “Before then, this sort of thing took place a lot. We, as an association, have made it mandatory you can’t use these drugs or you could face a fine or suspension.”
It’s uncertain how well the policy is adhered to, however, because not all animals are examined prior to a race.
“A vet will come to all of our race meets and do a random screening,” Mitsuing said.
Even though his fine has been paid, LaBrash said the matter is far from closed. Questioning the level of professionalism prior to and during the hearing, LaBrash said he plans to do something about what he feels was biased treatment.
“The SVMA broke so many laws just to find out about something that has been going on for 50 years,” he said. “It’s hard to move on. I feel there was a lot of bias in terms of how I was treated. I decided to stand up for what was right, for fairness – but, they really steamrolled this whole thing.”
Dr. Sandra Stephens, SVMA registrar, disagrees.
“An appeal may still be possible, but whether or not it can proceed will have to be pursued by the member through the court,” she said. “The SVMA considers the process complete.”