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Clarion County Veterinarian Waives Hearing on Drug Charges
Court documents indicate the following charges against 70-year-old Norman Elliott Smith were waived for court on Tuesday, December 3:
– Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, Felony (five counts)
– Possession of Controlled Substance, Misdemeanor (five counts)
The charges have been transferred to the Clarion County Court of Common Pleas.
Smith remains free on $5,000.00 unsecured bail.
The charges stem from an investigation into the Veterinary Associates practice located at 155 McClain-Watson Road in Paint Township, Clarion County.
Details of the case:
According to a criminal complaint, on December 12, 2018, Trooper Norbert, of the Clarion-based State Police Criminal Investigation Unit, was assigned to investigate a possible violation of Act 995 of 1974, as amended by Act 167, commonly known as the Veterinary Medicine Practice Act, in relation to the Veterinary Associates practice in Paint Township, Clarion County.
Trooper Norbert first interviewed a known woman who reported that she took her dog to Veterinary Associates on November 2, 2018, and was surprised when Norman Smith, who she was aware had lost his veterinary license, walked into the examining room.
The woman told police she thought at the time that Smith may have gotten his license back and also said she wasn’t sure if the vet tech wrote out the prescription for the dog or if Smith had written it. She noted that the names of two veterinarians who previously worked at the practice were written on the top of the script label. She also indicated they did not do any blood work on the dog because the vet did not feel it was necessary.
The complaint notes the woman stated Smith and the vet tech were the only people inside the office.
The woman went on to report that she went to Jefferson Animal Clinic on December 12 because her dog was still not getting any better and was told they needed to do blood work for a proper examination of the dog. She was also told that the vet said she did not believe Smith had his license to practice.
Trooper Norbert then interviewed the former head vet at the practice who left for another position in 2017. The former head vet told police he had stopped all of the scheduled drugs from going there, so there should not be any scheduled drugs in the office.
According to the complaint, when asked if Smith was permitted to use his name for writing scripts for animals, he said “no.” He also stated he had not practiced at the Veterinary Associates since 2017 but noted he believed another veterinarian who had previously worked there had left the practice just a few months earlier.
On January 3, Trooper Norbert received a call from the former head veterinarian to report he received several calls form people saying “Smith is at it again” and also stated “I am hearing that Smith is euthanizing animals, and I don’t know where he would be getting the drugs for that,” according to the complaint.
The complaint notes Trooper Norbert then contacted the Department of State and confirmed that Smith did not have a valid license to practice veterinary medicine. Smith’s license had been revoked as of June 24, 2011, and had not been reinstated.
On February 6, Trooper Norbert interviewed a second known woman who related that she had an online order filled by Dr. Smith.
The woman said she used the services of two other veterinarians employed by Veterinary Associates, but the first one left the practice “some time ago,” and she believed the second one was still practicing at Veterinary Associates. However, she stated that when she received her prescription, she noticed that Dr. Norman Smith’s name was on the bottle, and she thought that Smith did not have a license, so she called a second known woman who formerly worked at Veterinary Associates.
On February 19, Trooper Norbert then interviewed the former employee with whom the woman had spoken.
According to the complaint, the former employee related she had worked at Veterinary Associates for approximately 17 years and quit on October 15, 2018, on the same day that the second veterinarian (mentioned earlier) left the practice.
The former employee went on to state that in August of 2018, a client came to the office with two dogs – a Golden Retriever with porcupine quills in its face and a Jack Russell Terrier that needed to be euthanized. She said she put the terrier on the table and took the retriever to weigh it while Smith was supposed to get the solution to euthanize the terrier. She said that the solution Smith retrieved was not the same solution that she had seen before. She noted that the other veterinarians would rarely give a tranquilizer “because it restricts the blood flow,” but Smith proceeded to give the dog a tranquilizer.
The employee said she then left the room because UPS had just delivered vaccines that needed to go directly into refrigeration while a second employee stayed in the room with the dog and the dog’s owner. She noted that the second employee was trying to talk the dog’s owner into leaving the room before they euthanized the dog, and the owner then went back to the front of the office. The employee related that she was putting away the vaccines when Smith became upset and hit the box, causing the vaccines to go everywhere. She said the second employee yelled at her and stated, “What are you going to do, quit.” She then proceeded to the front of the building where she apologized to the customer because of Smith and the other employee yelling.
According to the complaint, the employee reported that she then returned to the room with the dog, and Smith came back with a second injection. She said she advised that he needed to put the needle in a vein and pull back to get blood in the needle to be sure it was in a vein, but she said that Smith never hit a vein, and there was no blood draw. She also noted that the other veterinarian was not present during this incident. She went on to say that Smith grabbed the dog out of her hands by the neck and jabbed the needle into its chest when he gave it a second shot.
The employee also stated that the euthanizing drug is pink, but what Smith retrieved was not pink. She did not know what he gave the dog. She said she told Smith that if he didn’t hit the vein, it might take a while for the drug to take effect and said Smith then left the room. When she went into the same room as Smith, he yelled at her to leave, so she grabbed her things and left, as she needed to go to an appointment.
She stated that when she contacted the second employee to see if she could come back to work, the second employee “acted as if nothing happened” and told her that the dog they put down was “healthier than the owner thought” and said it took four shots to put the dog down.
The former employee told Trooper Norbert: “It’s not right,” and she didn’t think Smith could think soundly to measure the drug use.
She also told Trooper Norbert about another incident in which a larger dog was brought in for Lyme Disease treatment, and Smith gave it Doxycycline and noted that the prescription was 100 mg per day. But, with the size of the dog, it should have been 500 mg per day. She advised that Smith “is just not figuring the right amount of medications” and related that she has been around the other doctors long enough to know what was needed and was afraid of someone losing a pet.
The employee said she contacted a veterinarian who had previously worked at the practice, and he advised that she needed to speak to the one veterinarian who still worked at the practice at that time. She also noted that the other veterinarian at the practice kept a log book for the narcotics, and there were several times that the narcotics came up short. The veterinarian asked her to go back and look at the surgery records because of the missing drugs, and after everything was checked, she realized Smith was allegedly using the drugs and not logging them in the log books. She noted that the veterinarian who had left the practice had noticed the same issue previously.
She also related that after the second veterinarian left the practice, there were no narcotics in the office and noted the drugs had been locked in the safe, as the other veterinarian trusted Smith not to get into it, but Smith was allegedly using the drugs without authorization.
The complaint notes that when Trooper Norbert asked the former employee about the labeling of the drugs, she noted that when the other two veterinarians were still with the practice, she would cross out Smith’s name on the prescription label. She then wrote in the other two veterinarians names and made copies to be placed on the prescription bottles in order to save money.
She said that the woman who had the online order filled at the practice called her in November 2018 and said the doctor who left in October gave her a prescription, and she told the woman that doctor had already left the practice and wouldn’t have approved that.
Around 10:35 a.m. on May 9, 2019, troopers from the Clarion-based State Police along with members of the Troop C Vice Unit and an investigator from the Department of State served a search warrant at Veterinary Associates.
The complaint notes there were patrons coming out as the officers entered, and they found Smith with a dog on an examination table. He was then asked to leave the building while the warrant was being served.
At the scene, a known woman was interviewed. The woman related that Smith performed a spay surgery on a cat.
According to the complaint, in the building, the troopers found handwritten receipts and handwritten animal medication cards with dates referring to dates under investigation (beginning from November 2018). An electronic card reader for credit or debit card transactions was also found, along with transactions receipts.
The complaint notes the following schedule drugs were found at the facility:
- Phenobarbital (Schedule IV)
- Sodium Pentobarbital (Schedule II)
- Euthanasia Solution (Schedule III)
- Pentothal (Schedule III)
- Sodium Thiopental (Schedule III)
As Smith did not possess a license to practice veterinary medicine, he is not a licensed practitioner as defined by the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act and is prohibited from possession controlled substances.
According to the complaint, as evident by the controlled substances found, and the records of controlled substances used on euthanized animals, Smith possessed controlled substances with intent to deliver them in illegal practice of veterinary medicine.
Smith was also interviewed on May 9.
The complaint states Smith told police that since November of 2018, he had been practicing and has had multiple people come into his practice. He admitted he was examining a dog when the officers arrived.
According to the complaint, when asked if he had any scheduled drugs in his office, he said he did not, but had “other medications that a licensed veterinarian needs to practice” including antibiotics and vaccines and said he had administered “maybe 1,000, 2,000, or 5,000, I don’t know.”
When asked if people knew he didn’t have a license, Smith allegedly claimed he was “working under another veterinarian’s license” and named the former head veterinarian who had spoken to Trooper Norbert, though the former head veterinarian have given him no written or verbal consent to use his name to practice, according to the complaint.
Smith told police he had no narcotic or scheduled drugs because he didn’t have a DEA license and access to get the drugs. He stated he had been going through several pharmacy businesses for drugs, which should be in the back storage room.
The complaint notes that when he was advised that he did not have a license and should not be practicing, he stated that he had “been attempting to hire someone, but it’s hard to find anyone to hire.”
Smith was arraigned in front of Magisterial District Judge Timothy P. Schill at 10:24 a.m. on Monday, November 18.
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