In May, 2013, Aledo, Texas, couple Jamie and Marian Harris brought their family dog, 5-year-old Leonberger, Sid, to the Camp Bowie Animal Clinic in nearby Fort Worth for a visit with their trusted veterinarian. Sid had been experiencing what appeared to be minor anal gland problems, but seemed to be in generally good health otherwise.
But after an examination by Camp Bowie veterinarian Dr. Lou Tierce, what began as a routine appointment soon turned tragic. Dr. Tierce told the family that Sid was suffering from a congenital birth defect in his spine and that the condition would only get worse over time. The Harrises were devastated. Rather than put Sid through any additional pain, they made the difficult decision to have him put to sleep that day.
Jamie, Marian, and their young son gave Sid one final hug and then left the exam room so Dr. Tierce could euthanize their beloved dog.
“So I brought [my son] in and had our tearful goodbyes, and we went over very specifically our plans for burial of Sid, and that was the end of it,” Marian says.
The Harrises, overcome with grief, decided to take Dr. Tierce up on his offer to bury Sid’s body on his farm. They left the clinic that day, their hearts broken.
But what the family didn’t know is that Sid did not die that day at the veterinary hospital.
Six months later, Camp Bowie Animal Clinic Veterinary Technician Mary Brewer called the Harris family with some unbelievable news — not only was Sid alive, but the very veterinarian who recommended and supposedly performed his euthanasia was allegedly keeping Sid locked away in a cage and using him for blood transfusions and experimental treatments at the clinic.
“I told her, ‘He’s still here,’ and she’s like, ‘Can he walk?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, he’s here waiting on you. If you came today, he’d walk out and jump in your car,” Brewer remembers.
Marian, who took Brewer’s phone call that day, was absolutely floored.
“It was like getting punched in the stomach and then some,” Marian tells NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. “This has rocked our world. My kids are like, ‘How does somebody do this? How does this happen?”
Jamie and Marian went to the Camp Bowie clinic immediately, determined to reunite with Sid. They found him locked in a cage, covered in his own waste. The Harrises managed to free Sid and steal him away in their car. But then Marian went back inside to confront Dr. Tierce.
“He said, ‘I didn’t put him down because my staff said they would quit if I did,” Marian remembers. “And so, we kind of felt like that was an admission of knowing what our intentions had been and willfully not following them.”
A veterinarian at an outside clinic then examined Sid and discovered that, after months of captivity, the Harris family dog had mange and there was ample evidence that he’d been used for blood transfusions. The Harrises immediately called the authorities and contacted attorney Jim Eggleston.
“You have a vet keeping dogs under false pretenses,” Eggleston tells the Star-Telegram. “You have family pets that people thought were cremated or put down peacefully that may still be alive.”
Brewer says that she’d seen various cases of animal abuse at the clinic over the years, but was initially afraid to file reports against her employer.
“You’re going against somebody who has a business of 40 years, a respectable veterinarian, who is going to believe me?” Brewer explains.
But Brewer’s conscience would not let her keep Dr. Tierce’s transgressions quiet for long.
“I remember coming in and them extracting blood from Sid, and basically shaving him, extracting his blood for the other animal upstairs,” Brewer tells the Dallas-Fort Worth FOX affiliate.
Brewer claims that other animals, including at least one cat, have also been interred at Camp Bowie and used for their blood and plasma. Investigators raided the animal hospital facility and confiscated several dogs from the premises.
When word broke of the allegations against Dr. Tierce and Camp Bowie Animal Clinic, past clients started showing up at the hospital, wondering whether their supposedly euthanized pets might still be alive. Fort Worth resident Symantha Spence rushed over Tuesday to see if her Golden Retrievers were among the animals seized by investigators as evidence.
“I just want to know that my dogs are buried, and not in this building,” Spence tells KERA News. “I just don’t know what to say. And we have a new appointment tomorrow, with our new puppy, so we’re going to have a family discussion to decide if this is where we want to continue our care.”
As for Sid, he is now recovering at home with his family. But as the investigation continues, Marian Harris says she wants justice.
“The betrayal, it’s just, you know, it’s indescribable,” she says. “I just don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.”