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Licenses of greyhound-racing veterinarian revoked

Cruel treatment, negligence of five pet dogs is alleged

Animal rights activists say they are considering mounting another ballot initiative to ban greyhound racing in Massachusetts, now that the state has revoked the licenses of a greyhound-racing veterinarian and industry advocate accused of negligent and cruel treatment of five pet dogs in his North Shore practice.

Dr. Paul F. Kippenberger, a board member of the National Greyhound Association who argued vigorously in 2000 that racing greyhounds in Massachusetts are well cared for, lost his licenses on Friday to practice veterinary medicine in his clinics and at the state's two greyhound tracks. The state's Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine determined that his treatment of the pets ''falls below the accepted standards in the veterinary profession."

Anne Collins, executive director of the Division of Professional Licensure, which oversees the veterinary board, said Kippenberger's case was ''the worst veterinary case we've ever seen."

The board detailed Kippenberger's treatment of five dogs, including several that he was accused of misdiagnosing and one in his care that he allegedly did not feed or water for five days. It later died.

''The board was clearly shocked with the level of negligent treatment," Collins said.

Though the dogs involved in the case were not racing greyhounds, racing opponents said the Kippenberger case is evidence that those associated with the sport have little interest in the welfare of dogs. Carey Theil, who heads Grey2K USA, the group that led the 2000 ballot initiative to ban greyhound racing, said the various organizations that backed the 2000 proposal will now consider placing a new question on the ballot next year.

''A key player in the campaign to protect dog racing has lost his license due to animal welfare violations," said Theil, whose proposal lost by two percentage points, 51 to 49. ''This is the same veterinarian who claimed that racing greyhounds aren't abused. I think if voters had known the truth about him, they would have approved" the ballot question.

Kippenberger declined to comment, but his attorney, Chester Darling, said the veterinarian intends to appeal immediately to Suffolk Superior Court on the grounds that he was treated unfairly by the board. He acknowledged that Kippenberger may have been gruff in his dealings with the dogs' owners, and that he misdiagnosed urethral stones in a 6-year-old miniature pinscher named Winston in his Essex office. But he said the other allegations against his client were false. He added that Kippenberger is a lover of greyhounds who works hard to find homes for the dogs after their careers at the tracks end.

''The guy is not Dylan Thomas. He does not have a bedside manner that everyone would like, but he's an excellent veterinarian," Darling said.

In its 39-page license revocation order, the state veterinary board detailed Kippenberger's treatment of five dogs between 2002 and 2004.

The case of the miniature pinscher involved allegations that Kippenberger wrongly castrated the dog, then left a stone in the dog's urethra that led to its death. Another case involved a 9-month old American bulldog. Kippenberger was accused of misdiagnosing a shoulder condition and failing to heed the owner's requests to take X-rays.

A third case involved a 6-year-old springer spaniel treated at Kippenberger's Magnolia practice that died after the owner allegedly discovered that Kippenberger had not fed or given water to it for five days. The board also accused Kippenberger of altering his records in the case.

The fourth case involved a 6-year-old Boston terrier that Kippenberger allegedly left languishing for hours even though the dog was in agony with an intestinal ailment. Kippenberger neglected to take X-rays, according to the order.

The fifth case involved allegations that Kippenberger ''slammed" a shot into the flank of a 4-month-old beagle and that he told the owner the dog's impending neutering would ''knock the crap out of him" and that it was ''the dumbest dog there is."

Charles Sarkis, owner of Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere, said the Kippenberger case is no reflection on the racing industry.

''You can't link one to the other," Sarkis said. ''That's like saying one person gets linked to another's actions because of ethnicity."

Still, the cases came at a time when Kippenberger's veterinary license was already on probation after the US Drug Enforcement Agency fined him $15,000 in 1999 for security and recordkeeping violations involving steroids used on racing greyhounds.

''This guy has an extremely long and checkered record," Collins said.

Kippenberger, as head of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Greyhound Council, wrote the opposition language that accompanied the 2000 ballot question to prohibit dog races.

The argument stated that ''Greyhound racing in Massachusetts has an excellent record. No violations of animal welfare regulations have been documented."

Sarkis said the racing indistry remains committed to good treatment of animals. ''Don't use all of this as a red herring to the public," he said.

But Theil of Grey2K said the Kippenberger case shows the industry is willing to cover up abuses in order to continue operating.

''I think it calls into question the credibility of the dog racing industry," he said of Kippenberger's license revocation. ''Voters relied on the testimony of this man when deciding the fate of this industry, and the truth has finally come out about the biggest defender of dog racing in this state."

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