[StBernard] Former director of St. Bernard animal shelter arrested for missing euthanization drugs

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Mar 26 15:56:00 EDT 2009

Former director of St. Bernard animal shelter arrested for missing
euthanization drugs
by Chris Kirkham, The Times-Picayune
Thursday March 26, 2009, 6:20 AM

The former director of the St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter was arrested
this month in connection with numerous record-keeping problems and missing
vials of drugs used to euthanize animals.

Tina Bernard's arrest by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency came after the
Louisiana Society for the Prevention and Cruelty of Animals noticed
irregularities in the amount of sodium pentobarbital, the animal euthanasia
drug, used at the shelter over the past two years.

The drug is a controlled substance subject to strict federal and state
oversight, and requires detailed logs of how much was administered, and
when. Patricia Childress, the DEA task force officer who made the arrest,
said Bernard's logs showed in some cases that she was using more than 20
times as much of the drug as was needed per animal.

Typically 1 cubic centimeter of the drug would be needed for a 10-pound
animal, but Childress said the logs routinely showed 40 ccs of the drug
being used per animal. In addition, the clinic was missing 16 vials of the
drug, each of which had 250 ccs of pentobarbital.

Bernard was storing some of the euthanization drugs at her house, and
eventually returned some to the clinic, Childress said. But the numbers
didn't add up.

"The intake sheets didn't account for all the medication, " Childress said.
"She was still short a considerable amount."

Bernard, 42, of St. Bernard community, was charged in St. Bernard Parish's
34th Judicial District Court with possession of a controlled substance and
falsification of the required reports, both felonies. She was also charged
with failure to maintain proper records, as the logs for drugs administered
in 2008 did not exist.

Bernard, who was director from summer 2006 to late last fall, said she took
the drugs home because the shelter was not a secure place to store them.

"In the handbook it does not say I shouldn't have removed it, " Bernard
said. "It says 'keep in a safe place.' Well, I thought it would be safe in
my house until I got everything squared away."

She said she administered more drugs than usual to the animals in order to
calm them before euthanization. Many dogs were vicious and difficult to
control, Bernard said.

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, Siobhan DeLancey, said
sodium pentobarbital is rarely used as a sedative. The amounts logged in
this case would be "extremely excessive, " she said. A DEA spokesman said it
is rare for humans to abuse the drug.

Bernard has also worked at the NOLA Animal Clinic in eastern New Orleans. An
attorney for the clinic, Nanak Rai, would not comment on whether Bernard
still worked there.

Bernard was fired from the St. Bernard shelter in early February, and the
arrest was made March 4. The Louisiana SPCA became involved in St. Bernard
last fall, obtaining a grant to a hire a new director to address substandard
conditions at the shelter.

Ana Zorrilla, Louisiana SPCA's chief executive officer, said the
organization became aware of the problems when Beth Brewster, the new
shelter director, came on last fall. Zorrilla said it was apparent that the
drugs were not being kept in a double-locked safe, as required by law, and
that the shelter was ordering much more of the sodium pentobarbital solution
than would be needed.

"There were several red flags that came up very quickly when Beth started
digging into the record keeping and the paperwork, " Zorrilla said.

Childress said DEA officials became aware of the extent of the problem after
a site visit to take inventory of the drugs.

Brewster will be paid through the SPCA grant for three years, Zorrilla said.
Because Bernard was the only person certified to administer the drugs, the
SPCA is handling all St. Bernard euthanizations until Brewster completes the
course later this spring.

Parish President Craig Taffaro declined to comment on Bernard's case, saying
it was a "personnel matter."

. . . . . . .

Chris Kirkham can be reached at ckirkham at timespicayune.com or 504.826.3321.

More information about the StBernard mailing list