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Story by Jordan Fischer

KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. — A Knightstown veterinarian accused of inhumanely euthanizing pets will have to undergo a psychological evaluation before being allowed to practice medicine again.

The suspension

The Indiana Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners voted unanimously in March to suspend Dr. James Wilson’s license for at least four years over allegations he illegally dispensed narcotics to people and multiple reports of cruel, improper pet euthanizations. The board filed paperwork with the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency earlier this month making the penalty official.

Criminal charges

Wilson was charged in Henry County in February 2017 with 25 counts, including dealing in a schedule IV controlled substance and unlawful dispensation of a controlled substance. He pleaded guilty to one count of failure to make, keep or furnish records – a class “D” felony treated in this case as a class “A” misdemeanor – in January 2018, and was sentenced to six months of probation.

In addition to the criminal charges, the Attorney General’s office filed a complaint against Wilson’s license after receiving numerous reports from owners who said they were horrified by the way in which Wilson had euthanized their pets.

What happened (the stories of the pets)

In one case, the owner of a cat named “Sweatpea” reported that Wilson taped the cat’s front legs and bound its back legs with string. When the owner, whose daughter had already left the room crying due to Sweatpeat’s treatment, asked Wilson why he had tied up the sick cat, Wilson reportedly said if the cat bit him he would have to “cut its head off and send it to a laboratory.”

Wilson then injected Sweatpea with an unknown substance, which caused the cat to flail and gasp repeatedly with her tongue out. The owner said he had to leave the room because he couldn’t bear to watch the cat suffer, and reported that he had felt guilty over Sweatpea’s death for the past two years because he felt that she was “tortured.”

In another case, Wilson reportedly bound a 12-year-old cat named “Ditty” and then stuck its back legs with a needle approximately 15 times, causing the cat to scream repeatedly. When the owner, who couldn’t take it anymore, offered to take the cat home and perform the euthanasia themselves, Wilson reportedly continued to stick Ditty with the needle, eventually performing an intracardiac injection – sticking a needle directly into the heart – with no anesthesia or sedation.

The owner reported being traumatized by the experience and having nightmares.

Wilson was also accused of performing improper tongue sticks – only to be used under sedation and as a last resort – to euthanize a 16-year-old Alaskan Malmute named Na-Nuk, who was not sedated and suffered disturbing convulsions during the euthanasia process. During that incident, Wilson reportedly bound the dog’s muzzle with a rope. Na-Nuk’s owner told the AG’s office that he felt Na-Nuk’s death was “barbaric,” and that he hated himself for taking Na-Nuk to Wilson.

Wilson’s euthanasia methods – binding animals, failing to use anesthesia, tongue and intracardiac sticks without sedation – were all contrary to the standard of veterinary care, according to testimony the board heard from a licensed practitioner.

The board’s unanimous decision in March means Wilson will not be allowed to practice veterinary medicine in the state of Indiana for at least four years. Before he is able to renew his license, he will be required to undergo psychological evaluation to determine whether he is safe to practice veterinary medicine.