Board: Vet who helped route dogs to Iowa performed kitchen-island surgeries

A veterinarian who facilitated the sale of hundreds of puppies to Iowa brokers and retailers has had her license suspended on an emergency basis after allegedly performing surgical procedures on her kitchen island.

The Wisconsin Veterinary Examining Board has summarily suspended the license of Dr. Darcy W. Overturf of Hillpoint, Wis., citing an urgent need to protect the public welfare. The board alleges Overturf admitted performing surgeries and other medical procedures on the kitchen island inside her home.

Investigators for the board also alleges Overturf improperly signed the various certificates of veterinary inspection that are needed for the transfer of dogs from and between breeders. Those documents, commonly called CVIs, are used to document the fact that the animals were physically examined by a veterinarian and can be sold to dealers in other states. Overturf is alleged to have admitted that she allowed the sellers for whom she worked to fill out significant portions of some of her CVIs.

According to the Iowa-based animal welfare organization Bailing Out Benji, Overturf signed off on at least 50 shipments of puppies to Iowa brokers, breeders and retailers during the last half of 2022.

Those shipments involved almost 400 puppies. According to Bailing Out Benji’s review of government records, 219 of those dogs were sent to JAKS Puppies in Britt; 83 were sent to Select Puppies of West Point; 59 puppies were to Sunrise Kennels of Corydon; and 25 puppies to Shadows LLC of Bloomfield. Five puppies were sent to a retailer, Petland, in Iowa City.

“We are so grateful to the Wisconsin Veterinary Examining Board for recognizing this problematic pattern of an established veterinarian and putting an end to this kind of practice,” said Mindi Callison, the founder and executive director of Bailing Out Benji. Callison has tracked the animals sold by Wisconsin breeders, with Overturf’s help, to brokers and retailers in Iowa and other states.

“Overturf was signing off on the health of thousands of puppies going to pet stores across the country each year and that is very concerning considering the board’s findings,” Callison said. “This is not what we want to see when stores say their puppies are ‘vet checked.’”

Overturf could not be reached for comment. The outgoing message on her phone advised that the clinic was closed because she was on “personal leave.”

Overturf’s problems with regulators date back to at least 2020, when Wisconsin inspectors made an unannounced visit to the Overturf Vet Clinic in southern Wisconsin. According to the inspectors’ report, Overturf’s “clinic” included her residential kitchen, an office that had no heat or running water, and an unlocked food pantry where Overturf stored veterinary medications and controlled substances.

The cake pan in which Dr. Darcy Overturf allegedly stored unsterilized surgical instruments for operations performed in her kitchen. (Photo from Wisconsin Veterinary Examining Board, courtesy of Bailing Out Benji)

When asked where she performed surgeries, spaying, neutering and euthanasia, Overturf allegedly told the inspectors she sometimes euthanized animals in vehicles and performed operations on animals on her kitchen island. She allegedly admitted she did not sterilize her surgical instruments, which were kept in a cake pan in her kitchen cabinet alongside her dishes.

Asked about a complaint that she wasn’t cleaning the thermometers used to take dogs’ temperatures, she acknowledged she only cleaned them as time permitted but said they were used only for rectal temperatures anyway.

She was charged with unprofessional conduct for failing to keep her clinic and equipment clean and sanitary, failing to keep controlled substances secured, failing to maintain an inventory of controlled substances, and issuing multiple improperly completed CVIs in violation of state regulations. According to board records, Overturf issued a falsified CVI to one licensed dog seller knowing that seller was going to backdate the document for a dog that had been sold months before.

Overturf was also accused of falsely certifying to the board that she had completed the required continuing education and training for the license-renewal periods of 2018-19 and 2020-21.

After reviewing the case, the board decided a summary suspension of Overturf’s license, without a hearing, was necessary to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare.

The board concluded Overturf had engaged in unprofessional conduct through fraud, gross negligence or deception in the practice of veterinary medicine and had demonstrated a lack of knowledge or ability. The suspension was also based on conclusions that Overturf failed to cooperate with the board’s investigation of complaints and falsely informed the board she had completed all of her continuing-education requirements.

Among the consumer complaints that the Wisconsin Veterinary Examining Board fielded regarding Overturf:

Kitchen examination: In August 2020, Jamie Wolter of Reedsburg, Wis., told the board she took two kittens to Overturf’s clinic for an examination.

“She had me put the cat right up on the kitchen island,” Wolter wrote to the board. “As I looked around, the toaster and all kitchen appliances are on the counter. The pet medicine is in the same refrigerator as her food, eggs, milk, and such. What bothered me the most, though, is the fact that when she took my kitten’s temperature, the thermometer still had what appeared to be fecal matter on it from previous (examinations). She stuck it right in my kitten’s rectum, took the temp, and then stuck it back in the case… Also, she used the same scissors to cut the stitches from both my kittens… I know it’s a risk, always, with any surgery, but my kitten did get a secondary infection. (Overturf) couldn’t take the time to see my kitten who had been running a fever of 105 for over 5 days because she was canning apples. Thankfully, I went to another vet, and my kitten did make it.”

Dog’s death: In November 2022, Diane Proeber of Wisconsin Dells, Wis., wrote to the board regarding Overturf’s spaying of two dogs, Queenie and Georgia. After the digs were dropped off, Overturf allegedly texted Proeber to say Queenie’s uterus was full of cancer. Proeber asked Overturf to refrain from euthanizing Queenie so she could bring her home for a few days. Overturf allegedly failed to respond to Proeber’s subsequent texts and phone calls, but the next day sent a text message saying Queenie had died.

Proeber said she went to the clinic to pick up Georgia, as well as Queenie’s body, and found that both dogs were covered in a large amount of matted, dried blood and were stuck to the newspapers on which they were lying.

In her complaint to the board, Proeber wrote that the manner in which Overturf left her dogs “in pools of blood, dried to newspapers, in disgusting kennels is not okay…  The next vet we went to was straight horrified by how they weren’t shaved, cleaned, nothing … She is supposed to be the professional & my animals died and suffered at her hands because she lacked in so many areas.”

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