Vet sued for R252 681 over foal

2009-04-20 00:00

The owners of Middlefield Stud in Mooi River, Michele and Robert Pickering, are suing veterinary surgeon Dave Mullins for R252 681, over allegations that he failed to properly care for a valuable foal when he performed a hernia operation on it in 2004.

The colt foal was euthanased on the advice of two other vets after its stomach burst open and the intestines came out two days after the operation.

Michele Pickering told Judge Malcolm Wallis in the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday that on various occasions when she contacted Mullins by phone, or saw him at the farm, and expressed concern at the extreme swelling of the foal’s abdomen after the operation on December 16, 2004, he told her he was satisfied that there was no cause for concern.

Rob Pickering said he was initially “reluctant” to have the operation performed because it was a valuable foal.

He said the day after the operation, his wife asked him to speak to the vet. Pickering thought both the mare and the foal should be moved to Summerveld veterinary hospital.

Pickering testified that when they entered the stable with Mullins he said words to the effect: “Dave, we’re in big trouble”, but Mullins felt the foal’s stitches and responded: “There’s no problem here. You’re over-reacting.”

Pickering said Michele asked if they could put a cold compress on and the vet replied “that will help”.

Asked why he did not suggest the horses be moved to Summerveld, Pickering replied; “He was our vet, so we trusted him and I’d already been told that I was over-reacting.”

The stud’s head groom, Amos Mazibuko, who was present during the operation, testified that while the foal was being stitched it “started to fight”.

Afterwards, he noticed it was swelling and the vet was alerted, but said there was “no problem”.

Mazibuko said the foal appeared “tired”, and the swelling grew to the “size of a rugby ball” the next day.

During 16 years working with horses he had seen numerous similar operations and the condition of the horse was “not normal”, he said.

He said the morning the foal died he heard a noise from the stable and discovered the foal rolling on the ground. “I noticed the intestines had come out,” he said.

Mullins maintains that in performing the surgery he acted with professional skill and denies he failed in his duties. The case is continuing.

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