ALBUQUERQUE — The state Board of Veterinary Medicine decided Friday that a veterinarian who killed hundreds of chickens in raids on ranches did not violate any law or practice code.
The ruling for Dr. Patricia Norris means she remains in practice without any blemish on her license.
Norris, 52, immediately left the hearing with her lawyer. She is now the veterinarian for the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office, but during the raids she practiced in the Albuquerque area.
In characterizing the complaint against Norris, the veterinary board's review committee said she had euthanized "fighting roosters."
The board's description of the case was an inaccurate whitewash, said Ron Barron, who filed complaints with the board against Norris in 2009 and again last year.
Barron, president of the New Mexico Game Fowl Association, said Norris killed healthy roosters, chicks and hens and destroyed all their eggs without evidence of any wrongdoing by the ranchers who owned them.
"You can't get justice in New Mexico," Barron said. "They're just lucky somebody didn't get killed in those raids."
Norris killed birds en masse when she was part of state Attorney General Gary King's Animal Cruelty Task Force. It raided ranches across New Mexico, saying that it was breaking up illegal cockfighting rings.
After seizing the birds, Norris and other task force members killed them. They said they suspected the birds had been fed steroids and could contaminate the food chain if they were left alive.
One of the biggest raids in 2009 targeted father-son ranchers Reyes and Mario Marin of Bloomfield in San Juan County. The Marins have sued Norris, King, San Juan County and others involved with the attorney general's task force.
The Marins claim in their lawsuit that King ran a vigilante group that destroyed at least $300,000 of their poultry and eggs after falsely accusing them of having a cockfighting operation.
The San Juan district attorney, Rick Tedrow, never charged the Marins with cockfighting or any other crime based on the raid.
Marcy Britton, an Albuquerque woman who works on animal causes, supported Barron in his complaints against Norris.
Britton said she had asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate Norris for transporting controlled euthanasia drugs or other poisons that she used to kill animals.
Britton said Norris and others on the task force created a public health hazard by leaving piles of poisoned carcasses on the ground for the ranchers to dispose of.
Members of the Board of Veterinary Medicine never mentioned the drugs Norris used to kill birds, nor did they divulge any details of the investigation into her professional conduct.
But, they said, they reviewed every allegation and found no violations by Norris.
King, a Democrat running for governor, in recent weeks has tried to distance himself from the animal cruelty task force that he founded.
In a federal court affidavit, King said a task force member named Heather Ferguson may have orchestrated raids that he knew nothing about. King filed the affidavit as part of his request that a judge dismiss him from the lawsuit brought by the Marins.
"I did not have any knowledge at the time of the alleged raid on the Marins' ranch that Ms. Ferguson or the task force had violated, or were violating, anyone's constitutional rights," King said.
Barron said he filed his first complaint against Norris with the veterinary board in September 2009. He said that complaint was blocked because of the influence of Ray Powell, a colleague of King's in Democratic politics, who then chaired the Board of Veterinary Medicine.
Powell, now the state public land commissioner, said in an interview that he never interfered with any complaint against a veterinarian. He said he had met Norris but did not know her, and he did not even remember any complaint being brought against her.
After Powell left the veterinary board, Barron revived his complaint against Norris.