Trial for SCV veterinarian accused of animal negligence continues

Veterinarian Balpal Sandhu is accused of 41 causes for discipline at his three animal clinics, including the All Creatures Veterinary Center in Newhall.
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The trial for a local veterinarian in danger of losing his license over dozens of allegations about how animals in his care were treated took an unexpected turn Tuesday, as a former employee of the veterinarian took the stand.

Balpal Sandhu currently operates three veterinary facilities in the North L.A. County region: All Creatures Veterinary Center; Antelope Valley Veterinary Center; and Canyon Country Veterinary Hospital. 

The current trial, which is being hosted virtually on Zoom, originated in 2016, when Sandhu’s license was placed on probation after a complaint from the previous year found three causes for discipline, which included negligence, record-keeping violations and anesthesia violations, in regard to the treatment of a dog that had several bones broken while fighting with another dog. 

The result of that case was that, in May 2016, Sandhu agreed to have his licenses placed on probation for all three clinics. 

However, a new complaint, with allegations that date back to January 2016, found 41 separate causes for discipline — some of which were repeated from the 2016 allegation — was filed in  November 2019. (The complete 72-page cause of action is listed here.)

Tuesday’s testimony represented the 16th day of testimony in the trial, which, up until Tuesday, had largely focused on the alleged violations brought forth by Deputy District Attorney Nancy Kaiser, and Sandhu’s counter-claims that any past allegations were misstated or have been remedied.

On Tuesday morning, Judge Ji-lan Zang heard testimony from Wendy Hand, who was added to the witness list in an attempt to rebut testimony provided by Sandhu.

Hand testified that she worked as a licensed veterinary nurse at Sandhu’s Newhall and Canyon Country facilities from July to October 2020.

Before she could take the virtual stand, George Wallace, the attorney for Sandhu, sought to exclude her testimony from the record on the grounds that Hand worked at the facilities after the complaint was alleged, so she wouldn’t be able to speak to the violations. He also noted on the record that Hand’s identity only was shared with the defense last week. Kaiser countered that Hand had firsthand knowledge contrary to Sandhu’s previous claims that violations have been corrected, making her testimony a relevant rebuttal, which Zang then allowed. 

Hand testified she observed multiple signs of concern, including: X-ray gowns in “disrepair”; technicians not wearing gloves while taking X-rays of the animals; and that the majority of staff did not appear to have training in radiation therapy. She also noted one of the facilities only had one surgical room, but it also doubled as a storage space for equipment no longer in use, which meant the area wasn’t properly sterilized.
Wallace objected to nearly all of Hand’s testimony in some form or another, either claiming it was speculative, overbroad or not foundational, as Hand’s employment was outside the scope of the complaint and included work at Porter Veterinary Center in Northridge, which was not part of the proceedings. 

However, at one point, Zang noted that Hand’s testimony was discussing her personal experience as a staff member. 

“Her testimony so far is all based on her ability to perceive,” Zang noted, adding that Wallace would be allowed the opportunity to cross-examine.

On cross-examination, Wallace pointed out that Hand had limited experience in actually working alongside Sandhu, having only one conversation with the owner that she could remember. Additionally, she had only followed up specifically on one procedure that Sandhu performed during her approximately 30 shifts at the hospital between July and October of this year.

While Hand claimed Sandhu’s record-keeping practices were unorthodox, Wallace also pointed out there was nothing that would prohibit Sandhu from delegating clerical work, such as entering in patient information for the hospitals’ paperless computer system, particularly, the defense attorney added, since Sandhu was not adept at computers.

The trial is scheduled to wrap up Dec. 4. 

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