Animal Hospital of Desert Hot Springs shuts down temporarily

Animal Hospital of Desert Hot Springs shuts down temporarily

Claudia Buccio

Kimberley Raney holds an unemployment booklet hands as she wraps her mind around the fact that she has lost her job at the Animal Hospital of Desert Hot Springs. Raney worked as a veterinarian technician for a year.

They never told us they were going to close at all,” Raney said.

With tears in her eyes, she assures that her team cares about their patients, but the decision to close the animal hospital was not their decision.

“It was not employees, it was the board,” Raney said. “We’d be here for you if we could.”

The Animal Hospital of Desert Hot Springs is a run by the Humane Society of the Desert. A few weeks ago, the former medical director, a veterinarian, resigned. As a result, the hospital was closed leaving workers without a job and pet owners without a hospital to go to. A decision that former employees blame the board for.

Dr. Paula Terifaj claims she was fired a week ago after standing up against the board.

“We were being forced to work with non-medical people that wanted to tell us how to do things here,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Humane Society of the Desert said the organization is looking for a new vet to take the position of medical director.

Former employees from the Animal Hospital of Desert Hot Springs said that the board of the Humane Society of the Desert offered them a severance and release agreement.

Rainey said she received her last check but did not sign any agreement.

“To have a check shoved in your face and be told you can get this money if you stay quiet,” Raney said. “I’m a single mom right before christmas; it’s pretty degrading.”

Without any staff, the hospital cancelled all appointments scheduled this week. Althia Stepagns stopped by the clinic after seeing a Facebook post about the closing of the hospital. Her dog had a cyst taken out of his back and was scheduled to get those stitches taken out.

“Now, the hospital is closed and we don’t have a vet,” she said. “Where are we going to take him? He has to get the stitches taken out, so this is just awful.”   

“So now, the hospital is closed, and now, we don’t have a vet and where are we going to take him? He has to get the stitches taken out, so this is just awful.    

Pet owners were given until 3 pm to pick up their pets medical records. According to the Humane Society of the Desert, residents will be able to call to get those records emailed to them. Annette Chadwick was one of those pet owners who went to the animal hospital to pick up her pets’ records.

“This is just another thing we have to struggle with,” Chadwick said. “Us having to leave our town for services we were getting in our town.”

Former employees are calling for an investigation into fraud.

“The humane society of the desert has to be properly investigated and shut down as an organization,” Dr. Terifaj said. “We need good people to work with and we don’t have that. Dr Reedy did the right thing by resigning because I won’t work for them either.”

The Humane Society of the Desert is hoping to reopen the Desert Hot Springs hospital in January 2019.