The following statement, authored by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute partner Dr. Luke Fallon, was provided to media Wednesday afternoon by Casey Bailey & Maines, attorneys representing Hagyard in a new civil suit in Fayette Circuit Court. The suit, centered on misdating of radiographs of Thoroughbreds at public auction, was brought by Illinois-based owner/trainer Tom Swearingen. Swearingen is suing Hagyard, Drs. Michael Hore, Robert Hunt, Dwayne Rodgerson, and Michael Spirito, as well as Lexington-based CPA/consulting firm Dean Dorton Allen Ford and up to 100 unidentified co-defendants who sold or consigned horses at Keeneland. A summary of the complaint is available here.
The lawsuit filed on February 7 in Fayette Circuit Court regarding several Hagyard Equine Medical Institute veterinarians is without merit. All of us at Hagyard are disappointed by the claims made by Tom Swearingen.
Mr. Swearingen's claim that Hagyard intentionally destroyed radiographs, and his suggestion this was done to cover something up, is not true. The fact is the radiograph units used by Hagyard take digital images, and those images are then transferred from the mobile radiograph unit with a limited storage capacity to a computer server, similar to how someone might download a song or other digital information. The radiographs are stored on Hagyard's servers in the exact condition as they were taken on the mobile radiograph unit. Kentucky regulations require radiographs to be maintained for five years. Hagyard's servers maintain radiographs longer than required by regulations.
It is true that some images were misdated by several days to fit within the sale requirements. Upon becoming aware of the issue in early 2018, our members unanimously decided to self-report the findings to the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners (“KBVE”). The review by the KBVE was thorough. The KBVE acknowledged “there was no evidence that any radiograph taken [by a Hagyard veterinarian] did not accurately reflect the condition of the horse” for sale purposes. Nevertheless, it should never have happened. We have taken measures to ensure it never happens again.
The problem originated as a workflow issue to generate a large volume of diagnostic quality images and prepare reports following multiple reviews of the images for each yearling entered into the Keeneland sale. Each set of repository x-rays requires a minimum of 36 separate images.
Radiographs are usually taken on the farms where the horses are located, which requires that experienced farm personnel gather the horses, veterinarians travel from farm to farm to take the radiographs, and personnel maneuver and hold a 1,000-pound animal in place while multiple radiographs are taken. All of this is accomplished while taking into account the safety of the horse and personnel.
Repository x-rays for yearling sales are designed to identify developmental changes that have occurred over the initial 15 to 21 months of the horse's life. In a yearling, those developmental changes will be revealed regardless of whether a radiograph is taken 21 days, or several additional days, prior to sale. That is why there is no standard in the industry as to how long before a sale a yearling should be radiographed. Keeneland requires that it take place within 21 days for its September sales, and 15 days for its January sales. Yearling sales by other companies allow varying periods of time, upward of 40 days prior to sale. Regardless, Keeneland's requirements should have been followed, and we regret they were not. Again, we have taken measures to prevent this issue from ever occurring again.
Hagyard will therefore vigorously defend itself and the industry from the claims of Mr. Swearingen. We recognize that accurate and reliable information from veterinarians is important to all stakeholders in the business of buying and selling horses. As a leader in the industry, we will do everything we can to ensure the integrity on our part of the process moving forward.
I have been a Hagyard veterinarian for twenty-two years. My great-great grandfather founded the practice in 1876 and I am the fifth generation of my family to work at Hagyard and am honored to be a part of the horse industry. For 143 years, Hagyard has been known for the highest quality services to the horses and our clients. We continue to be a pioneer in equine veterinary medicine. Hagyard is proud of its history and work and is gratified for its place in the thoroughbred industry.
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