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Texas A&M equine vet indicted last week was also named in two other lawsuits since 2017

Ashlee Watts was ultimately dropped as the defendant in one and the plaintiff stopped pursuing the other. They were both related to the same case.
Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 11:01 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Texas A&M veterinarian who was indicted on animal cruelty charges last week has had her treatment of horses questioned before, according to Brazos County court records.

According to the indictment, Ashlee Watts is accused of excessively using a cattle prod on a horse named Allie. She turned herself in to authorities Monday. The owner of another horse claims Watt mistreated and neglected her animal years earlier.

Ashlee Watts, 44, of College Station turned herself in to authorities Monday and was booked...
Ashlee Watts, 44, of College Station turned herself in to authorities Monday and was booked into the Brazos County Detention Center.(Mug shot provided by Brazos County Detention Center)

Dazzle was a young horse who was loved with all the heart of her owner, Heather Kutyba. When Dazzle was experiencing soreness in one of her front legs shortly after she was born, Kutyba took her to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine to be treated, where she’d been taking all her horses for the better part of three decades.

Dazzle was first treated by Watts in August of 2015. Instead of improving, Kutyba says Dazzle’s condition worsened while in Watts’ care.

“She was very painful. She had lost a lot of weight. She was having difficulty with mobility around the stall, and non-weightbearing on her hind limb,” Kutyba said. “Dazzle didn’t have hind limb issue when I took her there.”

Dazzle was ultimately euthanized in February of 2017 at only 20 months old. Kutyba sued Watts and the Texas A&M veterinary hospital for negligence and malpractice in September. She says one of the biggest problems she has was the lack of information she received from Watts while Dazzle was in her care. Kutyba also says there were multiple times Watts would not release Dazzle from the hospital upon her request.

“It was not a typical situation. We felt that accountability was really essential,” Kutyba. “We felt that in the interest of public protection that this could be repeated and that I had an obligation to speak. As somebody who was trusted, I felt like that the trust had been breached so badly that it could not and should not be ignored.”

Ultimately, Watts was dropped from the lawsuit because the law states the employer is liable for the actions of the doctor, and that only one party can held responsible. The court then dismissed the lawsuit because the judge ruled the damage suffered did not fall under the jurisdiction of state law.

“When I went into this, I knew this. I did it anyway, and I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do,” Kutyba said. “The judge at the time in the courthouse actually addressed Texas A&M and me in outrage regarding the insinuations that the veterinarians at the state hospital should not be held accountable for their actions or their patients. That really was a huge validating moment for me.”

Kutyba filed another fiduciary duty civil suit against Watts in 2020, but ultimately stopped pursuing it.

“If our state facility who houses our animals and provides supposedly the best veterinary medical care will stand up in a court of law and say that they don’t have to be essentially responsible for their patients because their patients are property, I don’t know what to say,” Kutyba said.

Kutyba says she painstakingly raised her carefully and judiciously. She says Dazzle was in a great deal of pain, and what she went through was unacceptable and truly tragic.

“This was a person that I trusted. I gave her one of the most important parts of my life, and the consequences of that I can never go back on,” Kutyba said. “Watching somebody you love fail and not be able to adequately help them, or even more so not understanding why this has occurred, what was the correlation, and how do you best address it, is extremely stressful.”

When she heard about the latest charges brought against Watts, Kutyba says she cried, as it was a very emotional moment for her. She also says it was very validating because it brings a higher level of scrutiny of Watts as a state licensee.

“On one hand, I feel like everything that I did was to protect others, and at times I’ve said that I have not done well enough. I did not do enough, but I’m not sure what else I could possibly do,” Kutyba said. “I believe if somebody had acted in my case that perhaps it would’ve given it an opportunity to protect others from perhaps this person. I of course can’t say for sure, but it’s a step forward.”

Watts is set to be arraigned in November for this more recent case.

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