A veterinarian in Liberty has been charged after deputies say he struck a dog in a video clip that was shared on social media.
64-year-old Dr. Robert James McKee of Foothills Animal Hospital in Liberty is charged with ill treatment of an animal by the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies began an investigation Tuesday after a short video of the incident was posted on social media during Memorial Day weekend.
Investigators say that led them to a witness who shot the video.
Dr. McKee is accused of striking a dog that was contained in a wire kennel on May 24 inside Foothills Animal Hospital on Moorefield Memorial Highway. The witness said after observing McKee’s behavior they were able to set up their phone in time to record the incident in a video that lasts approximately six seconds.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, the witness called the dog’s owner after the incident. Dr. McKee says the dog was in his custody at the time. He said he “doesn’t know anything about” a witness calling the dog’s owner.
Deputies say there was no evidence from the investigation that indicates striking the animal was defensive or in response to aggressive or violent behavior by the dog.
Investigators say there were no signs of physical injury detected by the owner when the pet was picked up. Deputies report there have been no previous complaints against Dr. McKee or the animal hospital.
Matthew Craig posted the video on Facebook a few days after Dr. McKee treated his dog. Former employees at the clinic tell 7News the video shows how Dr. McKee has been treating animals in his care for years.
“A lady who I’m friends with had contacted me and texted the video to me, and said, ‘they finally caught him doing what he does,'” Craig said.
The former employees spoke with 7News on the condition of anonymity.
Dr. McKee spoke with 7News on the phone. He said the dog in the video was an 18 week old puppy who had been found in the culvert out in front of his office.
He says he was “trying to rehabilitate” her and get her barking under control. He said he used physical force as a part of his own dogs’ training. He calls the charge “devastating,” but he felt he was acting appropriately at the time.
“It made me mad. Really mad…because they don’t have a means to get out of there.”
Dr. McKee says he doesn’t believe he is a danger to the animals he sees and uses only three fingers when he disciplines his own dogs. Former employees tell us he used more than three fingers and lays hands on other people’s dogs, too.
“I definitely wanted some change, whether it was being charged or just being recognized for what was happening, and then the right avenues being taken to get a change started… I don’t think I wanted him to do business anymore,” Craig says.
The doctor was arraigned before a Pickens County Magistrate and was released on a $3,000 recognizance bond.
He is still practicing. There are no formal complaints against Dr. McKee’s veterinary license, according to the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.
The ill treatment of an animal charge is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine for a first offense.
If you have an experience with Foothills Animal Hospital you would like to share, you can reach reporter Anne Maxwell at AMaxwell@wspa.com.