BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI North Country This Week MASSENA -- Dr. Wilfredo Perez, the veterinarian who filed a notice of claim against the towns of Louisville and Massena along with nine fire departments …
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
MASSENA -- Dr. Wilfredo Perez, the veterinarian who filed a notice of claim against the towns of Louisville and Massena along with nine fire departments after his clinic burned down, has had his license to practice veterinary medicine temporarily suspended.
In an email sent to North Country This Week, officials with the vet clinic said Perez's license was temporarily suspended.
No reason was given for the suspension, however officials with the clinic say business will resume Dec. 28.
The clinic will also have a new veterinarian joining the staff in the new year, allowing the clinic "to provide our clients with quality care, later hours, faster service and weekend care," according to the email.
Perez was embroiled in controversy earlier this year when he obtained counsel and served notice to the municipalities and fire departments who responded to the fire at his clinic "for negligence and other related causes of action in light of the fact that the firefighters who responded, and the way they responded to the fire, created a special relationship with Dr. Perez such that liability attaches,” according to court documents.
According to court documents, Perez was seeking $4.5 million from the municipalities and fire departments.
The notice of claim is a legal prerequisite to bringing a lawsuit against a municipality.
Departments from Massena, Louisville, Akwesasne, Potsdam, Madrid, West Stockholm, Norfolk, Brasher-Winthrop and Waddington initially responded to the fire just after 3 a.m. on Oct. 28, 2022.
The fire then rekindled later that morning, leading to a total loss of the structure.
Departments who responded to the rekindle included Massena Louisville, Norfolk, Brasher-Winthrop, Madrid and Waddington responded, with Massena Volunteer Fire responding with an aerial truck as well, documents state.
With the filing, attorneys for Perez attempted to call into question why area fire departments that responded initially to the fire had removed their personnel and resources from the scene prior to the first rekindle around noon that day.
Documents also state, “upon information and belief, only the Louisville Fire Department responded to the second rekindling that occurred on Saturday, October 29, 2022. Thus, the aforementioned fire departments may bear some or all responsibility for the loss suffered by Dr. Perez.”
No injuries were reported but at least two dogs were lost in the fire.
Java Veterinary Center also offered boarding services for North Country Residents.
In an exhibit attached to the court documents, then Assistant Chief Patrick O’Brien of the Massena Volunteer Fire Department wrote a letter addressed to Dr. Perez, explaining the “Chief of Louisville Fire will make the final determination as to cause of the fire utilizing the investigative reports provided to him by the fire investigators from the St. Lawrence County Fire Investigation Team as well as the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control,” per New York State General Municipal Law §204-D.
O'Brien is now the chief of the volunteer fire department.
According to the letter, the clinic was within the Louisville Fire District, leading other departments to act in support of Louisville.
“The mutual aid departments responding to assist Louisville Fire are not involved in the cause and origin determination or subsequent fire investigation,” O’Brien wrote.
Following the fire, a GoFundMe was established, raising over $64,000 before the organizer disabled new donations.
In total, 532 people donated to rebuild the veterinary center.
Benefit events were also held shortly after, including a benefit dinner at Eyland's restaurant, the Massena Moose Lodge and a benefit Christmas concert.