05/31/2009 11:00PM

Vet petitions state court in venom case


Dr. Rod Stewart, the veterinarian whose five-year suspension was recently upheld by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, has filed a petition in a Kentucky court seeking a judicial review of the commission's penalty.

Stewart's lawyers allege in the petition that the commission's five-year suspension "is not supported by substantial evidence, is arbitrary and capricious, and/or an abuse of discretion." Stewart filed the petition in Franklin Circuit Court in Frankfort, Ky.

Stewart was issued the five-year suspension in 2007 after investigators for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission conducted a search of his truck and Patrick Biancone's barn at Keeneland Racecourse. During the search, investigators discovered three vials of cobra venom, a neurotoxin that is used to deaden pain, along with doses of drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease in humans and unlabeled medications.

The petition reiterates arguments that Stewart's lawyers used in an unsuccessful appeal of the suspension at the commission level, claiming that cobra venom has a "recognized therapeutic use in horses"; that the possession of the drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease did not violate rules because they are approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration; and that Stewart was denied due process during the commission's adjudication of the case.

In addition, the petition states that the racing commission did not have the jurisdiction to search Biancone's barn, contending that rules in the state only allow commission investigators to conduct searches on "association grounds." The suit claims that the barn was not located on the grounds of Keeneland Racecourse.

Dick Powell, a spokesman for the racing commission, said on Monday that the commission does not comment on issues involving pending litigation.