Former vet tech sues Atascosa County, City of Pleasanton for retaliation, harassment

John Pena seeking damages for lost wages

ATASCOSA COUNTY, Texas – A former veterinary tech is accusing Atascosa County’s animal control chief of ignoring animal welfare concerns and costing him another job.

John Pena said he was hired as a vet tech with Atascosa County Animal Control in February 2022. He said the tension started building in June 2022.

“What did you see?” asked KSAT reporter Daniela Ibarra.

“I saw a lot,” said Pena.

In a federal lawsuit filed in February 2022, Pena said he raised concerns about what he believes was improper euthanasia.

“I started noticing there was a trend of that,” Pena explained. “And I finally drew the line when 22 cats were put down in one weekend, just a day or two after they had arrived at our facility.”

Pena said he spoke with the county’s animal control chief, Henry Dominguez.

“He basically said that this was a common thing at the facility, that this was a bleeding heart thing that I had going on, that I cared too much for these animals,” said Pena.

In the lawsuit, Pena accuses Dominguez of allowing employees to violate the department’s policy on how to treat animals.

Pena said a fellow vet tech failed to feed dogs and claims Dominguez accused him of theft of county services after he fostered a cat that needed surgery to be spayed.

“Every day was something new,” Pena said.

Pena left the county in May 2023 to work as a kennel manager for the City of Pleasanton. A few months later, he claims Dominguez conspired to get him fired by threatening to terminate a contract.

“It was retaliation all the way through,” said Dominguez.

In August, the Atascosa County judge said the Texas Attorney General’s Office found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Dominguez or Animal Control.

Pena wants accountability. He filed an EEOC complaint for discrimination.

He also said he wrote the lawsuit himself despite not having an attorney.

“I really want it to be a landmark case in the state of Texas,” he said. “And I know that’s a stretch, but I really want it to be something that people look back on and say, ‘Hey, let’s look at this case to see how these animals were treated and how we can fix this.’”

The City of Pleasanton declined to comment for this story.

KSAT reached out to Dominguez six times via email and phone but did not hear back.

About the Authors

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.

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