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Woman Accused of Cruelty After Refusing Dog Surgery

california veterinary lawsuit civil extortion emotional distress

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#1 Hum

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 00:54

A Tustin, California, woman is suing a veterinary office for $1 million, alleging they used extortion by threatening to report her for animal cruelty when she couldn't pay for a $10,000 surgical procedure for her dog. :huh:

Karen Kelly's dog, Mojo, was hit and dragged under a car on July 31, 2011, Kelly claims in a lawsuit filed with the California Superior Court in Orange County. She rushed the dog to Advanced Critical Care and Internal Medicine Inc., a 24-hour veterinary facility in Tustin, the court filing states.

She signed an estimate and authorization for services after being asked to do so, according to the lawsuit. She was told "immediate surgery" was needed to save Mojo's life, costing $10,000, but "that there was no guarantee that Mojo would survive the surgery," according to the court filing.

She explained that she did not have $10,000 and called several friends to see if they could come up with the money, but none could, states the lawsuit, which adds one friend applied for credit at the center and was declined.

Kelly, who is suing for civil extortion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, declined to comment to ABC News and directed questions to her attorney.

Her attorney, Barry Besser, said he is investigating which veterinarians from the practice, which was bought by new owners and renamed in 2012, will be named as defendants. Until then, the lawsuit has not yet been served.

The veterinarian who saw Mojo, according to the dog's medical record, Dayna Zane, no longer works at the location and declined to comment to ABC News.

One of the alleged former owners of Advanced Critical Care and Internal Medicine Inc. did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Kelly, according to the lawsuit, "then insisted that she be allowed to go home and bring back a check, but the defendants refused, "stating that they were afraid [Kelly] would abandon the dog and not come back." She also asked to bring Mojo home that day so she could bring the animal to her own veterinarian in the morning, the filing states.

The defendants refused, giving her "three options," the court filing states: "1) Put the dog to sleep 2) Pay the $10,000 3) Keep the dog in critical care overnight, which would cost $1,500 in addition to what the defendants were going to charge [Kelly] for what they had already done, which was in the sum of $1,308.75."

The defendants also told Kelly that "if she insisted on taking her dog home, that she would have to sign a form that it was against" their medical advice, "and that they were going to report her to the authorities for 'animal cruelty,' which is a crime," the lawsuit states.

In the lawsuit, Kelly claims she did not have the funds to pay the $1,308.75 bill. She was "required to and forced to sign an agreement to pay said amount in full the very next day, or she would be turned over to collections," the lawsuit states.

"[Kelly] signed the agreement under severe duress, as that was the only way that she could get her dog back, even though she knew that she would not be able to pay the entire amount in full by the following day," the lawsuit states.

Dr. Peter Weinstein, executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association, said most veterinarians understand the cost of veterinary care is something for which many people do not budget.

"Beyond the animal's basic welfare, any surprises like dog poison, getting hit by a car or eating panty hose, can run into specific costs and is not expected," he said. "We hope to work with pet owners so a pet gets the best care possible, understanding the cost of providing care."

Weinstein said many people don't fully understand the cost of human health care, if they are exposed mainly to insured care, and are surprised by the cost of animal medical care.

"When you try to compare apples to apples, it is really hard to do," he said. Only a small percentage of pet owners have health insurance for their animals.

Weinstein added that veterinary practices fit more into small business than health care centers for people, and typically require upfront payment, usually cash, check or credit card. However, many veterinarians, including himself, have accepted bartering for owners over time who can not afford to care for their animals' medical care.

"I got signed litograph from an artist for neutering his dog," Weinstein said.

Weinstein adds that pet owners should ask veterinary practices about third party options for payment such as Care Credit.

Weinstein said a misconception that many pet owners have is that veterinary facilities are very profitable.

"Like many small businesses, their overhead costs are huge and profits are nowhere near where healthcare costs are in other parts of the field," Weinstein said.

After Mojo was released to Kelly, she received a final notice from the defendants for $1,308.75, which was turned over to a collection agency, the lawsuit states.

The day after Mojo was hit by a car, an agent from the County of Orange animal control came to her home when she was not home and attached a notice to her door, indicating that they were investigating an allegation of animal cruelty. Later animal control dropped the case against her, after, the lawsuit claims, Kelly had "already been put through severe stress and emotional distress."

The dog is still alive, according to Besser. It's unclear what treatment it received after leaving the animal hospital.

Corey Evans, an attorney in San Francisco who focuses on animal issues and is not involved in this case, said under the California Veterinary Medical Practice Act, whether or not an owner is legally obligated to provide medical care for an injured dog depends on the situation.

He said while an animal is typically considered the property of its owner, allowing an animal to suffer may be considered animal cruelty. However, a veterinarian cannot generally keep an injured animal without the owner's permission if the owner wishes to take the dog to another medical facility.

State law indicates that licensees of the Veterinary Medical Board have a "duty" to report animal cruelty if they have "reasonable cause to believe an animal under its care has been a victim of animal abuse or cruelty".

"Everybody who has a dog and cares for a dog has a legal duty not to neglect the dog," Evans said.

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#2 Rigby

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 00:57

"Woman Accused of Cruelty After Refusing Dog Surgery"

 

I don't blame her, I wouldn't want to have dog surgery either. :p

 

Seriously though, I love pets too but I wouldn't spend $10,000 on a dog.



#3 Rohdekill

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 00:59

Years ago it was considered cruel not to put the animal down.  Now, it's cruel if you don't go in debt to save an animal that "might" survive.  Pathetic times we live in.



#4 siah1214

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 01:05

She was given the option of putting it down, she chose not to. 

 

That would have been the right thing to do here: if you can't afford to take care of the animal, you need to put it down.



#5 OP Hum

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 01:07

^ Say that when your dog is dying.



#6 zhangm

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 01:21

She was given the option of putting it down, she chose not to.



That would have been the right thing to do here: if you can't afford to take care of the animal, you need to put it down.


I think that would be correct - if you are willing to accept that the clinic will be honest in all cases. In this case, the clinic was not willing to release the animal for a second diagnosis without some form of concession (monetary OR implied criminal complaint), so I side with the claim of extortion.

#7 Anibal P

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 01:26

I think that would be correct - if you are willing to accept that the clinic will be honest in all cases. In this case, the clinic was not willing to release the animal for a second diagnosis without some form of concession (monetary OR implied criminal complaint), so I side with the claim of extortion.

 

Yep, sounds like extortion to me



#8 Growled

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 13:34

Just a terrible predicament to be in, either way. I hope I never have to make that call.



#9 ozgeek

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 12:39

She was given the option of putting it down, she chose not to. 

 

That would have been the right thing to do here: if you can't afford to take care of the animal, you need to put it down.

 

So we, humans, decide what animals can and can't live based on money. This is what happens if you keep animals as pets. They are living animals. A living mammal, an organism with a heart, brain, kidneys, bone and blood, just like us, yet we enslave them for human gratification.

 

I do not own any pets because I do not believe in owning an animal or anything that is living. Imagine that YOU are the dog. Would you like to be bought, caged or fenced, only to be in places your master tells you, you don't get to explore the world. That is their world as they now know it.



#10 +techbeck

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 12:43

10 grand is a bit much and not sure if he would even survive.  The humane thing to do is put the dog down.

 

And she wanted to take the dog home?  Seriously?  Uhhh, yea you mam are an idiot.  The dog was critically injured and suffering.  She should of just did the hard thing, put the dog to sleep.



#11 +techbeck

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 12:44

^ Say that when your dog is dying.

 

No one said it would be easy.  I had to put down an animal before because she had cancer.  No cure and she was in pain.  One of the hardest things I had to do but I knew it was the best thing for her.



#12 ozgeek

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 12:46

No one said it would be easy.  I had to put down an animal before because she had cancer.  No cure and she was in pain.  One of the hardest things I had to do but I knew it was the best thing for her.

 

Now do the same to a human being with cancer.



#13 siah1214

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 13:06

Christ dude, what do you think happens to animals in the wild? What if that animal wasn't a pet?  They'd get cancer and die a horrible painful death, and probably be torn apart by the first predator to find them in their weakened state. 

If a stray (in your opinion, free from the slavery and bondage of humans) were hit by a car, what happens? Does it get taken to an animal hospital?  Does it get any sort of treatment? No, mother nature puts it down. And mother nature is an ######, so it dies slowly bleeding out in the street. 

 

I swear some people just abandon all rationality when it comes to "animals rights"



#14 +techbeck

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 13:16

Now do the same to a human being with cancer.

 

Are you trying to compare a human to an animal?



#15 Crisp

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 13:25

Does pet insurance not exist in the US?