Watchdog: Woman complains vet wouldn't help suffering dog

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

May 17, 2014 at 12:17 a.m.
Updated May 18, 2014 at 12:18 a.m.

Kara Harrison expected compassion when she walked into the Victoria Animal Hospital on Wednesday morning carrying a dying Chihuahua in her jacket.

Instead, she said she was denied services unless she forked over a couple hundred dollars.

She only had $20.

"I would have paid it," she said, fighting back tears. "If I had it, I would have paid."

The Victoria Animal Hospital sent a prepared statement via email.

"The well-being of all pets is always our priority. Unfortunately in this situation, the individuals left our facility before we were able to evaluate the pet's condition," Clem Cantu, the hospital manager, wrote. "We would have preferred the opportunity to evaluate the pet, but as the circumstance evolved, we were unable to. We wish the pet owner well and offer our best wishes to the good Samaritans involved in assisting this precious pet."

Harrison did not know she could have called the Victoria County Animal Control, which picks up stray or hurt animals, such as the one Harrison found on Laurent Street, 24/7 for free.

Its staff is certified to administer euthanasia if the animal is suffering, or they can call a veterinarian for treatment.

"We'll hold it for a day or two for a possible owner to come and claim it," said Heather Kern, a supervisor.

Its office at 122 Perimeter Road is open Monday through Friday. On the weekends, animal control can be reached by calling 361-573-3221.

Some area veterinarians, meanwhile, say that in situations such as the one involving the dying Chihuahua, their hands are often tied.

Bob Horton at the Town and Country Veterinarian clinic said he cannot legally euthanize an animal without the owner's permission because the owner may want to save it.

"It's no different than if a human minor went to the emergency room. They're not going to do much until they find the legal guardian," he said.

Horton added that records of use must be kept for the state and the manufacturer because the euthanasia drug is a controlled substance capable of sickening or killing humans, too.

Euthanizing a 10-pound dog costs about $100, but Horton works with those who cannot pay, depending on the situation.

Travis Schaar, a veterinarian at the Main Street Animal Hospital, meanwhile, was concerned he could be held liable if after putting down a dog, it was discovered the animal had bit someone, infecting them with rabies.

If someone is unwilling to accept responsibility for a stray, Schaar scans the dog for a microchip and boards it until Victoria County Animal Control, which is more equipped to quarantine and request necropsies, picks it up.

Victoria Animal Hospital staff relayed messages about costs. Harrison was told a veterinarian would not evaluate the dog unless she accepted financial responsibility.

"They basically stood back and looked at us like we were crazy. I don't understand how someone who practices medicine for animals can just deny a dog with a broken jaw and a crushed skull - but still has a heartbeat," she said.

She then took the dog to Adopt-A-Pet, where it died while being examined by a vet tech.

Adopt-A-Pet's veterinarian was performing a spay and neuter surgery but could have euthanized the dog. The nonprofit would have adjusted its budget to do so for free but recommends people in similar situations go to animal control instead, said Renee Wheeler, Adopt-A-Pet director.

That's because Adopt-A-Pet's veterinarian only works Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

"It's easy to throw stones," said Wheeler. "Unfortunately, some practices do have rules. If they didn't, they couldn't pay their bills."

Horton added: "One time, somebody told me we play God. We don't play God. We're here to help animals, and we do the best we can for them."

Reporter Bianca Montes contributed to this report.



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