Woman Sues Vet Clinic for Extortion After Trying to Hold Dog Hostage

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8.9.13 - Woman Sues Vet1

Tustin, California resident Karen Kelly is filing a whopping $1 million lawsuit against a veterinary clinic for threatening to have her arrested for animal cruelty because she could not afford a $10,000 surgery for her dog.

Karen’s terrier Mojo was struck and dragged by a car on July 31, 2011. She rushed him to Advance Critical Care and Internal Medicine to save his life. Initial treatments cost about $1,300, and she was told he required an operation immediately, but “there was no guarantee that Mojo would survive the surgery.”

Veterinarians explained it would cost $10,000, but Karen didn’t have anywhere close to that amount. She asked several friends to help, but none were able. She and a friend applied for credit at the clinic and were denied.

With no way to finance the surgery, Karen asked for her dog back so she could consult her regular vet. But they refused. She was given three options:

“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.”

In order to take Mojo home, Karen was forced to sign a form stating that she was going against their medical advice and that they were “going to report her to the authorities for ‘animal cruelty,’ which is a crime,” according to her lawsuit.

Karen also did not have the $1,308 at the time. Again, 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.”

Karen would not be able to pay the following day either, but signed under duress, knowing it was the only way to keep Mojo from being held hostage.

The next day while Karen was at work, Orange County Animal Control left a note on the door, informing her they were conducting an investigation of animal cruelty on her. They later dropped their case after, according to the lawsuit, Karen had “already been put through severe stress and emotional distress.”

San Francisco attorney Corey Evans said under the California Veterinary Medical Practice Act, an owner’s legal obligation to provide medical care to an injured pet depends on the situation. Allowing them to suffer may be considered animal cruelty, but a vet cannot just hold the animal if the owner would like to take the dog to another facility. State law requires vets 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.”

Karen is suing Advance Critical Care for civil extortion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Because of the pending suit, she declines to publicly comment, and directs questions to her attorney, Barry Besser.

Besser is investigating individual veterinarians from the clinic, which was bought and renamed by new owners in 2012. Dayna Zane, the veterinarian on Mojo’s record (who no longer works there), will likely be listed, but the lawsuit will not be served until all defendants are named.

Though it is unclear what minor treatments he may have received, it turns out that Mojo did not undergo any surgeries, and is alive and well today.

 

Some might grumble, “well, she shouldn’t have a dog if she can’t afford it!” However, not everyone has $10,000 just sitting around in case of emergencies. They’d like to, but it just isn’t possible. What is possible is giving animals the best homes and lives with what they have. Telling poor people they simply shouldn’t have pets is, for many, akin to saying poor people shouldn’t be allowed to have children. Being poor is hardly ideal, but thousands of animals have been saved from abuse and euthanasia and are living well in poor homes.

The problem is not about being poor. The problem is that most veterinarians do not offer payment plans. They want cash or credit on the spot, as if everyone has credit cards with unlimited funds. How many animals are forced to be put down every year because the vets’ policy is “all money up front or none at all?” It’s time for a change so pets and their owners don’t have to suffer because of outrageous veterinarian fees and policies.

 

 

34 thoughts on “Woman Sues Vet Clinic for Extortion After Trying to Hold Dog Hostage”

  1. I have been a veterinary technician for over 30 years. For 12 of those I worked in Emergency Medicine. Over the 30 years I have worked with close to 200 vets. In all that time, I have never worked with a vet or in a clinic that would treat a client or pet like that. That is disgusting. BUT, $1,000,000?!?! Come on! File a charge for malpractice or a complaint with the California Licensing Board. Though suing for a million is the American way.

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    • I thought $1 million was a lot, too, but after attorney’s fees, you’re really not left with much. And think about it – if she wins, I bet she’ll get pet insurance or start a bank account for pet emergencies! =)

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      • Well you never know what people will do with money. What is the truth is that the attorney’s will be the only ones that ‘win’ here.
        Usually the fees are a percentage of the ‘winnings’ after expenses, so even a smaller amount would net her quite a bit.
        I do think the amount is high though considering the vet that did this is no longer with the practice. Certainly reporting the vet to the board is warranted. Not sure what destroying the new practice will do.

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    • You have no clue what it’s like to file a lawsuit against a veterinarian. They will extort YOU, threaten YOU, harass YOU and make you the victim twice.

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      • I BET. THEY ARE TOTALLY UNREGULATED
        YOU REPORT THEM TO THE LICENSING BODY AND NOTHING HAPPENS!!!!

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        • i went thru the same issue , last night, still in shock…. fear, humiliation… panic, still trying to give my cat electrolytes…. not much sleep,,, this greed IS SICKENING!!!!!! UNJUST!!

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    • I don’t know, I probably would. I mean, think about it, your dog has just been hit, they tell you up front that it is going to cost you $10,000 to treat the dog (which is absurd in the first place!) and then the try to hold YOU and your dog hostage!

      I would be pissed too and want this place shut down. I would sue for that but we ALL know whe won’t get near that much.

      This clinic doesn’t sound like they are very interested in the welfare of animals and more about making money.

      What a bunch of douchebags.

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  2. PJ, I think she’s suing for 1 million dollars to make a statement and to force this particular vet into bankruptcy so they can’t do this to anyone else. Most likely this will go to settlement, and I am hoping that she gets an amount that is tantamount to bankruptcy, these people should not be in business.

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    • Complaining to the Licensing Board would prevent the vet from practicing again – going bankrupt won’t. And the vet at the centre of the allegations no longer works at that practice.

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      • The vet in question is no longer practicing at that particular clinic, but I’m sure he is practicing elsewhere. A complaint to the Licensing Board may only get him a suspension, where the lawsuit may determine that his license needs to be revoked.

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      • Reporting to the licensing board, just for a head’s up doesn’t always work-. I had a legitimate case, but I was given a big wave off. I think many boards are as corrupt as the Vets themselves and may even contact the ones that complaint are filed against and offer to let them pay their way out of them if you know what I mean. I think that is what happened to me.

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        • I AGREE> I HAVE HAD NO SUCCESS WITH REPORTING NEGLIGENT PRACTICES (NOT WEIGHTING/OVERDOSING A PET CAUSING DEATH) AND OVERPRESCRIBING INSULIN KILLING A CAT. NOTHING HAPPENS> CATS DON”T MATTER. OBV.

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  3. I understand loving your pet and not wanting to put it down. I do not agree with what the vet did but I believe if you have a pet then you are responsible for their care, no matter what the cost. I see she was willing to have her dog treated. Two evils do not make a right. It is truly corrupt to sue for that much money. Both actions are corrupt. One cannot seek justice with revenge. You can contact for malpractice but this suing is uncalled for and injustice.

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    • THIS IS NOT A VET SERVICE, THIS IS A RACKET, THESE ARE CRIMIALS WEARING VET COATS AS A DISGUISE. IF YOU DONT MAKE A PUNISHMENT HURT THE CRIMINAL THEY WILL ONLY DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN WITH BETTER WAYS OF DOING IT. YOU DO THE CRIME YOU DO THE RIME.

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  4. In general, I disagree with lawsuits like this and the ridiculous amounts; no one wins except the lawyers. But in this case, I think it is justified. What this vet practice did is beyond unethical and they need to be held accountable. A $10,000 surgery and the dog ultimately required nothing surgical? And holding the dog hostage like that? Total extortion. I’m in her camp. I hope the vet clinic pays dearly. They should be put out of business if this is representative of their business practices.

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  5. for those worried about the vet or the practice going bankrupt, I would be very surprised if both didn’t have malpractice insurance. As an RN, I carry enough to cover a million.

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  6. I hope she wins the lawsuit!! This vet should not be treating peoples precious pets!! I have read articles where vets complained that the reason it cost so much to teat a pet is it was like any other business.So if any other business does you wrong you sue them!!If you were treated that way by a medical doctor you would sue them too!! Pets are part of our family.What kind of vet does this to someone who’s pet was hurt and needed help.I myself carry pet ins.on both my dogs.But not many people can come up with that large amount of money.I believe she is suing more to make a point.Anyone who owns and loves a pet knows how much stress and pain she went through.I don’t blame her. for her lawsuit.We have an emergency vet hospital here too.I don’t trust their practices either.Its onlt 5 min from my home.I would never take my dogs back there.The only thing they care about is how much money they can get out of you.The first thing they want is a credit card.I ended up paying a huge bill for my puppy.They did all these tests that my dog didn’t need and charged me a fortune.When our vet opened on Monday she couldn’t believe what they did to my puppy.They exploded something in his leg.It was swelled 3x its size.Also tried to send him somewhere else for test that were not needed .Saying to me well what he had might come back.My vet said it was all unnecessary.Our pet ins at the time was Aspca and they would only pay for $286.of the $3025 bill.They said it was all inflated way too much.I will never take my dogs there.In fact one of the test made him so much worse he needed a blood transfusion.My friend took her sick dog ther e and they wanted $2500 before they looked at him She didn’t have it.Her dog ended up dead.Our local news people act like they are the greatest.Trust me they are not at all.So its time someone wins against these miserable money grabbers.Thankfully I have a great vet .But I will go miles to another emergency place.

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