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 β€œall 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. My dog has to suffer after being hit by a car,vets want money and i dont have that much now,so they denied treatment for him,im so sad,need help with this! Thats unfair to us

  2. Something VERY similar happened to me recently only my different state different city. My EMERGENCY PET CENTER took it even further by calling the police to come to the clinic and arrest me because I demanded to see my dog who was lifeless and on the brink of death following a very difficult surgery. I had prepaid 5000$ honestly w/o knowing exactly where my money was being applied…only that my dog would certainly die with my son and myself there if I didn’t comply. Fortunately I came up with the money In an extremely emotional and OMG moment. When I went to see my dog the owner refused to even let me see my dog unless I paid him 1000$ more. As incredulous and outrageous and unethical as that was I maintained my composure responded I’m here to see my dog I’m not going to argue with you over a bill now. (Some of the charges I had prepaid had been done and I was told on the front end anything charged to my card would be credited no problem) but as I feared I had a dying dog I was not there to argue the money or demand an explanation…merely to see my dog. When he don’t to refuse. I said I AM going to see my dog and I AM NOT paying you another dime before I do. I pushed past him. Found my dog laying lifeless with an injured leg that was not injured prior in a LOCKED glass enclosed room. I told the owner and PLEADED with ANY of his staff to unlock the door and let me hold my dog. None would and he said the police are on there way here to arrest you. I said that is fine let me hold my dog. I thought him probably dead at this point. I finally found the key got in the room sat on the floor and cradled his head rockng him and crying hysterically. This is how the 2 police officers found me. One officer almost couldn’t stand to witness the seen and called his sergeant who said she is abs entitled to leave with her dog. Upon being told this the owner went further into a crazy rage yelling at the officers calling the sergeant screaming crazy things like he would have their badges and “this wasn’t a McDonald’s where you could return it if you didn’t like your happy meal”. And he would have officers “who would do their job and arrest me the next day”….It took the police one hour to bust me and my dog out of there. Finally them saying we are leaving with her and her dog. I was grateful they were there.The owner forced us to leave the back entrance my dog could barely walk to the front where my car was. the officers assisted me helping get him in my car. We had to leave w/o pain meds which were paid inc in my prepay and when my parents returned later that night and asked kindly for enough pills to get him thru the night til I could get him to my reg vet the next day. They were told no..not unless I came to pay the 1000$ he claimed I owed. These are the facts..they are criminal. But not on my part. I cared for my dog thruout the night and my vet spent 3 hrs the next day treating his injured leg taking pictures of it and him. His prognosis is not good which is SAD And so unfair for a TRULY wonderful and beautiful 6 yr old dog who is part of our family. And NO ONES fault. His illness is not the crime…the extortion method of this clnic owner is the crime. He should NOT be allowed to remain in business. Ive taken no legal action. But it is the only recourse an individual has. Our vet community should force him out of business by referring to the other ER clinic our city has. I can only do so much by word of mouth. ACCOUTABILITY has to be demanded. At least the officers who had to waste an hour half of their Thursday evening will help me tell my story I’m sure.

  3. Me again. You are unaware these things go on until it happens to you. Those of you who think this woman is in it for the money are not familiar at all with lawsuits and how they work. She will receive very little in the end. She achieved her goal of forcing that owner to change hands and the vets involved to quit. It was her only voice. I was physically sick once home with Hershey. If individuals abdicate accountability over $ which most of the time is the reason they do…there should be some form of consequence. Especially when it is in the care of sick individuals or animals. At least humans have a voice and can tell someone what is happening. We are our pets only voice.

  4. My total now stands at appx 5800$ and we r not done. Those of you who say don’t go. You are saying just write him off which is an almost impossible thing to do when you your kids your family are emotionally attached to a pet. You are encouraged to get pet insurance but some of us have spent money to aquire the dog or cat…are spending a lot that first year in shots spaying neutering typical 1st year expenses. In reading the coverage exclustivities you question if it’s money wasted. Because it’s not like people ins. It’s designed to make money not pay out. So honestly pet ins is a crap shoot.

  5. vets are thieves! they will charge 30 pounds for a 10 min visit. there is No excuse good enough to justify that! and it wouldn’t be so bad if at least finding out whats wrong with your pet was guaranteed. not treating it, which I personally think they should for all the money they make, but to be totally fair lets just say that all that money should at least buy you a correct diagnosis. No, not even that. you can walk in and back out of their clinics and hospitals with empty pockets, a dead pet and not a clue why…
    I am convinced that most times they will not completely treat a condition just to make you return 10 days later and charge you all over again.

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