So here’s the story:
1. Person takes sick pet to vet.
2. Person cannot afford care/diagnostics, so vet makes best guess as to condition.
3. In lieu of euthanasia, vet offers to take pet and whatever happens, happens.
4. Pet gets better with care. Hooray!
5. Vet finds good home for pet. Updates Person 1 expecting her to be happy the pet is alive and well. (uh oh)
6. Person 1 wants dog back. Vet says, OK, pay the costs we incurred, and you can have her.
7. Person 1 refuses, then sues.
I cannot tell you how often this happens, unfortunately. This is one of the reasons so many vets are hesitant to take in relinquishments at all. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think we had some sort of chance at saving the dog or cat and were willing to eat the costs of care to give it a go; yet when the pet makes their miraculous recovery, boom, the owner wants their pet back. I think the offer was very reasonable in this case- pay for the expenses incurred, and you can have the pet. Basically, here- take this lottery ticket, but you only have to pay me if you win.
Hurlbut said Heitmiller was not able to make a diagnosis without further tests, so she presented as many options as she could to Bergstrom, including taking the puppy home to monitor it.
And the owner still wasn’t happy. She claims the vet made a misdiagnosis (a word to the wise- any diagnosis at all is difficult when owners decline all diagnostic tests) therefore, the vet should reimburse her.
Hurlbut said his office manager did offer to return the puppy to Bergstrom if she would pay for the care the puppy had received when Heitmiller took it home, but Bergstrom refused. From Bergstrom’s perspective, since she had already paid $220 for veterinary care, she said she thought it was ridiculous that she would be asked to pay more.
From my perspective, I pay my gas company $50 a month. When my bill arrived for $100 I thought that was ridiculous since I had already paid $50. Strangely enough they didn’t like my argument that I should be able to dictate what my bill is. If I want my power back on I need to pay the rest of the bill.
We had a string of unfortunate incidences at my prior place of employment at an ER. It wound up being Relinquishment as Insurance: I only pay and take the pet back if the pet survives. Otherwise, I owe nothing. It got to the point where our relinquishment form stated clearly “You will NOT receive any updates on your pet once relinquished.” It was amazing how many people who absolutely couldn’t afford $400 on the 50/50 chance a pet would make it would suddenly find $700 on the 100% chance of survival. That is not how it’s supposed to work.
And there is that tired old misdiagnosis argument- geez doc, if you had properly diagnosed the pet to begin with I would have paid it! Surely if you have told me with 100% certainty your diagnosis and prognosis based on the physical exam which was the only thing I had allowed you to do, then I would have agreed to everything. This is your fault.
I have taken in exactly one relinquishment in my career. Mulan. It breaks my heart, but stories like this have made me emotionally and financially unwilling to risk this outcome.
And the unfortunate result is, next time a similar case presents to this vet, the puppy will probably be euthanized.