A dog owner is suing veterinarians and their Tustin offices for $1 million and additional damages for allegedly threatening to report her for “animal cruelty” after she indicated she could not afford a $10,000 operation for her pooch “Mojo.” Karen Kelly filed the complaint in Orange County Superior Court against veterinarians John Michael Walters, Andrea Jane McDooling, Dayna Zane and Ravi Seshadri and Advanced Critical Care & Internal Medicine, Orange County Veterinary Specialists and Saint Jude Veterinary Enterprises.
The court action stems from Mojo getting hit by and dragged under a car on July 31, 2011, when Kelly rushed her dog to Advanced Critical Care, a 24-hour veterinarian hospital that has since closed. She claims she was told by each defendant that Mojo needed $10,000 surgery immediately.
She responded she could not afford that much, states her complaint, which adds a friend who accompanied her was also hit up for the cash but did not have it. The dog owner frantically tried to hit up friends from the vet office, including a Los Angeles Police Department employee who tried and failed to get approved for credit through the hospital, according to the suit.
Represented by Barry I. Besser of Orange, Kelly claims the vets and office staff would not allow her to go home and seek financial arrangements from there because they feared she would leave Mojo and never come back. But that they also would not let her take the injured dog so it could be seen by its primary vet the next morning, according to the suit.
If she took Mojo home, Kelly claims she was told, she would have to sign a form stating she refused to follow the medical advice given and be subject to being reported for animal cruelty. Her best three options, Kelly says she was told, were putting Mojo to sleep, pony up the ten grand or pay $1,500 to keep the dog there overnight–in addition to over $1,300 she says she was informed she already owned them for looking at the dog's wounds.
Kelly's suit adds that she took Mojo home–but only after having to sign a form stating she would return the next day to pay the full $1,300 tab or be sent to collections. Once she arrived in her residence, Kelly claims, she discovered a phone message had been left by Orange County Animal Control stating she was being investigated and faced fines, imprisonment or both with a conviction.
She never did pay the bill and, as promised, was sent to collections, according to the suit. While animal control dropped the case, Kelly claims she suffered emotional distress and was the victim of extortion.