A former pet owner says a Victoria veterinary hospital pressured them to give up their puppy whose care they couldn’t afford.
“We never met the vet, we were never in the hospital, and we never saw him again,” said Lynn Macfarlane, remembering the day she and her husband felt forced to surrender their nine-week old puppy, Murphy.
After only a week of having Murphy at home, Lynn says she tripped and fell on the puppy.
“After a minute or two, there was no indication Murphy was hurt at all,” said Doug Macfarlane, Lynn’s husband. “It was out of an abundance of caution we took him in.”
Hours later, they say the Central Victoria Animal Hospital told them Murphy was in critical condition, likely needing surgery, with a cost of at least $10,000 with a 50/50 chance of survival.
“We don’t feel like we had informed consent. We didn’t feel like we had the whole story, but yet we were under pressure to make the decision right now,” said Doug.
He said the couple was not told they could get a second opinion, just take the dog home, or possibly, even pay in installments.
Central Victoria Animal Hospital refused to comment to CHEK’s multiple requests for comment.
But the B.C. College of Veterinarians told CHEK News they reviewed Murphy’s file and believe that the dog was treated appropriately and communications appeared to be clear around surrendering ownership.
However, the Macfarlanes say the hospital only gave them three options: pay for surgery, surrender to a donor who could pay the medical bills, or put Murphy down.
With no pet insurance and no immediate access to the funds, they surrendered Murphy to a donor: the Victoria Humane Society.
Murphy’s medical records obtained by CHEK News indicate Murphy’s health was touch-and-go. As veterinarians tried to figure out just exactly what was wrong with him over a period of a week, a better idea of the extent of his injuries, and his recovery, started to emerge.
Murphy suffered internal bleeding, a partially collapsed lung, four fractured ribs, and a dangerous build-up of fluid in his lungs.
As Murphy’s new guardian, the Victoria Humane Society covered his medical bills, which currently amount to over $10,000 and growing.
“He didn’t get the operation, but the bill was that high,” said the Humane Society’s executive director Penny Stone, referring to the initial quote his previous owners were given. “You don’t know until you do tons and tons of diagnostics.”
Against all odds, Murphy pulled through.
But it was when his original owners, the Macfarlanes, saw his health updates on the Victoria Humane Society’s Facebook page, they began to have second thoughts about the process, and asked the organization for Murphy back, and to pay for his vet bills through a payment plan.
However, the Victoria Humane Society refused, saying that’s a slippery slope.
“We’re not here to finance people’s dog’s and cat’s injuries. It sets a terrible precedent. We’re here for when animals have no other choice,” said Stone.
“The reality is medical surrenders are every rescue’s worst nightmare because these things always happen, people always want someone to take on the risk, then if it works out, they want their animal back. But what if Murphy died?”
And as the Victoria Humane Society sticks to its policy, they are facing serious backlash online.
“Basically these people have incited a mob to come after us, they have posted our numbers, they have posted our addresses, and told people to come after us and destroy us,” said Stone.
She says one of the Humane Society’s cars was forced off the road, threats have been made against her and her family members, and online Facebook groups are targetting her personally.
As a result, Stone says the Humane Society has started a police file with Saanich Police.
“It’s so sad because at the end of the day this was just about saving a dog, and unfortunately what it’s become is a smear campaign and nobody wins here,” said Stone.
“At the end of the day, we saved Murphy’s life…and even with everything going on, I would do it again.”
Stone and the Victoria Humane Society have hired lawyers against the libel/slander and harassment that’s happening online and in person.
Meanwhile, the Macfarlanes say they’re committed to getting their dog back.