Maine Veterinary Medical Center receives death threats over injured dog

dr Ezra Steinberg operates on a dog at Maine Veterinary Medical Center on Monday in Scarborough. The animal hospital is facing a barrage of criticism and threats following news reports of a customer who gave up her pet to another owner because she couldn’t pay $10,000 for surgery. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

SCARBOROUGH — Scarborough, Maine Veterinary Medical Center has been receiving death threats after a news story went viral about a customer who surrendered her injured puppy to the facility because she could not afford the $10,000 bill.

The story went viral on WGME-TV about a dog named Jaxx, whose owner surrendered him when she could not afford to pay for his emergency surgery. The woman later tried to reclaim him, but a new owner had adopted the dog.

The hospital received numerous calls and had resorted to turning off the phones due to them ringing nonstop, according to staff, many of the calls were death threats they said. Hospital employees had to go through all the voicemail messages to see if anyone was calling with a real pet emergency.

“We were naïve,” said the Maine Veterinary Medical Center in their statement. “We had no idea the story would be so malignant not only our hospital and our caring doctors or staff, but by extension, our profession. In this era of viral ‘news’ and sensational journalism, our staff are now faced with a social medial maelstrom that includes hourly threats to burn down the hospital and kill our staff and their families. We’ve had to have police guarding the hospital around the clock. Our phone line has been deliberately jammed so that real emergency calls cannot get through.”

“The language that has been used against our staff is vile and vulgar,” according to the statement. “The hate that has been unleashed due to this shoddy news story and the concomitant lies spread through social media are shocking.” The statement commented on the WGME news story, stating that the story was inaccurate and that they had the documents to prove it.

According to the statement sent out by the Maine Veterinary Medical Center on June 11, the owner of Jaxx brought her four-month-old German Shepard into their hospital. Based on their examination, the puppy had an infection and fever, was experiencing pain, and had been suffering for at least 24-48 hours before seeing them. They said Jaxx’s owners assured them he had not gotten into anything he should not have.

The dog stayed overnight while the hospital ran further tests. Their ultrasound report said a skewer appeared inside the dog, piercing his intestines and liver. According to the document, around 9:30 am, the owner was contacted; they discussed a medical plan for his surgery which was around $9,585.57 to $10,086.41, including the balance for the overnight medications and care. The owner told the hospital she would speak to her fiancé and call them back. The hospital called her back and told her a 50 percent deposit would allow the doctor to begin the surgery. The owner told the hospital they would be applying for a bank loan.

Unable to get a bank loan, the owner chose to surrender the puppy to save him from being euthanized.

“While surrendering a pet is a last resort, our priority is always saving the animal, said the Maine Veterinary Medical Center. “It is unfortunate and heartbreaking for this pet owner that she did not have the means to cover this emergency. It is, however, a credit to our dedicated staff that another option to save the puppy was explored. The pet owner signed a legal document surrendering ownership. That document also ensures the privacy of the new owner and based on the social media vitriol that has run wild since the news story aired, we’re thankful for that.”

The puppy is recovering from the surgery in its new home.

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