A New Jersey woman said a veterinarian's office claimed to euthanize her family's sick dog, but instead kept her beloved pet alive for another five months without notifying her.
Keri Levy told NJ.com that the Howell veterinarian's office even called her to say Caesar -- a 15-year-old miniature pinscher -- was "at peace" and that she could pick up his collar after the alleged procedure in May. But after a call from a tipster at the vet's office, she found out that someone at the office had taken Caesar home, never even providing the pup with any care for its condition.
"Awful, just awful," Levy told NJ.com "Imagine having to tell a 9-year-old and a 10-year-old this. My 9-year-old was like, 'When can I see him?'"
Levy said Monday that she had made the difficult decision to put Caesar down in May after the vet told her that the pup had Cushing's disease, an endocrine ailment that is typically caused by tumors. She said it was too painful to be there for the procedure, so she decided to wait until afterward to pick up her pet's collar.
Five months later, Levy said in a now-deleted Facebook post that she got a tip from someone at the clinic -- which recently changed ownership -- that Caesar may still be alive.
She said she confronted the practice, asking for a cremation receipt or any other records showing that Caesar had been put down. When the owner of the clinic -- who had bought the practice from the vet who originally claimed to have put down Cesar -- didn't have any answers, she called police and the New Jersey SPCA.
She wrote that the original vet clinic owner called her a short time later, telling her that Caesar was still alive and living with a woman who used to work at the office.
Howell Police Detective Sgt. Christian Autunez said in a statement that the veterinarian had allowed an employee at the office assisting in the euthanization procedure to take Cesar home.
"This employee wanted to do so out of compassion for the dog and a dog and a desire to rehabilitate his health, albeit without the owner's consent," said Autunez.
That vet didn't respond to requests seeking comment from NJ.com.
The office employee brought the dog back to the vet's office, and Levy wrote that the pup was in much worse condition than when she brought him in to be euthanized five months earlier, though Howell police, who were there for the exchange, dispute that.
"There has been mention over social media that Cesar was suffering but at the time of the dog's return, officers and the detective investigating found the dog to be in good spirits, and no obvious signs of neglect were apparent," said Autunez, adding that the Monmouth County SPCA will investigate the care the dog was given over the last five months.
Levy claimed that when she received Cesar, his bones were deteriorated, he smelled from a skin condition, was blind in one way and had several masses on his body.
Levy said that once she was reunited with Caesar, she had to go through the same painful conversation with her new vet about putting the dog down; the animal was actually euthanized that same day.
"We now have to relive losing our little guy and have to explain the unexplainable to our children," she wrote. "Truly heartbreaking."
She added, "Rip little buddy we love you and we are so sorry you had to suffer the last few months."
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Police say the vet refunded Levy the money paid for the original procedure back in May. Neither the vet nor the employee has been charged but the case is still being investigated.