B.C.’s College of Veterinarians has opened an investigation after a Newton clinic allegedly mishandled paperwork of a deceased dog, which resulted in the animal spending 78 days in a freezer before being cremated.
Ronald Eves told Peace Arch News this week that Brooke, his 13-year-old chow chow, died at around 3:30 a.m. on June 10, 2018.
Eves and his partner, Liz Bouchard, brought the animal to the Surrey Animal Hospital. He said they paid $150 for a cremation but didn’t receive an invoice.
Eves said they were concerned that their dog had been accidentally poisoned, and requested blood work before the cremation.
“We left (Brooke) there to be cremated. We kept phoning regarding the cremation and blood samples and we got nowhere,” said Eves, who filed a complaint with the college of veterinarians.
Last month, the college’s investigation committee – comprised of seven veterinarians and two public members – met to consider Eves’ complaint against the Surrey Animal Hospital.
In an update provided to Eves on May 30, the committee provided the “preliminary view” that, initially, there was difficulty locating Brooke’s records because the dog was listed under a different name; there was no electronic record found for the June 10 appointment; and the complaint highlighted issues related to record keeping, including “insufficient tracking of a deceased animal.”
College of Veterinarians CEO Luisa Hlus confirmed to PAN that there was an investigation, but declined to comment.
“We have reported to Mr. Eves about our investigation, so please use him as your source as we cannot tell you more than what we have told him,” Hlus emailed to PAN.
SAH emailed the College of Veterinarians of BC staff on Sept. 11. The email was provided to PAN by Eves.
The email confirms that Eves suspected his pet might have been poisoned, and that he was informed that an autopsy can deduce the actual cause of death. The cost associated with it was also included.
“Client was very skeptical about spending that amount of money,” the email says, adding that Eves asked for the body to be put on hold while Eves considered his options.
Thursday, Surrey Animal Hospital veterinarian Pevitor Bajwa, who confirmed to PAN the information in the email, said the reason why the dog was in the freezer for 78 days is because the owners never called to confirm if they wanted a cremation, which he described as a common occurrence.
Because of Eve’s suspicion that the dog had been poisoned and subsequent request to have blood work done, he was told that, because the animal was already deceased, a postmortem would have to be done, Bajwa said in an email to PAN.
However, “the client declined the postmortem after confirming the price,” he said.
Bajwa said the $150 paid by the client was a downpayment towards the full cost of $230 for general cremation.
“The client payed $150 as initial deposit and said (he would) call back later or will come back later to confirm about the final decision regarding either autopsy or cremation.
He said Eves neither called nor returned to the animal hospital.
“We put the body on hold in the freezer for 78 days because we were waiting for client to call back or come back at least to confirm what they wanted with body,” Bajwa said.
Eves disputes the claim that he did not call back.
The SAH email says a recently hired staff member – who was still in training when the dog was brought into the clinic – took down the client information, but was not aware of the procedure for handling bodies that needed to be kept on hold. The email says the new staff member indicated that the body needed to be put on hold, but didn’t identify who the pet belonged to.
The body was picked up by Until We Meet Again cremation service at the end of August, and Brooke was cremated as an “unidentified body,” the email states.
“We have a letter from the vet, and it was 78 days before she was set out for cremation. It was… what do you call it where you stack them all in a pile? Communal burning, if you will,” Eves said.
“We were just absolutely shocked that she sat there for 78 days in some fridge.”
The college told Eves that the investigation is ongoing, and that they will provide him an update on the process every two months.
Eves said the reason he contacted the media was to encourage other pet owners to do some research before picking a veterinarian.
“Where I’m going with this is, the public needs to know what’s going on and, more importantly, I think the college is failing because of the timeline. I think they could have probably moved this a lot quicker, 12 months is a long time and now they want to advise us every two months,” Eves said.
It’s not the first time the Surrey Animal Hospital has been investigated by the governing body.
Last year, the college cancelled the Surrey Animal Hospital’s accreditation. When the cancellation was made public, the college did not comment on what led to the decision.
The cancellation meant that the facility had to surrender its accreditation certification, and, among other requirements, had to cease providing veterinary services. However, the clinic was permitted to sell inventory that is not medically prescribed.
The College of Veterinarians has not confirmed when the Surrey Animal Hospital’s accreditation was reinstated.
As of Tuesday (June 11), the Surrey Animal Hospital is operating under a “limited” accreditation.