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Maine vet clinic responds to I-Team investigation about surrendered dog

Jaxx, a four-month old German Shepherd, surrendered over a $10,000 vet bill (Rachel Mullen).
Jaxx, a four-month old German Shepherd, surrendered over a $10,000 vet bill (Rachel Mullen).
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SCARBOROUGH (WGME) -- Maine Veterinary Medical Center is responding to an I-Team story regarding a dog surrendered at its facility.

MVMC claims there are inaccuracies in our story but does not identify any facts that are incorrect. CBS13 obtained documents from the dog's owner corroborating her story.

Rachel Mullen told CBS13 she got Jaxx, a four-month-old German Shepherd, from a breeder in March.

A couple of weeks ago, she says Jaxx started throwing up and acting lethargic.

Mullen says her local vet recommended Maine Veterinary Medical Center, a 24-hour emergency clinic. She said Jaxx was admitted on May 26.

Also Read: 'That's my boy:' Mainer pleads for return of puppy surrendered over $10K vet bill

The next morning on Friday, May 27, Mullen says, they called to tell her he had a wooden skewer in his belly and needed surgery at a cost of more than $10,000.

"You can’t come up with $10,000, unless you have very big pockets, in six hours," Mullen said.

In its statement MVMC said, "A medical plan for Jaxx’s needed surgery and continued care was discussed, as was the cost of $9585.57 to $10,086.41 including current balance for Jaxx’s overnight medications and care. The doctor discussed the credit options offered by the hospital, which are CareCredit, applying for Wells Fargo credit, or Scratch Pay. The hospital also accepts all major credit cards and pet insurance plans."

Mullen says she and her fiancé scrambled all day, looking into financing options, but only qualified for a small fraction of the cost.

MVMC says, "The owner told the doctor, ‘At this point, I’m prepared to say good-bye because you guys don’t have payment plans, and I have no way of paying.’"

The statement goes on to say, “The doctor then raised the possibility of rather than euthanizing Jaxx, to instead surrender him to another owner who would be able to pay for the surgery and care for Jaxx. The owner, understandably distraught, told the doctor, ‘If you guys can give him a life and it’s not with me, then that’s fine.’"

Mullen says she chose to surrender the dog and signed the paperwork electronically.

"I signed the paper so they would help him," Mullen said.

With the help of friends, family, and Jaxx’s breeder, Mullen told CBS13 she came up with the money before 9 p.m. that night.

"I called and said I had the money and I want to try and get my dog back," Mullen said.

She says MVMC told her Jaxx was gone and she couldn't get him back.

When the I-Team reached out to MVMC, the director agreed to sit down for an interview. But within hours, that was canceled and we were referred to the corporate owner, Rarebreed Veterinary Partners.

A spokesperson for Rarebreed told us over the phone, "When you surrender a pet, it’s a legally binding contract.”

In its statement released Saturday, MVMC says, “While surrendering a pet is a last resort, our priority is always saving the animal. 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 statement goes on to say, "Jaxx had the surgery and is recovering well. He is with his new owner, and we hope will live a long and happy life."

According to officials with Maine's Animal Welfare Program, organizations only have to be licensed to re-home pets if they're selling them or charging a fee to adopt. Otherwise, a vet clinic, or anyone else, can take ownership of a surrendered animal and decide where it ends up.

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CBS13 is continuing to review MVMC's statement. This story will be updated.

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