Are We Obligated to Pay for Ex-dog's Surgery?

Updated on January 07, 2010
L.R. asks from Portland, OR
27 answers

This is more a pet mothering request than a child mothering request, but I'd really like to hear your opinions.

A little over 3 years ago, we had to find a new home for our sweet little 3 year old pug, Ruby. We found a lovely pug-crazed couple to take her and raise her (along with their other pug) as their own children, since they had none.

We were very up-front about a surgery Ruby had previously had to repair a badly broken leg. We gave them all the paperwork associated with the surgery (x-rays, bills, reports, etc).

Since then, we've contacted the wife a couple of times for Ruby updates. We learned that the woman and her husband had divorced, and that she got custody of the "kids", but that everyone was doing well.

A few days ago she emailed us, saying that Ruby is now in need of a second surgery to repair her leg. She said that the bone had not been sawed off straight during the original surgery, and has developed a bone spur that's causing a lot of pain. She said the surgery will cost $2400, and that due to the economic downturn she's on reduced hours/pay, and will have a very hard time affording the surgery. She asked if we'd be willing to help her pay the vet bill.

My husband says, "No way!", but it kills me to think of our sweet little Ruby in pain and possibly not getting the care she needs. I did email the new mommy back and suggested that she contact the vet that did the original surgery, and try to negotiate a reduced fee since it seems it was not done right the first time.

What would all of you do in my situation? My husband and I aren't rolling in cash, but we could afford to pitch in a little. Should we, or is it now the full responsibility of the new owners?

1 mom found this helpful

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B.B.

answers from Salt Lake City on

You are not responsible. If they had adopted a child, would they have gone back to the birth mom asking for payment for a defective child. No. Ruby is their responsibility... They need to take care of her.

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G.R.

answers from Spokane on

To answer your question... No you are NOT obligated to pay for the ex-dog's surgery! Technically it is the full responsibility of the new owner. If the new owner so desires to have the original vet who did the surgery review that might be a good idea, but it is also possible that the dog has suffered something else that aggravated the previous injury & the original vet is not responsible. If there was something wrong with the original surgery then it would have shown up rather quickly & not this long after. So more than likely it is a "new" injury to a weaker part of the animal's body.

Now after reading what you shared and "IF" you are in a financial secure position and you want to help out some (not all) then you have that choice. Now if your finances are tighter, then you need to think about your human kids & family first. It is a hard thing for many of us to do that have & love our pets but we also need to look at reality. It is hard to think of an animal that we have loved "suffering" but you also have to let go on your attachment to this ex-dog as Ruby has been out of your direct life for 3 years. We just had to put down our 17 yr old cat and it was very hard thing to do but we knew that her health was suffering. We have also had to put down our dog (about 5 years ago) due to bone cancer, it showed up in a fracture in his leg. These are not easy things to do but it is part of our responsibility as pet owners. My sister would shell out lots of money (more than she should have as it put her into great debt) for her animals but it was where her priority was (she has no kids other than her animals). I saw these things only to show you that dealing with pets is a hard thing to do at times but we can & do make it through.

So if you are willing & able to help with a little amount then you can but only pay it directly to the vet with a written agreement that "if" the surgery does not happen that you (and not the new owner) get the money back - just to cover your tail! So make sure that you & your husband are on the same page that if you choose to help with part of the vet bill as you do not want this issue to become a thorn in anyone's side that will fester for years - your relationship is more important than anything else - remember that! God Bless

4 moms found this helpful

B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Um, I hate to say it, but it is possible these people are trying to guilt you into giving them money (I'm fairly certain, cash is what they want) and there might be absolutely nothing wrong with the dog at all. Hard times means clever and numerous con artists and fraud attempts. 'Your' sweet little Ruby ceased being yours when she went to her new home. If you give them money (and believe me, you'll never see it again), they WILL come back asking for more, and more until the well runs dry.
If you are THAT concerned for the dog, offer to take ownership back and care for it yourself permanently. You will know for sure where your money is going, and they will not have the expense of it anymore. I wonder if they would take you up on it?

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E.A.

answers from Seattle on

I'm a dog lover and feel your pain.

Three years after surgery, Ruby's in such pain that she needs surgery - and the cost is $2400?

Ruby's new owner needs to contact the vet that did her surgery (that will give you a second opinion). If the initial surgery was not done correctly, he should in good faith,either reduce the fee or not charge at all.

I'm still on the fence about actually helping with the bill, but if you can afford to give a little and it will help ease your mind then send the money directly to the vet. Make it clear to Ruby's new owner (in writing)that you're helping with the surgery and that's it. Otherwise, I think you're opening yourself up to a lifetime of helping for Ruby's care.
E.

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S.S.

answers from Seattle on

Well I feel you are not obligated to pay, but I feel she was honest with you and and has given your little pug a good home and has been willing to take your calls and update you. I feel that if you can help financially you should. I don't feel she would have asked if she really didn't need the help! She is probably really stressed thinking of her baby being in pain!

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D.H.

answers from Seattle on

For whatever reason you gave up your dog, it is now "her dog" and that means she's kind of nervy to even ask you. Three years later all of a sudden the surgery was done wrong? HMMM. Has this dog NOT had vet care for 3 years, and now all of a sudden they caught this error? Does she live close enough to take the dog to your vet that did the leg surgery? That's who I'd suggest she take the dog to, let him decide what's wrong with the dog....HE did the surgery. Could have had another accident and hurt herself, needed a totally different surgery. 3 years is a long time ago and the dog is theirs."oh hello I know you gave us your dog for FREE. but uh...could you pay for this n that. Wow!

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T.T.

answers from Portland on

I agree with most of your other replies, and I say - you are not obligated to pay this bill. If you do want to help with the expense, then pay directly to the vet with an agreement that you would be recieving the refund if something falls through. The original vet should be given a chance to review this situation and offer his advice. What ever you decide, DO NOT give money directly to this new owner. I would be curious to hear what her response is, when and if you tell her that part of the deal.

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P.H.

answers from Portland on

When you gave up custody of your dog you also gave up responsibility. I agree with the other poster who said she is probably trying to con you. If you need to help, offer to take the dog to the original vet for a 2nd opinion. If she insists on taking the dog herself then make sure to follow up on the findings - directly with the vet so you get the correct information. She does need to go back to her ex for "child support" to help pay for care of their 'kids'. Once you have completed the information on this situation you need to cut all contact with the new owner and mourn the loss so you can move on. Good luck.

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S.D.

answers from Bellingham on

YOu can try for vet assistance and then take her to a vet of your choice and give her that only option. Otherwise she may try to take you. Just be cautious...I am in a similar situation where I am house sitting a cat for a homeless friend (her house got foreclosed on) and the cat broke his arm - it is either $800 and up for an amputation or $2400 and up for a decent fix. so the cat limps around and I feel bad, but he is okay for now.

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R.E.

answers from Spokane on

That's a tough one...pets are like family, but if you gave them the dog you also gave them the responsibility to be the 'parent'. If you gave a child up for adoption and they developed a terrible disease, would the adoptive parents come to you for medical costs? Being a parent comes with its ups and downs. If it makes you feel better to donate to the vet bill..that is up to you, but not your responsibility.

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J.R.

answers from Portland on

I agree with most of what has been said here but would add something else I feel strongly about - when we decide to adopt an animal, we are taking on the responsibility of caring for another living being. They are not disposable. I don't know what the circumstances were for you 'having' to give your dog away but often times people don't think anything of moving somewhere pets aren't allowed and then giving away their family member. I think on some level, your pug will always be partially your responsibility (to be shared with the current owner) and if you are financially able to help this dog, why wouldn't you do what you can? The new owner has done her best up until now but is struggling to meet this particular demand. Right now the shelters are full of dogs and cats with similar stories. Dogs are not property (even though we use the word owner), they are canine companions that deserve our trust and care. Provide payment directly to the vet and see if you can negotiate a lower fee with the vet that did the original surgery.

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H.B.

answers from Portland on

No, you aren't obligated to pay, and neither is the new owner, but what is best for the sweet dog? If they can't afford the surgery, they probably won't be able to have it done. They are calling out for help to you to see if there is anything you can spare. I do think the last surgeon should be fixing the problem for free, but if there are additional costs that they don't cover, then perhaps you can help a little. That's just my 2 cents. Certainly not trying to make you feel guilty if you decide not to help. I understand that your husband might not agree and not okay the expense. So, please understand that I am just giving you my opinion based on what I would try to do if my sweet dog was in the hands of a new family.

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B.D.

answers from Seattle on

Since this couple had agreed to adopt the dog from you, you are under no obligation nor should you help foot the bill. It would be different if you shared custody of the dog. Since her and her partner split, he should be the one to help foot the bill concerning the surgery. If I were you, I would be honest and politely turn her down. Let her know that you really can't afford to assist her in this. You have a family of your own to take care of.

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L.L.

answers from Seattle on

I see clients trying to deal with medical costs every day, and it is rough. I haven't read any of your other responses, but you should know that you are not responsible for the cost of this surgery. If you wanted to chip in some because you love the dog and you are a kind person, there is nothing wrong with that. I would encourage her to get a second opinion, as some vets charge significantly more than others for orthepedic surgery. Also, if you do decide to chip in some, I would decide up front how much you are willing to contribute and then pay it directly to the veterinarian, and not this woman. (most vets can take a debit or credit card over the phone if you can't come in to the clinic). I would also encourage her to look into Care credit as this is a way to pay for the vet services and have 6 months to a year (depending on the plan she chooses) to pay it off interest free. There are also some organizations that will help out. If you are interested, email me and I can hook you up with some charitable organizations that might supplement the cost of surgery.

Good Luck!!

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M.H.

answers from Seattle on

I agree with others who have said that it is not your responsibility to pay the vet bills for Ruby. However, you should do what feels right to you and your family. You've stated that financially you are able to help...My suggestion is that if you WANT to help do so. I don't think you should pay out of a sense of duty. I've been in a similar situation and did help with the vet bills. As someone who has been in the situation, I am not as quick to say she's trying to scam you! I think I tend to believe someone until they've given me reason not to.

-M.

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E.B.

answers from Seattle on

My opinion is that you are under no obligation to pay for the dog's surgery, but under the circumstances you might offer to pitch in for some of it if you can and want to.

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L.S.

answers from Portland on

If the surgery really was botched- I'd contact the surgeon. It's really up to you - you shouldn't be obligated but if you feel strongly it wouldn't hurt. I would also make sure she really needs the surgery. Remedal helped my dog with bone pain.

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H.G.

answers from Portland on

What you suggested was correct. She should go to the first Vet & ask them to correct it. Your husband is correct, it is no longer your responsibility.

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N.Z.

answers from Portland on

She "adopted" Ruby, the responsibility is hers. Your suggestion of contacting the previous Vet is spot on. She should also contact the ex, and ask him to help foot the bill.
If you were the birth Mother, and Ruby a human Child, she wouldn't ask.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

Her dog, her responsibility. If one can not afford to properly care for an animal, then one should not adopt. That said, if you do decide you would like to help out, I would ask that she speak to the old vet (at least to compare costs), and would make any payments directly to the vet. I would also be sure she knows up front that you are not taking responsibility for the vet bill, that it will be in her name only and any failure of payment will be on her, and give her the set amount you are willing to contribute.

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J.W.

answers from Seattle on

No, you're not responsible for any part of the vet bill for Ruby. To be honest, you don't know if what is being said is factual. Vets are o very expensive, no doubt about it. If there was an error in setting her leg originally, and you don't mention how long ago that was, the new owner could go back to that vet and discuss the matter with them, asking them to repair their error for free or for a signicantly reduced fee. This would be similar to holding all car owners responsible for all future repairs on a car that they sold. No, don't pay the bill.

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K.S.

answers from Miami on

While it is the new owners responsiblilty, if you can be kind and help out the dog it would make you a better person for it. I would not pay her the money though I'd pay the money directly to the vet. Also many vets have plans like care credit that will let you put the bill on the card and have 6 months to pay it off interest free. I would suggeswt the new owner of the dog get that and you pay a portion up front to the vet. Makes evveryone happy and stops the suffering of a dog. I would suggest you get another vet to look at the dog though and make sure the new vet isnt milking it.

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M.D.

answers from Seattle on

As other's have said, if the surgery was done incorrectly then the vet who did the surgery should make the repair at no additional expense.

Now, if that doesn't happen, I probably wouldn't help pay the bill. It is hard, because you love this animal, but you were up front about her condition and they knew that taking her in. If it helps, maybe think about it as if she was a car. If you gave your car to someone you would expect them to be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance and to pay for it.

Sorry it that sounds harsh, but I worry that if you help it could be the beginning of a slippery slope of her continuing to ask for help and where do you draw the line?

Good Luck! M.

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L.R.

answers from Portland on

I would have to agree with your husband. I agree with others that helping out now could open up for her asking again and again in the future.

It's kind of like a car... when you sell it as is, they can't come back to you to fix things wrong.

However, having said that, if I had bought a car and, let's say, they told me that they had just had the breaks fixed, and a few weeks so months later the breaks went out in a way they shouldn't have since they had been fixed, I might consider contacting the previous owners to talk to the mechanic with or for me, to make sure the problem gets resolved.

So... if I were you, I would call the vet and say that it turns out that Ruby's first surgery wasn't done right and now she needs another one, and see what they can do. Of course you will have to tell them you are no longer the owner, but since it was their fault, maybe they will be willing to fix it for little or nothing, unlike a new vet.

Of course it might not work out, but at least you could try. But seriously, I wouldn't pay.

M.B.

answers from Seattle on

L.,

I'm inclined to pitch in on the side of your husband on this one. I think by being open and honest up front about Ruby you did way more than many pet owners would have done.

M.

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M.D.

answers from Portland on

Pets to me are children. If I had an animal that I had to give up, and later on down the line I had the opportunity to help them - I would. There is NO obligation on your part...it just comes down to your gut instincts and your love for the dog. I would want to talk to the vet doing the procedure myself. I'd want to know about any rehabilitative expenses. I'd want to know about the prognosis after surgery. And then...if convinced that this would make the dog's life better, I would make a payment to the vet directly. I would not give money outright to the new owner.

Most reputable vets also have sliding scale fees for procedures. I would check with the clinic where she will be going to see if that is an option. (Or investigate other reputable clinics where that might be an option).

Also - does she have pet insurance? I would check on that too. Chances are that the answer is no, but it never hurts to ask.

It does open up the possibility that the new owner will come back to you in the future for other expenses. I think that if you do decide to help out with the surgery, you need to draw boundaries and let her know what the extent of your help will be. She does still need to make sure that she takes care of the basics without asking for help from you.

Good luck!
M.

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M.T.

answers from Honolulu on

It is definitely HER responsibility. If the situation was reversed and you got a dog from the pound and a yr later or more the dog needed surgery due to something that happened while he was in the pound, would you expect the pound to help you with the bills? I think not and they would probably look at you like you were crazy.
Now if you wanted to do it, that would strictly be a choice, but by no means a responsibility.
First of all, I would have not kept in contact with the dog. I may have wanted to but wouldn't have. I may have for a few days or a few months at the most if any, but eventually would have weaned myself away. Now you are only feeling guilty because you have kept in contact. You still feel that connection so the guilt comes out. It is up to her to decide if the dog is worth $2500 or not and how the vet will work out the payments with her if she does decide the dog is worth it.
I think the suggestion to call the vet that did the surgery was a good suggestion but I doubt if it was that it wasn't done correct, bones are replaced every seven years in your body and assuming it is with animals as well. The dog could have hobbled on his leg wrong after he left the vet's office and that may have been the cause of it not healing properly. I doubt if the vet will do anything about it unless she happens to run upon a vet so animalistic that he/she can't and won't allow to watch an animal suffer. But those are far and few between.
I would be honest with her and tell her that your husband has no attachment to the dog now and that you have talked with him and he says absolutely not and you can't go against him and that you are so so sorry but that is all you can do for the dog.

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