Troubleshooter Diane Wilson investigates cat death

DURHAM

They thought they were doing a good thing by getting their cat neutered, but now they are questioning what happened.

When Linda Halsaver reached in Timmy's cage she was shocked.

"He was already cold and stiff," she said.

This after he had just left Affordable Animal Care of Durham, a low cost spay and neuter clinic.

Linda's partner dropped Timmy off early on March 12 to be neutered.

"When she went in at 4:00 p.m. to pick him up, they told her that he was still pretty groggy, so she thought he was sleeping," Linda said.

However, once home she sensed something was wrong.

"So I looked in the cage and it didn't look right. I opened it up and I felt him and he was cold and hard," Linda said. "I immediately called [Affordable Animal Care of Durham] and said you know 'hey, you gave me back a dead cat, what the heck.'"

She says no one could tell her anything.

"The technicians kept apologizing. Said they didn't have any answers," Linda said.

Once she requested Timmy's medical records, and more than a week after he had been neutered and died, Linda said she finally heard from the vet.

"He said the cat died of some kind of heart failure," Linda said. "He didn't know that the cat was dead when I took it home, is what he said. He said his technicians never told him that information."

Timmy was neutered through a community program where you can get a voucher for your cat or dog to be fixed for just $20. While Linda says she appreciated the discount, she now questions if that put Timmy in jeopardy.

If you read the medical form signed, it states Affordable Animal Care of Durham may not perform a complete physical exam before surgery, and that the animal will not receive pre-operative blood-work.

"Just to be careful," Linda said.

She also cannot believe no one knew Timmy was dead.

"I'm sad that Timmy's gone, but I'm upset that they didn't care enough to check on him throughout the day because if they had they would've known he was dead," Linda said.

A rep with Affordable Animal Care of Durham said it is their policy to check on the animals after surgery three to four times a day.

The owner of the clinic said they are all saddened that this unfortunate event occurred. She said a relief vet performed the surgery and it is the responsibility of the doctor to provide the best care possible.

I did reach out to the relief vet, but he has not returned my call.

When I asked about the fine print that they may not pre-examine or do blood work, the rep said they do an exam on all animals but the extra blood work is always up to the customer as that does cost more money.

Paula Bullock, the owner of Affordable Animal Care of Durham, did issue this statement:

"WE are all saddened that this unfortunate event occurred.   For some 15 years I have given my heart and soul to veterinary medicine.  When this clinic opened, it was to help those who loved their pets to receive high standard veterinary care within the community, but with a more affordable pricing to encourage all to take better care of their pets. This also allowed local rescue groups and shelters a venue for animals who would otherwise be unable to receive treatment.  With the economic downturn over the past decade, tens of thousands of animals become un homed and abandoned all over the country every month.  Providing low cost sterilization and medical treatment is the only means by which we prevent unnecessary euthanasia of otherwise healthy pets. Taking the life of innocent animals because of financial stress is a choice we have tried to eliminate throughout our clinic.   It is a sacrifice I made to help others. I made a conscience decision to reduce my revenue potential dramatically to help all the pets that needed this type of service have the care needed.   I have relief veterinarians who float all over the triangle area in different hospitals and clinics as well as mine. There are always risks with surgery and there always will be.  I cannot speak for Dr. Fisher, the veterinarian who performed the surgery.  It is however the responsibility of the doctor to provide the best care possible. We cannot control any factors that occur once the pet leaves our facility or have knowledge of every underlying factor the pet may be facing.  As many of these pets, as in this case, have an unknown history," said Paula Bullock, the owner of Affordable Animal Care of Durham."

Experts say the best advice is to get to know your vet so they can get to know you and your pet.

While the surgery is routine, a simple blood test can be done ahead of time as the more information you have on your pet, the better when it comes to any kind of medical treatment.

Copyright © 2019 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.