The Coates family had been struggling to make a heartbreaking decision about Zoey, their family pet.
The 9-year-old boxer was suffering from seizures and struggling with a large tumor on the side of her body, according to KTVB.
Zoey’s owner, Tawny Coates, had also been going through a rough time. In addition to watching the dog her children loved deteriorate, she was also dealing with losing her home after her husband was sent to prison.Screenshot/KTVB
The mother said:
“This felt like a final stab. Like it was just one too many things. I knew it was going to be what pushed my kids to their breaking point.”
Coates chose to put Zoey sleep, leaving her 11-year-old son Jaxton heartbroken. He explained:
“I slept with Zoey almost every night. She was my best friend.”
Knowing that she couldn’t do it on her own, Coates turned to her father, Larry Coates, for help. He brought Zoe to the vet to have the procedure done.
The family paid $215 to Utah veterinarian Dr. Mary Smart to have their pet euthanized and cremated.Screenshot/KTVB
After six months, Coates wanted to welcome a new pet into their family so she began searching for another boxer to adopt.
The woman’s jaw dropped when she came upon a Facebook post offering a boxer named Miss Frankie for adoption:
“I see the Boxer Town rescue page and I’m like, ‘That looks like my dog.’ Then I thought, ‘I’m crazy,’ but I click on it anyway and zoom in and say, ‘No, that’s my dog!'”
Miss Frankie was really her dog, Zoey.
The vet decided on her own that it wasn’t the dog’s time to go, so she went against the family’s wishes to put the dog down. Smart used the money they paid her to perform surgery on the boxer to remove the tumor. Dr. Smart put her up for adoption afterward.
Smart said she made that choice after Larry refused to keep the dog alive. She said she pushed him to consider other options, recommending surgery, medication, or just letting the dog be.
“In my professional opinion, this was a dog that had years to live and I didn’t want to put the dog down, I was trying to save its life.”
Larry called her claim a “complete falsehood,” and denied that the vet offered him different options to save Zoey’s life.Screenshot/KTVB
Smart eventually admitted that she “screwed up,” adding she should have called the family. She said:
“Had I any inkling that they might at all be interested in having the dog back, I would have for sure called. But after my conversation with Mr. Coates, it just seemed very obvious to me that they didn’t want the dog.”
A member of Utah’s Veterinary Board, Dr. Drew Allen, called this a legal and ethical issue. He explained that vets do have the choice to decline a request from an owner to put an animal down, or come up with a different answer for them. But if they decline the request they must send the family to another vet.
He added that the vet must perform the request once the pet owner pays for the service.
“A pet is legally classified as someone’s property,. As veterinarians, we’re obligated to follow what we agree to do with that quote, property.”
Allen also pointed out the animal’s owner can’t be brushed aside once they make their request clear:
“As much as we are in this profession for the love of the animals, we need to make sure we’re not putting just what we think is best for the animal above the owners and the humans involved in the equation as well.”
Smart is now taking credit for the fact that the dog has been reunited with the family after she lied to them about Zoey’s death.Screenshot/KTVB
“If I had followed procedure, if I had followed protocol, if I had done what Mr. Coates asked me, they wouldn’t have their dog, Their dog would have been euthanized and this family would be without their dog.”
The Coates family has not filed an official complaint, but the veterinary board may look at disciplinary action against Smart for her actions.