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Valley couple mourns loss after dog dies during vet visit

5 months 6 days 13 hours ago Friday, March 11 2022 Mar 11, 2022 March 11, 2022 10:00 PM March 11, 2022 in News - Local

An Edinburg couple is calling for employee accountability after their dog was reported dead during a visit to a veterinary clinic.

The incident took place at Pet Doctor 911 in McAllen. “Harley,” an 8-year-old English Bulldog, had a 2 p.m. appointment on March 4.

Owners Norma and Felix Reyes said after more than an hour, they received a call.

“I was told that Harley had collapsed and that they were doing CPR,” Norma said, adding that employees offered different reasons for what may have caused the sudden death. “They really didn’t have an answer — they were just assuming what went wrong with Harley.”

Pet Doctor 911 offered to pay for an independent autopsy at Texas A&M’s veterinary teaching hospital, but that was ultimately declined. A quick-decision that was likely fueled by pride.

“I wasn’t going to let them cut my dog up,” Felix said. “They already had killed him, and I wasn’t going to let them do more harm to him.”

As a result, a representative from Pet Doctor 911 said they then compiled Harley’s current X-rays and compared them with them to a set from a previous visit that was forwarded to an independent radiology consulting practice.

“The radiologist noted Harley was suffering from an enlarged heart that had developed between the previous visit and this one, a condition which was unknown to both the owners and to us prior to this time,” a statement read. “This is a serious medical condition that likely caused Harley’s sudden and tragic passing. “Although we can’t say for certain without the benefit of an autopsy that Harley’s death was caused by his heart condition, we can say for sure that Harley did not die from choking or a broken neck.”

When part of the statement was read aloud, Norma shook her head. Both her and Felix believe the security footage that was voluntarily shared with them tells a different story. That 4-minute video was quickly shared online, garnering thousands of shares and interactions on Facebook.

“You can see where she has her arm around his neck and stuff and straddled him,” Felix said. “You can see him gasping for air or him fight her off — ‘cause he felt something wrong.”

Harley has since been buried in the couples’ backyard. Without a proper autopsy, a clear answer as to what caused his death likely won’t come. Still, the couple is asking for justice.

Channel 5 News asked them what that meant to them.

“I just want the person that handled it and the persons that were involved to recognize what they’ve done,” Felix said. Norma adding, “We can’t get Harley back. We just don’t want this to ever happen to anybody else.”

The Reyes' said they are not looking to pursue legal action, but have filed a report with McAllen police. 

READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW:

"To our Pet Doctor 911/Animal Center of McAllen community, 

We have been following a story online and in the local media regarding the passing of a patient seen here last week. Normally, patient care is a private matter between our clinic and our patient's families. However, this matter has been made public when the video we provided the family was released online. We respect everyone’s right to share their opinions, but we feel compelled to address the false and incomplete information that has even resulted in death threats against our staff and their families. 

First and foremost, our hearts go out to the family on the untimely loss of their beloved dog, Harley. As professionals whose mission is safeguarding the health of all animals, we understand how hard it is for anyone to lose their family pet. Our goal has always been to provide our patients and their owners not only with the highest quality medical care, but also respect and honesty. In keeping with that commitment, we voluntarily provided Harley’s family with the video footage from our internal security cameras immediately upon their request. To those unfamiliar with standard veterinary medical practices, it could be easy to misinterpret some of what is seen on the video. We can honestly and affirmatively state that contrary to what has been insinuated online, Harley was not choked, nor was his neck broken. Harley’s death was sad and tragic, but it was not the result of our technician’s actions or inactions. 

Harley was an 8 year 5-month-old English Bulldog and a patient we had seen several times. Harley had not only been treated for serious illness at our practice but nail trims as well. Last week, Harley was brought into the clinic for treatment of an ear infection, and Harley’s owner requested a nail trim. During the course of this nail trim, Harley collapsed unexpectedly. After he collapsed, our technician quickly and continuously verified that he had a pulse by checking his pulse on his rear legs and continued monitoring that Harley was breathing on his own. While monitoring Harley the technician instructed another staff member to notify the veterinarian of the situation. During this brief time Harleys respirations slowed dramatically and upon observing this he was immediately transported to a surgery suite where our doctor’s performed CPR. As part of our efforts to diagnose and treat him, we were able to take important radiographical images. We continued treating Harley with life saving measures until, after consulting with the family, they instructed us to cease all efforts. 

We recognize that the video images can be easily misinterpreted. Please know that Harley was being handled by our technicians in a manner consistent with him being a Bulldog. Bulldogs belong to a class of dogs with specific character traits that make them prone to difficult, obstructive breathing. We work with hundreds of Bulldogs regularly, and always follow the standard of care for this breed which is why there was no muzzle being used during the nail trim, and only minimal physical restraint being used to keep Harley still and safe for that day’s trim. Our technician restrained Harley specifically around his shoulder, avoiding the top of the neck and mouth so as to prevent any restriction of Harley’s breathing. The technician can also be seen holding onto the patient’s harness in order to keep the dog secure and the staff safe, without exerting undue force around the dog’s chest. These methods taken together constitute an industry “best practice” that is utilized in clinics around the country every day, and is truly the safest method of restraint for dogs such as Harley. Even when holding these patients appropriately they will continue to resist and try to get away as nail trimming is unnatural to them and can be stressful. 

If the handling was appropriate, then what caused Harley’s death? This is an important question here, and one we had immediately. We offered to pay for an independent autopsy at the Texas A&M

veterinary teaching hospital, but unfortunately, Harley’s owners declined. No animal’s passing rests easy on our hearts, so with the option of an autopsy not available to us, we compiled Harley’s current x-rays with those from a previous visit, and forwarded them to an independent radiology consulting practice for evaluation by their board-certified, specialty-trained radiologists. The radiologist noted Harley was suffering from an enlarged heart that had developed between the previous visit and this one, a condition which was unknown to both the owners and to us prior to this time. This is a serious medical condition that likely caused Harley’s sudden and tragic passing. Although we can’t say for certain without the benefit of an autopsy that Harley’s death was caused by his heart condition, we can say for sure, that Harley did not die from choking or a broken neck. 

We at Animal Medical Center are committed to being honest and open with our clients, regardless of the circumstances, and our doctors have reached out repeatedly to share condolences, offer explanations, and provide all requested information to the family throughout this time, including the full radiology report. We hope this statement sheds some light on this unfortunate situation. We all agree, the loss of Harley was tragic and unexpected and has left his family with a hole in their heart—a sentiment our clinic knows and sympathizes with all too well—and our sincerest condolences go out to Harley’s family. 

Sincerely, 

Animal Medical Center of McAllen - Pet Doctor 911"

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