Update: Please see the official statement released from Maine Veterinary Medical Center on 6/11/2022 regarding Mullen’s claims and the news report on which this story was drawn below the original article.
It should be noted that Main Veterinary Medical Center said in their statement: “Jaxx had the surgery and is recovering well. (We have photos.) He is with his new owner, and we hope will live a long and happy life.”
“Pay or surrender Him.” That’s the choice a dog owner in Kennebunk, Maine says she was confronted with when she was unable to pay for the emergency surgery her 4-month-old German Shepherd desperately needed. The catch? Rachel Mullen says she was only given 6 hours in which to come up with the funds. When Mullen did manage to raise the funds later that day, she says the veterinarians caring for her puppy told her she couldn’t have her puppy back. Now Mullen wants answers.
Mullen told WGME CBS13’s I-Team that on May 27, 2022 her puppy, Jaxx, needed emergency surgery to save his life. Jaxx had been lethargic and throwing up and her vet suggested she rush Jaxx to the Maine Veterinary Medical Center, a 24-hour emergency clinic.
“The last thing I did was gave him a hug and a kiss and told him to go get better,” she told the news station.
The next morning, the clinic told her Jaxx had a wooden skewer stuck in his stomach and the emergency surgery to remove it would cost over $10,000. She had to come up with half the payment initially and pay the remainder upon completion of services.
“You can’t come up with tens of thousands of dollars unless you have very big pockets in six hours,” Mullen said.
Mullen said that she and her fiancé were looking all day for financing options but they only qualified for a small amount of the cost.
At around 4:30 pm that afternoon Mullen says the clinic called and said Jaxx needed the surgery right away and gave her the option to pay or surrender Jaxx. She added that workers said they couldn’t wait even the 30 minutes for her to come in person, so she surrendered ownership electronically.
“I signed the paper so they would help him,” Mullen told CBS13, before adding that she still needed to pay “close to $3,000 after that.”
Refusing to give up on her dog, Mullen started a GoFundMe account and says she was able to raise the money that night. But when she called the clinic that evening she says they told her Jaxx was gone and she couldn’t get him back.
“I called and said, ‘I have the money, and I want to try and get my dog back.’ He’s gone; he’s not here,” Mullen said of the conversation.
Now a week later, she still doesn’t know where Jaxx is or how he’s doing.
CBS13 reached out to Rarebreed Veterinary Partners, the owners of the clinic, and a spokesperson told them that surrendering a pet is a legally binding contract but did not answer further questions regarding their policies on surrenders.
To Patsy Murphy of the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, it seems unusual that vets didn’t reach out to non-profits to see if funds could be arranged to help Mullen.
Many Redditors reacted to the news story by saying something appears “shady” and “off” about the entire situation.
lilmammamia wrote, “According to the article, the timeline for her to come up with the money was 6 hours. Within 6 hours there was no trace of the dog even though he was supposed to have emergency surgery that day.”
Simple_barry commented, “The dog had emergency surgery, and is gone all in less than 24 hours? Also, they don’t have payment plan options when surgeries can run up to tens of thousands of dollars?! Something does not pass the smell test here.”
Another wrote, “Wow, this place sounds shady. I’m very sorry. Check out the reviews, they go way back and people are not happy with their ‘service.'”
Rebeccatwosocks had a sombre interpretation. “I’m guessing they put it [the puppy] down or it died in surgery. And don’t want to admit either way. Well, if they put it down without doing the surgery, the woman needs her $7,000 down payment back. And some answers.”
Bergerac1982 agreed with the reader. “Didn’t bother doing the surgery, euthanized the dog. Took $10k from this lady anyway, who now has no money and no dog. They need to prove otherwise. There is absolutely no way they performed any trans-peritoneal procedure and the dog was ready to be safely moved within 6 hours.”
Slugbastard added, “They’ve had terrible reviews on Google from similar sh*t over the last year or so. People having to pay way too much and their pets still dying days after, with absolutely terrible communication.”
Meanwhile, Mullen says she is still without answers on Jaxx and has filed a police report. She said she also plans on bringing her concerns to the state’s board of veterinary medicine.
Update: June 12, 2022
Since this story went viral on social media, the Maine Veterinary Medical Center came under fire receiving vitriol through their phone lines and online. They released a statement on June 11th outlining their side of events and the points they took issue with. They noted the original news report contained many inaccuracies and untrue statements.
“The hate that has been unleashed due to this shoddy news story and the concomitant lies spread through social media are shocking. Especially because the news story was inaccurate, and we have the documentation to prove it,” the statement reads.
“The reporter relied solely on the world of the pet owner. While it’s true, we elected not to comment, the reporter could have asked for documentation from the pet owner or third-party corroboration to ensure that what she reported was true, but she did not, and we have paid the price.”
In the release (which you can read in full in the social media embeds below) and at this link, they outline the sequence of events when Jaxx arrived at their practice.
“On May 26, the pet owner brought her four-month-old, pure breed German Shepherd puppy, Jaxx, to our hospital. The puppy was in distress and based on our initial examination was shown to have an infection, fever, and was experiencing pain. Based on the infection, it was clear the dog had been suffering for at least 24-48 hours prior to our seeing him. Per protocol, Jaxx was screened for parvovirus, which was negative.”
“The pet owner assured us that while Jaxx had had his rabies and distemper shots earlier in the week, he had not gotten into anything or eaten anything he shouldn’t have. She agreed to leave Jaxx at the hospital overnight for further tests and observation. Based on the owner’s information and initial cost estimate of $2630.55 to $3,330.26 was given to the owner.
“The following morning, it was clear Jaxx was experiencing even greater abdominal pain, so 9a.m. an ultrasound was performed.”
The hospital writes that the ultrasound revealed a “presumptive skewer” penetrating part of his small intestine through his liver and entering the chest. It was a significant injury requiring emergency surgery. They also said that during the examination Jaxx had a high heart rate and was visibly in pain despite “being injected with pain medications.”
They then called Mullen and outlined the costs to her and discussed credit options offered by the hospital (including CareCredit, applying for Wells Fargo credit, Scratch Pay.
Throughout the day, according to the hospital, they initiated communications several times with Mullen to work out the deposit so that they could proceed with the time-sensitive operation. According to them, she understood but wanted to get the bank loan and would know by 3pm.
“By 4pm, with no word from the owner, the hospital called the owner who reported she had been declined for the loan by the bank. The owner told the doctor, ‘At this point, I’m preparing to say good-bye because you guys don’t have payment plans, and I have no way of paying,'” the statement continued.
“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.”
The clinic also said that Mullen was not able to raise the $10,000 that day as the news report states.
“Reports that Jaxx’s original owner finally raised all the money and paid us $10,000, but we wouldn’t give the puppy back are untrue. She paid the hospital for Jaxx’s initial medications and tests. She did open a GoFundMe account, but it was closed after she surrendered her puppy, raising only $100.”
As for speculation that Jaxx died, the hospital states categorically that Jaxx is alive and well. “Jaxx had the surgery and is recovering well. (We have photos.) He is with his new owner, and we hope will live a long and happy life.”