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Raytown veterinarian, city point fingers at one another in dog's death

Vet claims he wasn't authorized to treat animal
Posted at 5:30 PM, Jul 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-04 18:42:27-04

RAYTOWN, Mo. — One emotion rises above the rest when people hear about Butch, a pit bull that was euthanized after being seen at a city-contract veterinarian in Raytown.

"Outrage I think would be the single word to sum it up," Midwest Animal ResQ Director Erin Morse said. "People are really upset he was made to suffer for as long as he was."

For 15 hours, Butch sat inside Raytown Animal Hospital, which impounds dogs for the city. He was 40 pounds underweight, could not stand and would hardly lift his head.

When MARQ learned about Butch, they picked him up and rushed him to another vet, but it was too late. Suffering from sepsis and shock, Butch had to be euthanized.

Since we first shared his story, things have gotten worse in an already strained relationship between MARQ and Raytown Animal Hospital.

"We've tried to reach out about animals in care to try to do business as usual, surgeries, etc., and the calls either go unanswered or they're picked up and hung up," Morse said.

41 Action News has tried since Monday to track down the vet in charge. We were finally able to meet up with him at the animal hospital.

Initially, Dr. Heath Rose told us to take our questions to Damon Hodges, the city administrator. We told him Hodges said the dog received food and water. Then, we again asked about medical care.

"Nothing was authorized at that time," Rose said.

Yet Hodges told us in an email, "The decision to further treatment is made after initial assessment and observation by the vet and their staff."

When we pointed out to Rose that his contract authorizes emergency medical care, he refuted it.

"You're confused," he said.

So is Erin Morse of MARQ.

"Right now it seems like there's a lot of one party says the other is responsible, the other party says the other's responsible, and therefore no one is being responsible," she said.

For the fiscal year 2017-2018, the city paid out $80,000 to Raytown Animal Hospital. Some of the invoices, which we obtained, show medical expenses.

Invoices for the current fiscal year 2018-2019 through June show roughly $30,000 billed to the city. Medical expenses are itemized, with the bulk of the money coming from rabies vaccines and microchipping.

"We've never received a dog that had records of medical care," Morse added.

Rose maintains he treats impounded animals "all the time." However, he maintains the city must ask him to do an exam and then authorize any medical treatment.

"This one, we were not engaged to do that," he said.

Rose confirmed he saw Butch. When we asked what he thought of the condition the dog was in, the vet said he had to see a client and walked away.

Morse is now working with the Jungle Law Firm and the Animal Justice League of America to find a resolution. They met Thursday with city staff to discuss the problems.

"Our goal first and foremost is animal welfare, but second, we want to see if we can negotiate something where everyone walks away happy and we can move on. That is the goal right now," attorney Lauren Sierra said.

Editors note: This story was updated on 8/4 after reporter Cat Reid sat down with Dr. Heath Rose to go over his billing invoices for the current fiscal year. Rose explained the itemization of the medical expenses.