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Crime & Courts

Woodridge man sues Downers Grove animal hospital over alleged malpractice

Gary Austin's Great Dane Bella lays on his couch a few months before dying of a 
ruptured stomach.
Gary Austin's Great Dane Bella lays on his couch a few months before dying of a ruptured stomach.

DOWNERS GROVE – A Woodridge man has filed a suit against VCA Arboretum View Animal Hospital in Downers Grove claiming neglect and malpractice at the clinic that led to his dog Bella's death.

The three-and-a-half-year-old Great Dane's owner, Gary Austin, brought the pet to VCA the night of Aug. 23, 2013 for emergency services, according to the complaint. Despite receiving more than $12,000 in treatment, Bella's condition worsened while at the veterinary hospital, before dying four days later from a ruptured stomach.

Austin said in a phone interview that he noticed the dog's stomach bloating and had the pet to the facility within 10 minutes.

A review of the veterinary care written by Animal Surgery Advocacy Services, a third party hired by Austin, says Bella was initially misdiagnosed. She then waited for more than three hours for surgery the night she was brought to the clinic, despite an initial radiology report stating the need for immediate surgery.

"She was a good dog," he said. "Nobody should have to go through this at all."

The hospital wrote a letter defending its care, included in the filing, stating the three hours were spent hydrating the dog with an IV and applying pain medication before surgery because she was in a state of shock.

"If the pet had been anesthetized immediately while she was in shock and dehydrated, before being stabilized with IV fluids and medication, surgery may have been even more harmful to her health," the hospital wrote.

The ASAS report states records from the night Bella was admitted show she had "normal vital parameters" and no mention of being in a state of shock or dehydration when she arrived at the hospital.

" … nowhere do the records indicate Bella was too unstable for surgery," the report reads. "Bella's surgery was delayed because the only surgeon available had three other procedures to perform and Bella was deemed the most stable and able to wait the
longest, despite the independent expert [radiologist] recommending 'immediate' surgery.'"

Austin is seeking in excess of $50,000 for each of the four counts – professional malpractice, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and negligence. The suit claims he continues to experience "grief, betrayal, illness and anger over the actions of the defendants."

Austin initially contested the credit card charges because of the perceived low quality of care, but was not reimbursed.

"I just wanted them to forget the bill and I would have been fine," he said.

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