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N4T Investigators: Pricey Pets

TUCSON – Some people are paying large veterinarian bills shortly after adopting from Pima Animal Care Center.

PACC took in more than 17,000 animals last year. Many of them had no known medical histories.

Susan Sasiadek filed a notice of claim against the county asking to be reimbursed for vet bills. She believes PACC notes indicate shelter workers saw signs that led to her kitten being unable to urinate.

“You expect a certain level of expense with any animal you adopt,” Sasiadek said. “However you don’t expect to be spending close to a thousand dollars within 2 months of adopting a kitten and then having to euthanize a cat within 2 months.”

Hailey Hagan also filed a notice of claim against the county. She said a PACC kitten spread a parasite to all of her cats.

“Coccidia has a 2-week germination period,” Hagan said, “which he had it when I got him.”

The county denied the claims from Sasiadek and Hagan. The County’s Risk Management department determined there were no notes that showed the animals had current issues at the time of adoption.

Another woman filed a notice of claim for $8,828.76. The county paid that claim.

That woman declined to talk to the News 4 Tucson Investigators. She wrote in her claim, “It has become clear that with proper aftercare and check-ups, and honesty from PACC, Ava’s situation could have been caught early on, and maybe even have been preventable.”

Kristen Auerbach is PACC’s director.

“In that case, we made a mistake, and we corrected it,” Auerbach said.

Auerbach said the county has received 19 similar claims in the past three years.

“You consider we’ve done 30,000 adoptions over the last three years,” Auerbach said, “It’s a very small fraction of people that have these incidents occur.”

Adopters sign a waiver stating, “I understand an animal that appears healthy when adopted may, despite PACC’s best efforts, become ill. The animal I am adopting may or may not be ill at the time I take custody and ownership.”

“Our job is to tell adopters everything we know about their pet,” Auerbach said. “Do pets go home perfect? No. No animal is perfect. We’re not adopting out teddy bears.”

Adopters are given a certificate for a free vet visit. Families can return animals with problems that would be too expensive.

Robert Osborne adopted a cat and spent about $600 shortly after adoption. He said he did not want to return his cat because he did not want to put the animal through that stress again.

“We were upset,” Osborne said, “and thought, well, if he was coming out of here, we thought he would be in fairly good shape, something we wouldn’t have to spend money on right away.”

PACC has a foster program for animals with known medical challenges.

“We often give people options,” Auerbach said. “They can care for the animal in foster, and for our foster program, they can bring the pet back as much as they need to.”

For people who do not want to commit to adoption, almost every animal at PACC is available for foster.

“I think PACC is great,” Hagan said. “I love what they do. Adopt don’t shop. But PACC needs to be held accountable.”

“I would just encourage the public to ask a lot of questions,” Sasiadek said.

“I would still go back,” Osborne said, “and I would be much more careful, beware as a buyer.”

Auerbach said about 25 percent of intakes have urgent medical needs. PACC keeps breaking its own records, with about 90 percent of animals saved last year.

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel is an investigative reporter at News 4 Tucson - KVOA.
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