Family shocked after 18-year-old receives ticket following dog’s death

An 18-year-old is facing a nearly $1,300 fine after his family’s dog died. Edward Djan has more on the family’s ordeal.

When a family friend was in a bind looking for a new place to live, they asked if Michelle Riel would take care of their pet dog, Zena, for up to two weeks as they found new accommodations.

Two weeks turned into years without any contact with that person, but during that time Zena became part of the family.

Zena spent close to three years with the family before dying on February 28.

As Riel and her family grieve the loss of Zena, she is also struggling to understand why her 18-year-old son has now been fined nearly $1,300 under Manitoba’s Animal Care Act and is accused of not providing adequate medical attention for an animal when ill, causing death.

“They gave us a ticket, but with no actual explanation,” said Riel. “I’m devasted over this. I’m trying to grieve over a pet, and we have this happening to us.”

The ordeal started for the family back in early February when Zena fell ill on a weekend. Riel’s son took Zena to Pembina Veterinary Hospital because his mom was busy taking care of his other siblings and because the hospital was open 24/7.

According to the family, the hospital said Zena had pyometra — a serious and potentially life-threatening infection of the uterus that causes it to fill with bacteria and pus — and needed surgery. When Grout was given a quoted price from the hospital, he told them his family didn’t have the money.

“They said we wanted to do some blood tests and some other tests on her. I said we don’t have the funds for that. They said, ‘OK, but she might need surgery,’” said Eric Grout, Riel’s son.

Grout was able to take Zena home where they looked at other options, including giving her away to a rescue and even euthanizing her.

Desperate, Riel turned to Facebook for help, where a friend of hers offered to pay for Zena’s surgery at his vet.

An appointment was booked for Feb. 28, but on that day early in the morning, Zena collapsed and was again rushed to Pembina Animal Hospital, where she was declared dead.

The family paid the hospital to cremate Zena that day. After nearly a month of back and forth with the hospital trying to get Zena’s remains, the family was informed that their case had been referred to Manitoba’s office of the Chief Veterinary Officer for failing to provide adequate medical attention for an animal when ill, causing death.

Fined for not having money

“She had a vet appointment, we had everything lined up, the funds lined up and she passed right before our appointment. No one told us we have to bring her to a vet in a certain number of days, in a certain amount of time and now this is happening to us. I couldn’t afford surgery, someone offered to pay and now we are being given a ticket, that we also can’t pay,” said Riel.

Michelle Riel. (Photo Credit: Edward Djan, CityNews)

The family informed both the hospital and the CVO’s office that they had made an appointment for Zena to undergo surgery on the day of her death at another vet.

Despite that on April 16, Grout home alone, was served a ticket for nearly $1,300.

“My eyes just shot open, I looked at him and said this is ridiculous,” said Grout.

When CityNews first called the hospital, the person who first answered our call said it would be highly unlikely for us to receive a comment from them because of what they said was patient confidentially, despite what appears to be the clinic responding to negative reviews on their Google page discussing individual cases publicly.

That same person advised us a manager was unavailable at that exact time but would give us a call the same day. They didn’t and CityNews the following day left a message using a form on their website, reached out to them via Facebook Messenger, and called them once again.

A manager did return our call, acknowledging they are aware of the situation but are refusing to comment at all citing this time another reason, that the case is now under the responsibility of the CVO.

In a statement the province says they do consider financial situations in cases of alleged neglect and added, “The determination of neglecting to provide medical care always involves a comprehensive assessment that considers various factors, including the specific needs of the animal, the severity of the medical condition, and the actions or inactions of the animal owner.”

CityNews also reached out to Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn for reaction on the story, but was directed back to ministry officials.

As for the family, they plan on fighting the ticket. “We cared for Zena; we did everything we could,” said Riel.

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