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B.C. pet adoption service ordered to pay chihuahua's medical bills

B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal said pets provide a psychological benefit and awarded the owner $500 for mental distress.
Kyra the chihuahua was adopted from Chilliwack-based Furbaby Rescues Society in 2021.

B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal has ordered a Chilliwack pet adoption service to pay $3,540 in medical bills for an adopted dog.

In his Nov. 24 decision, tribunal member Eric Regehr said Kelsey Couchman adopted Kyra the chihuahua from Furbaby Rescues Society in 2021.

Regehr said it was undisputed that Kyra required considerable vet care after the adoption. Couchman alleges that Furbaby knew that Kyra was in poor health and misrepresented her condition before the adoption.

Couchman claimed $4,981 for vet services, dental surgery and the adoption fee.

Krystle Jores, Furbaby’s sole employee, said Kyra was in good health when she left Furbaby’s care and asked for Couchman’s claims to be dismissed.

Kyra’s route from her place of birth to the Couchman’s home is a long one. A California-based rescue society took Kyra in on Nov. 4, 2021 and then Furbaby brought her to B.C. on Nov. 14.

On Nov. 10, Couchman contacted Furbaby via Facebook Messenger about potentially adopting a rescued chihuahua.

On Nov. 14, Couchman told Jores she was interested in Kyra. Five days later, Jores told Couchman that the adoption fee was $1,200, which included, among other things, pre-adoption blood work.

On Nov. 20, Couchman asked about Kyra’s dental health because “chihuahuas are notorious for bad teeth.”

“Dr. Jores responded that Kyra would get ‘a full dental anything she needs’ when she was spayed,” Regehr's ruling said.

On Nov. 24, Jores took Kyra to a vet, later telling Couchman the dog had a scratch on her eye “but she’s fine otherwise.”

However, according to the vet notes, Kyra had been coughing for several days. The vet recommended X-rays and blood work. But Jores declined both, the tribunal said.

She did not tell Couchman about the cough or that she had rejected the advice of the vet, who had also diagnosed Kyra with a corneal scratch.

Couchman agreed to pick up Kyra from the vet clinic on Nov. 30, right after the spaying procedure that was scheduled for the same day.

On Nov. 28, Jores took Kyra to a different vet where Kyra stayed overnight on an IV drip. She was diagnosed with a cough and the vet recommended blood work and an X-ray that Jores declined twice.

The next day, Couchman sent a $200 deposit and Jores told her about Kyra’s overnight stay at the vet’s, and that the dog was on IV fluids to make sure she was “100% healthy for a spay.”

About an hour before Couchman picked Kyra up, Jores told her the vet had given Kyra “a prescription for her cough,” the first time Jores mentioned Kyra’s cough.

Kyra was spayed on Nov. 30. No dental work was done, Regehr said.

Furbaby said Couchman picked Kyra up and that the vet said Kyra was in perfect health. Regehr found that unlikely and noted there was no statement to that effect in evidence from the vet.

Couchman then paid the outstanding $1,000 adoption fee.

However, on Dec. 3, Couchman told Furbaby she had taken Kyra to her vet because Kyra had “never snapped out of the anaesthetic” and had a very bad cough. Bloodwork came back as poor.

Regehr said the vet’s notes said “Kyra was lethargic and weak, had worn incisors and a missing tooth, pneumonia, and a corneal ulcer. Mrs. Couchman says that Kyra could not stand, eat, or drink, and barely opened her eyes.”

The tribunal noted there was no written agreement about the adoption.

Regehr ruled "Jores's reassurances were fundamental" to Couchman's decision to adopt the dog.

“I find that if Furbaby had performed the contract, Mrs. Couchman would have received a healthy dog,” he said.

As part of the award, Regehr included $500 for mental distress.

“I find that purchasing a pet is a contract that is intended to provide a psychological benefit,” Regehr said.

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