A woman whose dog died after being attacked by a pit bull cross as they waited outside the vets has been asked to pay nearly £3,000 for treatment.
Andrea Saunders said she was outside the Forest Veterinary Group in Port Talbot, Wales, with her two Yorkshire Terriers – named Mya and Bella – in her arms.
She said that a pit bull cross then ran towards them before starting to circle them while bearing its teeth.
The 53-year-old said that the dog managed to drag Bella out of her arms and fatally mauled her.
The Yorkshire Terrier died in the care of Vets Now Swansea four days after the attack, the holistic therapist told WalesOnline.
Andrea told how she had been doing her best to forget about the incident and move on with her life with Mya and her new dog Tess.
But she was stunned when two months ago she received a significant bill from Vets Now.
Due to Andrea’s reluctance to pay that bill she was informed of in August, the fee has now risen to £2,708.43.
Out-of-hours veterinary treatment provided by companies like Vets Now typically costs more than care offered by usual veterinary surgeries due to staff working unsociable hours and a need for extensive state of the art equipment available around the clock.
Recounting the horrendous four days before Bella’s death Andrea said: “I’d gone to the vets with both Bella and Mya for routine check-ups.
“I came out to wait outside and I was walking with them both on the lead when I saw to the left of us this pit bull cross off the lead running towards us and showing its teeth.
“I picked the dogs up and held them closely and the dog began circling around us.
“It then jumped up and put its paws on my shoulders and began trying to push me to the ground.
“Its face was so close to mine that my face was wet with its spit.
“I was trying to calm it down and began stroking it and it went back to the floor.
“But then it jumped back up and began dragging Bella from me.
“I was frantically trying to find the owner of this dog while screaming for help and luckily an ex-marine who was also there with his dog ran to help and began kicking the dog off Bella and punching it until he was red in the face.
“It felt like it lasted a few minutes.”
Andrea says she ran into the vets and was seated in a room before her dog was transferred to Forest Veterinary Group’s Neath site and then onto Vets Now in Swansea.
“I was having a panic and asthma attack and they put me in a room,” Andrea recalled.
“Bella was bleeding from her nose and mouth and she had a smashed ribcage. I was in the room for about 20 minutes before an ambulance came to take her.
“She lived for a few days while she was cared for by Vets Now but I wish I’d had her put down and hadn’t put her through all that looking back.”
On August 17, Andrea received a letter through the post informing her that she owes thousands of pounds for the care Vets Now gave to Bella after the attack.
Andrea admits the fee wouldn’t have been that high had she agreed to pay when she received the initial letter two months ago.
Vets Now has told WalesOnline that the bill for Bella’s care was so high due to the complex care Bella received and Andrea’s requests to continue that complex treatment even though euthanasia had been discussed.
Treatment over the four days Bella was admitted was extensive including intensive care, extensive pain medication, oxygen therapy, resuscitation, life support, ultrasound scans, treatment for a suspected collapsed lung, sedation, chest drain, and blood tests.
“I think the owner of the pit bull cross or Forest Vets should pay,” Andrea said.
“I’ve asked the vets for the owner’s details but they’ve said no due to data protection. It just seems so immoral and unfair what has happened to me.”
Mandisa Greene, medical Director for Vets Now, said the company would not involve itself in a dispute over who should pay the bill.
She said: “We are so sorry to Bella’s owners for the loss of their beloved dog Bella.
“We can confirm that Bella was transferred to our emergency clinic at Vets Now in Swansea from Forest Vets and she presented as unstable on admission.
“Bella had sustained extensive injuries and sadly her prognosis was poor – we explained to Bella’s owners that we could not be certain of saving her life.
“Our dedicated emergency team in our Swansea clinic worked extremely hard to save Bella’s life over several days.
“Euthanasia options were discussed however Bella’s owner requested and consented to continued attempts to save her life.
“It was discussed with Bella’s owner that all owners are liable for financial and clinical consent.
“We made it clear that we would be unable to get involved in any dispute between the owner and the third party whose dog launched the attack.
“Bella’s owner has requested that we provide owners details of the dog who conducted the attack.
“However no veterinary practice in our profession is able to give out owner details due to GDPR – it is simply against the law.
“We supported Bella’s owner throughout her time with us and we advised the best course of action was to report this tragic incident to the police.”
Tim Ingham, clinical director at Forest Vet Group said: “The loss of a pet is always a very sad and difficult time; we fully understand the distress that this tragic incident has caused to all concerned and we offer our sincere sympathies to Bella’s family.
“We aim to provide a professional and caring service at all times and our team worked incredibly hard to try and save Bella, trying to stabilise her and providing emergency surgery.
“The owner whose dog caused Bella’s injuries opted to pay the bill for Bella’s treatment with us so Bella’s family have no outstanding payments with Forest Vet Group.
“As Bella’s injuries were sustained on a Friday afternoon, after her emergency surgery with us she was transferred to Vets Now in Swansea.
“Her owner is responsible directly with Vets Now for any treatment costs incurred whilst being looked after there.”
Andrea described her shock when she began receiving the invoices three years after the incident that led to Bella’s death.
She said she “still shakes” recalling the event which led to Bella’s death and explained how she is still haunted by the experience.