Couple sues veterinarian, alleging negligence was hidden from them
A Polk County couple is suing an Iowa veterinarian for allegedly intercepting and withholding records indicating their dog’s death was due to negligence.
In a lawsuit filed in Polk County District Court, Jennifer and Chris Higgins of Polk County allege Mobile Animal Health Care and Dr. Linda Stroh provided veterinary services for their dog, Hailey, a 4-year-old Weimaraner.
The couple claims that prior to Hailey being spayed on March 23, 2021, the dog went into heat but Mobile Animal Health Care assured them that wouldn’t pose an issue for the surgery. On the day of the procedure, an employee of Mobile Animal Health picked up Hailey at the Higgins’ home, then returned the dog later that same day. Hours later, Hailey stopped breathing, then died while en route to Blue Pearl Emergency Veterinary Hospital.
Hailey’s owners requested a necropsy, which they paid for. Over the next several days, the couple allegedly contacted Blue Pearl multiple times to check on the status of the necropsy report and were ultimately informed that Stroh had contacted Blue Pearl and advised them to send her the report so she could inform the couple of its findings.
The couple alleges they never received the necropsy report from Stroh and were not contacted by the veterinarian as to what the report showed. They eventually obtained a copy of the report from Blue Pearl.
According to their lawsuit, the report indicated Hailey’s death was due to negligence with regard to the spaying procedure. The couple claims Mobile Animal Health Care ignored their subsequent request for Hailey’s medical records, although the records were turned over in response to a certified letter citing the state law requiring disclosure.
The medical records allegedly showed the procedure had been performed by someone unknown to them: Dr. Leah Braas. The records also stated that estrous – indicating Hailey was in heat, which can increase the risks associated with spaying — was observed prior to the procedure being performed.
The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of the defendants by failing to properly assess the risks created by spaying a dog in heat, failing to adequately suture certain incisions, and failing to properly close the surgical incision.
The lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages for the defendants causing emotional distress by providing incomplete information as to the cause of Hailey’s death and by failing to immediate provide the requested necropsy and other medical records.
The defendants, who include Stroh, Braas and Mobile Animal Health Care, have yet to file a response to the lawsuit. The Iowa Capital Dispatch was unable to reach Braas or anyone at Mobile Animal Health Care on Friday.
Chris Higgins said Friday that he and his wife filed a complaint about Hailey’s treatment with the Iowa Board of Veterinary Medicine but were not informed of the outcome. Board records indicate no public action was taken by the board against any of the defendants in the case.
In the past five years, the Board of Veterinary Medicine has imposed public disciplinary action against only three veterinarians. The last time the board took any such action was in March 2021.