In light of a recent viral Facebook post regarding a dog in need of emergency veterinary care, The Daily News found that there is no clear county-wide policy for treatment of injured animals that may be strays or without apparent owners.

With the approach of the hunting season and cooler weather, the likelihood of dogs and other household animals being loose near roads and traffic stops is high.

In the event that an individual hits or finds an injured animal that needs medical care, there are actions that can be taken. However there is no recommended policy by officials.

Onslow County Animal Services Director Howard Martin said that in the event of a call-in of an injured animal, they always try to locate the owner using tags or microchip before anything else.

If the owner is located, it is up to them to seek medical treatment for their animal.

In the event that the animal is a stray or no owner can be found, Animal Services will transport the injured animal to its facility if possible. The Animal Services facility is not a treatment center, however. There is no veterinarian on staff at the moment, no X-ray machine and limited medical equipment.

“There’s not a constructed policy for a situation like this, it’s really based on the individual scenario and the severity of the issue. But if necessary, we will use our better judgement and humanly euthanize the animal,” Martin explained. According to Riley Eversull, the public information officer for Onslow County, there is a county statute that allows for the euthanization of an animal that is found injured.

Local veterinarians take it upon themselves to treat these animals when legally allowed to.

The majority of veterinarian clinics in Onslow County follow this loose guideline to treating unidentified injured animals, and only those with Good Samaritan funds or the available resources can treat these animals free of cost.

Academy Animal Hospital, the subject of a recent viral Facebook post, is one of them.

The repercussions

A Facebook post about the reported neglect of a dog in need of emergency care has resulted in dozens of hateful phone calls and multiple death threats at a local veterinarian’s office.

A Jacksonville resident posted on Facebook at 7:16 p.m. Aug. 1 insinuating that Academy Animal Hospital on Western Boulevard refused to treat a dog that had been hit by a car.

In his original post, the man claims he found a hunting dog that had been hit by a car in a roadside ditch.

“They would not treat this dog without cash it wasn’t even my dog and I had never seen it before but I took the time to get it out of the ditch from drowning...and drove it to the vet” the post read. “Veterinarians are supposed to help animals ...”

The post had been shared more than 83,000 times and had 97 comments villainizing the veterinarian clinic.

According to Academy Animal Hospital, the dog was never refused treatment and the man inaccurately recounted the details of that day.

Dr. Catherine Lewis was in surgery at the facility from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m., as has been the routine of the practice since the 1960s, when the man arrived with the dog. During that time, there is typically just the one veterinarian available and no other patients are seen until 9 a.m. during non-surgery hours.

The man arrived with the dog at approximately 8 a.m. and was told by hospital staff that the only doctor in the facility was currently operating on an animal patient in critical condition and could not leave the surgery table.

“I would never refuse to treat a patient,” Lewis said. “But I’m not leaving an anesthetized patient that I’m performing surgery on to (treat another patient).”

The staff explained the situation to the man and that his best option would be to take the dog to another veterinarian facility about a mile down the road.

The man told The Daily News that what he posted on Facebook was true and declined further comment.

A Jacksonville resident who said he was in the veterinary clinic at the time also took to Facebook about the exchange.

“Actually I was there and what (the original post) says is not the whole truth. He didn’t just find a dog and save it. The guy hit the dog, first off, he didn’t find it. I heard him talking to the (staff). He never offered to pay for it and when they told him the doctor was in an emergency surgery and couldn’t physically leave that dog in surgery, he got mad. They told him the best option for the dog was to take it down the road to another animal place but he didn’t want to. His words were something like: It isn’t my dog, I’m leaving it here,” the post read.

The first poster left the injured dog when its owner arrived. The owner was offered paperwork so the dog could be treated; however, the owner refused and left the facility with his dog, which was still alive at that time.

“I got out of surgery at about 8:46 a.m. and I never saw the gentleman or the patient,” Lewis said.

The initial post was made — and the death threats began — later that day.

Lewis said she remains upset over the health of the dog, which was taken by its owner before it could be treated, and the threats made against her clinic and its staff. But on the flip side, she also said that Academy Animal Hospital has received support from other local veterinarian offices. That support included sentiments, cards and phone calls stating that the situation could have happened to any of them. 

In case of emergency

It is Academy Animal Hospital’s policy to treat any suffering animal that the facility is legally allowed to, regardless of if that patient is a stray or if monetary payment is received.

“I have, a thousand times, treated stray animals without ever asking for anything in return.... strictly out of the goodness of my heart,” Lewis said. “I’m honestly concerned that this inaccurate and untrue post will ruin my business.”

There is no clear cut policy for treatment of injured animals, especially those that have no identifying tags or geo tracking microchips. It is at the discretion of the veterinarian office to treat these animals, taking into consideration possible ownership, the suffering of the animal and the legality of the situation.

“I can say a lot of cliche things, but I didn’t spend 8-plus years of higher education to devote myself to animals if I didn’t care,” Lewis said. “I’d treat an earthworm if it needed it.”