LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A grandmother is heartbroken after her new dog died just two weeks after adopting it. Veterinarians said the Yorkshire Terrier likely contracted a fatal illness while housed at Louisville Metro Animal Services. The family turned to the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter for help.
Not only did 70-year-old Paula Copeland watch her 6-year-old Yorkie die suddenly, the fight to save his life left the family with huge vet bills racked up trying to save his life.
"As soon as I saw him I fell in love with him," said Paula. "He'd lay in your lap for hours. Of course we didn't know he was sick. Maybe that's why he laid so long."
Sampson appeared to be healthy when he arrived at Louisville Metro Animal Services and when he was transferred to Animal Care Society, the rescue organization where Paula and her daughter, Kim, found him. But two weeks later, Sampson was dead.
"It was just heartbreaking to watch him be so sick and not be able to do anything," Paula said.
"There was just nothing left to be done," Kim added.
Days after he arrived, Sampson stopped eating and started having trouble breathing. Kim rushed him to the vet, then the pet emergency room.
"I had to turn the air condition on full blast in the car and he had his face up to the vent to keep him breathing," she remembered. "And by the time I got back home with him I was sobbing."
The vet diagnosed Sampson with upper respiratory disease. Pneumonia in one lung quickly spread to the other.
"We did watch him die, slowly," Kim said.
Paula was left with her grief and drowning in more than $1,000 in vet bills.
"The day after was really bad," Paula remembered, "Because I guess I was like depressed," she said before breaking into tears.
Newly appointed LMAS director Justin Scally admitted that "there is a potential" Sampson could have gotten sick at the Manslick Road facility where he was housed. Animal Care Society said of five dogs brought over with Sampson from LMAS, four developed upper respiratory disease. Sampson was the only dog that died.
"Absolutely it's a concern," Scally said. "And that is why we are addressing the issue head on at this point."
Days after we began our WAVE 3 Troubleshooter investigation, Scally temporarily stopped intakes of stray dogs at the Manslick Road facility admitting to an outbreak of upper respiratory illness and distemper.
LMAS couldn't put a number on how many dogs were infected at the shelter but it was the second confirmed disease outbreak there this year. Still, Scally refused to cover Paula's vet bills. Scally said LMAS isn't responsible for the cost of medical treatment once an animal leaves its facility.
"We'll I think that any time an animal comes from a shelter there is a potential the animal could be sick," Scally said in explaining the decision.
Animal Care Society has the same policy, but told us it would make an exception in Paula's case. They will write her checks for more than $800, refund her adoption fee and pay the majority of her vet bills. The reason is ACS said it didn't want Paula's experience to be any more painful than it had to be.
"I wanted him so bad," Paula said of Sampson. "I really did."
As it turned out, things did get better for Paula. A few days after our interview, she got a very special birthday present from her son. A 5-year-old Shih tzu that had been living with one of Paula's family members. Paula named her new dog "Sammie" after Sampson.
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