Family goes to court over sick dog




When his 6-year-old son, Gavin, fell in love with a boxer puppy at Petland Robinson, Joey Deiuliis bought it for $1,499 plus sales tax. When a store employee handed the puppy over to the family on Aug. 17, the puppy vomited all over Gavin's mother, Lisa.

Store employees said the puppy was not sick, although they gave the family pills for kennel cough, Mr. Deiuliis testified at a Nov. 15 hearing before District Judge Gary M. Zyra of Scott. The 12-week-old puppy went home with Gavin, who named him Bowser.

The next day Bowser vomited again and coughed so badly that his eyes bulged and he struggled to breathe, Gavin's grandmother, Marsha Quinten of North Versailles, testified. Bowser wouldn't eat and was too lethargic to play.

In the next 31 days, Bowser was treated by six veterinarians, including a four-day stay at an emergency clinic where the bill was $3,500 and veterinarians "told me they did not think the dog would make it through the night," Mrs. Quinten said. "I was sitting there crying my eyes out. Sick as he was, Bowser was still wagging his tail."

The family filed a complaint against Petland owner Jeff Koury, seeking reimbursement for nearly $5,200 in veterinary bills and the puppy's purchase price. Mr. Zyra ruled against Mr. Koury, ordering him to pay the family $1,499. That appears to be the maximum amount that can be awarded under Pennsylvania's Dog Purchaser Protection Act, more commonly known as The Puppy Lemon Law, which allows for reimbursement of vet fees "not to exceed the purchase price" of the puppy.

Mrs. Quinten said she gave the pet store pills to Bowser every day, but he kept getting sicker, so she took him to her own vet in North Huntingdon four days after they bought the puppy.

"My veterinarian was alarmed. Bowser was underweight" and severely infested with worms. He had an ear infection, a nasal discharge and "something was wrong with his lungs." Mrs. Quinten said her veterinarian prescribed a new antibiotic on Aug. 21 because the pills from Petland were not strong enough to clear up Bowser's kennel cough, which ultimately progressed into life-threatening pneumonia.

Mr. Koury and store employees testified that a veterinarian examines puppies at the store every Wednesday, and Bowser was scheduled for a free follow-up exam at the store at 5 p.m. Aug. 22. Because the family took Bowser to their own vet instead of the pet store's, the Petland puppy warranty was voided, Mr. Koury said.

Mr. Koury's testimony included the following information: In eight years he has sold more than 5,000 puppies that come from Hunte Corp. About 1 percent of sales resulted in complaints, he said, and his store has passed every inspection by the state dog warden and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Hunte Corp. in Missouri is a "broker" that handles many thousands of puppies every year. Hunte buys puppies from breeders and ships them to sellers, including pet stores, all over the country.

Kelly Iverson, the attorney who represented Mr. Koury at the hearing, said the family was told to keep giving the pills provided by Petland. Switching to another antibiotic "caused the pup's URI [upper respiratory infection] to develop into pneumonia. It was the actions and inactions of the plaintiff [Mr. Deiuliis] that caused the puppy to get sick. It's not the responsibility of Petland," Ms. Iverson said.

Mr. Deiuliis said his family wanted "justice for Bowser and for everyone else who buys a sick puppy." He hopes Bowser's story will educate the public.

Bowser got a clean bill of health on Sept. 17, a full month after he left the pet store. Today he's a playful, mischievous, happy 6-month-old puppy and shows no physical or behavioral after-effects from his earlier health problems.

Tree lighting

Homeless animals from Animal Friends will attend the first tree lighting ceremony at the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. That's because the free event benefits the shelter in Ohio Township, with guests encouraged to bring pet food, blankets, towels, new toys or kitty litter.

Enjoy complimentary hot cocoa, apple cider cocktails and holiday treats while listening to holiday songs performed by the Jazz at Andys Trio. The nontraditional Christmas tree, created by local artist Matthew Clifford and Forecast Design/Build, uses reclaimed and recycled materiels.

Greeting guests will be Edie, 2, the white boxer-Labrador retriever mix who is the official canine ambassador at the hotel, 510 Market St., Downtown.

An Ohio animal shelter plucked Edie from the streets when she was 8 months old. Circle Tail Inc., near Cincinnati, trained her to be a service dog, but her highly social personality made her a better fit for the hotel job. Edie spends nights and weekends in the home of Julie Abramovic, public relations manager at the Fairmont.

Santa photos

Petagogy, the natural pet supply store on Ellsworth Avenue, Shadyside, is hosting pet photos with Santa Claus from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Saturday.

Local pet photographer Jenny Karlsson will take free digital photos and email them to customers, along with details for ordering prints for holiday cards.

Dogs must arrive on leashes, cats on leashes or in carriers, and small mammals in carriers.

Bird talk

The Pittsburgh affiliate of Parrot Education and Adoption Center is hosting a talk that will include birds doing tricks at 1 p.m. next Saturday at the Garden City Fire Hall, 602 Garden City Drive, Monroeville (15146). John Lege, who bills himself as "That Guy With the Birds," will tell stories about "rescue, love and rehabilitation." There will be an auction, raffle and bird toys for sale. Admission is $5. PEAC members get in free. Information: www.pitpeac.org.

Don't shop, adopt

"Pet Adoption Is Priceless" at Animal Friends through Dec. 31. The shelter is urging the public to adopt rather than shop. There will be no adoption fees for dogs, cats and rabbits that are over 2 years old. The fee is usually $75 for dogs and cats and $60 for rabbits. Go to www.ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org for further information.

Free adoptions

About 30 people can adopt a dog over age 2 for free on Monday at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society shelter on the North Side. The Ryan family of Fox Chapel has offered to cover the adoption fees for approximately 30 dogs.

Some animals may not be able to go home Monday, but applications must be filled out that day. Applicants must allow a home visit or a meet and greet with other owned pets before adoption.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to petpoints@post-gazette.com. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. First Published November 24, 2012 5:00 AM




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