Dog Released From Veterinarian After Good Samaritan Pays Owner’s Bill

Pilot

Last week, we brought you the story of Josh Gomez and his dog, Pilot. Gomez had an unpaid bill at his veterinarian’s office and his dog was being “held hostage” at the animal hospital until he paid the remaining portion of his bill. The veterinarian had initially told Gomez that on Tuesday, he was going to bring Pilot to the animal shelter and he could possibly be euthanized if he didn’t settle the bill.

Fortunately, Pilot did not go to the animal shelter and in fact, on Tuesday night, he was returned to his owner and is now back home. A good Samaritan stepped in to help Gomez and pay the remaining portion of his bill.

Carol Diamantis heard Gomez and Pilot’s story on the news and wanted to help. She paid $972 in cash to settle Gomez’s vet bill and free Pilot.

“If I was in that position, I would hope somebody would help me out,” said Diamantis.

Pilot had been staying at the clinic since August 26. Gomez took his dog to the clinic, and the vet diagnosed the dog with Parvovirus.

Diamantis, Gomez and his attorney, Ed McCrimmon, paid a surprise visit to PetFIRST Animal Hospital, where Pilot was being held, late Tuesday, which was the deadline that Gomez’s veterinarian, Garry Innocent, set for Gomez to pay his bill.

During the exchange, Innocent demanded that Pilot’s bill be paid in cash. Gomez’s lawyer said the dog should be released before any cash was exchanged.

Gomez’s attorney even called the local police to make sure the exchange would go smoothly. The officer was a bit confused over why he was there. Innocent complained about the lawyer’s “publicity stunt.”

A vet technician then handed over Pilot to Gomez. The dog jumped into Gomez’s arms, and Gomez said he is just glad that the whole situation is over.

Innocent said he is happy and all is well. He stated the cash that Diamantis gave to Innocent settled the bill once and for all.

Source: AJC.com

(Thanks Irene)

44 Responses to “Dog Released From Veterinarian After Good Samaritan Pays Owner’s Bill”

  1. Nancy G. says:

    God bless this wonderful woman! What a great end to the story, and there is the vet, sour right down to the finish line, ‘cash only’ and griping about it as a ‘publicity stunt.’ Get over yourself, dude. The lawyer brought a cop as an eyewitness, and for his own protection, and I don’t blame him, considering this vet’s erratic behaviour in the past. Geez, I hope his practice goes down the tubes. What a creep.

  2. nora says:

    Poor Pilot! He was probably half crazy after being cooped up in a cage at the vets office and that is a crappy to treat an active puppy. I hope that Mr. Gomez keeps his innoculations current from now! If I lived in that area, I would COMPLETELY AVOID that vet after he made ANY remarks about darling Pilot possibly being euthanized!!!!!! What a horrid way to deal with the issue of non payment of a medical bill. That poor pup survived parvo!!!! I agree the vet is a total CREEP.

  3. Pukanuba says:

    Bless you, Carol……you are my hero.

    As for that vet……..maybe you should reconsider your career & become the head of the PFI. With that attitude, you’d do well.

  4. Lorri says:

    I am glad I don’t live near this vet. This story just makes me so angry. This jerk has no business being a vet. In fact, I am fairly certain he should be evaluated by the local mental health professionals.

    But In the end what comes around goes around and I have NO DOUBT this guy will get his.

    What a wonderful woman for helping out this dog and his family.

  5. EmilyS says:

    so what recourse do vets have when patients don’t pay their bills?

  6. Anonymous says:

    By Dr. Innocent’s actions in this case, where he simply could have set up a payment plan (legal contract) for Mr. Gomez to sign (and then sued in small claims court if the owner didn’t come through), he’s ruined his own practice! You did it yourself, Smarty.

    No, it wasn’t Mr. Gomez putting on a “publicity stunt”… Dr. Garry Innocent caused his own “publicity stunt,” a stunt which will probably destroy his practice. If I were in that area, I know I would refuse to take my animals there even if I had to drive an hour further, simply because of the vet’s actions.

    Thank you, Carol Diamantis, for stepping in to save this dog!

    With a threat such as the one reported, I wouldn’t even have Dr. Innocent on my property to clean out the piles in my kennel.

    Have a lot of cancellations lately? Well, expect more!

  7. shibadiva says:

    Bless Ms. Diamantis. She made the world a better place with her act of compassion.

    Emily, vets have the option of offering to work out a negotiated payment plan. They can advise customers of payment options like Care Credit. They can educate customers on pet insurance or having an emergency fund or credit card set aside. They can provide education on the steep costs of pet emergencies. We wouldn’t want veterinarians to be taken advantage of because of their compassion but, at the same time, there are many out there who volunteer their services and also sponsor emergency funds to help pet parents in need. One such fund that we have here is the Farley Fund, named after the dog in the syndicated cartoon “For Better or For Worse”. My veterinarian does all of this.

    What Dr. Innocent did had little to do with the spirit of the oath that veterinarians take. He acted unprofessionally and without compassion. His bottom line (and seemingly only interest) was cash cash cash.

    Some of the comments on AJC.com about running a veterinarian business as though it is Best Buy were particularly sad.

  8. Mrs. P. says:

    Most vets start with payment plans and eventually use collection agencies when bills aren’t paid. (As do doctors, hospitals, etc.) EmilyS, have you ever heard of a doctor holding a child hostage and threatening foster care because the family couldn’t pay? Of course not. The doctor wouldn’t have a license for long. Vets have their version of the Hippocratic Oath which this guy violated big time. I hope he loses his license.

  9. Mrs. P. says:

    After reading that entire article, IMO Georgia needs to change their law! It would be harder for a mechanic to sell your car as abandoned.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This could have all been prevented if Josh Gomez had vaccinated his puppy. There is more to this than is being reported in the article. Gomez was negligent and now he wants to sue the vet. The vet is not responsible for this dog contracting a deadly virus. The owner is. He withheld the necessary Parvo vaccines from his dog. Parvo is deadly, very contagious, costly to treat and preventable with vaccines. I doubt the owner gave him a rabies vaccine either. The dog is not neutered.

  11. estelle says:

    There should be a law prohibiting this kind of action by vets. They have recourse in the courts for unpaid bills. To threaten to destroy an animal is disgraceful !

  12. shibadiva says:

    Many people do not understand the full cost of pet ownership and the huge bills they may face in an emergency. It can be especially difficult for those who can only afford a pet that is given away free or at a nominal cost.

    Kudos to Josh Gomez for taking responsibility by getting Pilot to a vet and borrowing heavily to make what he thought was the required payment.

  13. Robert Davis says:

    I agree Shibadiva….

    Mr. Gomez did act in the best interest of his dog….he shouldn’t be condemned because he ran out of money. This whole story has made me look at myself in the mirror and think- damn - where did my compassion go? Is it really worth losing my humanity and become cold because that is what the law says?

    Carol really did a great service to Mr. Gomez…but also to me - I know I felt ashamed when I heard her story and all I did was spout some best practices that we all know - but when it comes down to it, Mr. Gomez was in need and as a community I should have helped….I mean - how much money did we raise for Katrina victims and the pet rescues? Well here is an example close to home and I didn’t even connect the dots.

    Regards,

    Robert

  14. Anonymous says:

    anonymous says - The dog is not neutered.

    How do you know? and what does neutering have to do with anything in this case? Maybe Gomez wanted to breed the dog…

  15. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous -

    One - there are people who do not vaccinate their pets. Whether or not that makes them negligent depends on their reasons. You do not know why or even if Pilot wasn’t vaccinated.

    Two - where is the official statement that the pup had not been vaccinated? I’ve only seen that claim once, and it was in the comments section of that newspaper.

    Strike 3 - pups can STILL get parvo if they have not finished the vaccination schedule. And vaccinations are not 100%.

  16. straybaby says:

    Anonymous says:
    September 19th, 2007 at 10:56 am

    and you know all this as fact? if so, please back it up.

    pilot could still get parvo even if vaccinated. many people also don’t realize/understand exactly what the parvo and other vacs really protect against. rabies is prob the one that most people would be somewhat educated on. not every one is born with a dog manual embedded in their brain. they just know what they know from family before them or bits and pieces they pick up along the way. it takes something like this to start them on the education path. doesn’t mean they aren’t loving dog owners. heck, he managed to come up with over a thousand dollars so his dog could even get treatment it needed.

    and for the record, there are still many vets out there that don’t neuter until 6mo. and pilot would need to be 4 months for a rabies shot. i would bet the vet prob gave him his shot if he was old enough. prob insisted as he seems like that kind of vet ($$$).

  17. shibadiva says:

    Robert, you made some good points in this case which, obviously has captured our attention and given us pause. This case got largely local press and if not for Itchmo and the web, most of us wouldn’t have known about it. The situation is so widespread though.

    This morning, my local paper aired the story of a woman who’d fallen for the Nigerian puppy scam (a missionary can no longer keep his Yorkie and has to send it overseas). She thought she was getting a free puppy. In my volunteer work, I’ve had calls from people who want a pet but don’t want to pay adoption fees. As pointed out earlier, some of these folks think that a $10 bag of kibble is all they’ll need. Josh still needs to take some steps to get proper checkups for Pilot and to have an emergency fund put aside.

    At the same time, there is only good karma for the generous veterinarians, and tireless shelter volunteers and workers, rescue coordinators, and animal lovers who give their services and their hearts to make the world a better place.

    Maybe we can all pay this forward in some way.

  18. Robert Davis says:

    It would be a good idea if “Anonymous” posters would choose a “fake name” so the comments back and forth to multiple “Anonymous” posters named “Anonymous” are not confusing as to who is saying what.

  19. shibadiva says:

    I wanted to mention this Canadian foundation as one example of an option to help people in need keep their pets healthy.

    The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association administers the Farley Foundation fund to offer financial subsidies through veterinary clinics on behalf of pet owners.

    Only Ontario veterinary practices with an association member can apply for the subsidy.

    Farley was often featured in Lynn Johnston’s comic strip, which enabled her to illustrate the ups and downs of family life through Farley’s eyes and antics. His goofy, charming and thoroughly loveable personality endeared fans the world over and, following his death, Johnston has lent Farley’s name and image to worthwhile causes such as the Farley Foundation.

    “To be asked to help veterinarians to care for pets who, for lack of finances, might be left to suffer, is an honour,” Johnston said. “I feel part of this venerable group and, once again, my very first dog is remembered in a very special way.”

    October is Fundraise for Farley Month and many veterinary clinics are planning their own community events.

    No pet owner should be forced to refuse medical treatment due to lack of finances.

    http://www.insidetoronto.com/V.....icle/31247

    http://www.farleyfoundation.org/welcome.html

  20. Nancy G. says:

    I agree, you cannot always assume the pet owner was negligent and did not vaccinate the pup. I once got a kitten from a shelter and it had distemper, right off the bat. It was so sad. And it was in no way my ‘fault.’ The cat looked healthy. Then there is the issue of Mr. Gomez having paid in full the original amount the bills was, over $1000, as he was told it would be. This is not a negligent, dead-beat pet owner. What he said he could not afford was the added-on fees, which were nearly as high as the original charge, thereby nearly doubling his bill. And which he never agreed to, and the vet did not discuss with him beforehand or get his permission for. He just added it on. And we’re not talking an extra $50 or $100. It was over $900. This is bill-padding in the extreme and I think it is a good guess this is not the first time this vet has stooped to this tactic to get more money. Unethical, and if not illegal, it should be. After all, with a moving company that quotes you a price, loads up all your stuff, drives it to another city, and then tells you a much higher charge you have to pay before they’ll let you have it, you are stuck and I think they have decided the practice is illegal– so what’s the difference between that kind of extortion and what this vet has done? For ethical vets, when a charge is going to be that much higher than originally agreed on, they will discuss it with the client first, before going that far. Yes, this was extortion– pay up or you’ll never see your pet again.

  21. Cathy says:

    A young guy who works at my salon had a cat who got terribly sick in February (pet food) and took it to a local animal hospital. They told him it would be $2000 to save the cat and they wanted the money up front. He only had $1000 available on his credit card and asked if he could pay the rest the following month. They said no. He was really upset and asked the receptionist “What can I do, I can’t just let him die?” She said to him “You should consider euthanasia or … some people sell their cars.” What????!!!! This hospital had just spent over half a million dollars remodeling and added a pet salon and day care.

    The pet industry has gotten so large that so many just see it as a way to make money. Don’t get me wrong - most people don’t work or have businesses because they don’t have anything better to do - they work to make money. But what happened to ethics?

  22. Scarbo in Atlanta says:

    Originally from Haiti, Dr. Garry Innocent completed his education at Tuskegee University, where he received his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 1994. He started a modest house call veterinary practice, ZoeVets in 1999, which blossomed over the years. Now, he is the Medical Director of PetFirst Animal Hospital.

    No staff is listed on his website - one would think that a 24-hr. hospital would have more than one vet & a fair number of staff personnel. (?)

    Website: www.petfirst24hour.com/staff.html

  23. Robert Davis says:

    Thanks Shibadiva for the links to the foundation/charities….this is an excellent idea to help pet owners who get mired down in vet bills.

    Robert

  24. Carol Johnson says:

    I have looke over the other comments heres and feel the same. I do wonder if the dog had the parvo shot…and if not….this should remind us why they are so critical.

    Regardless….while the vet has a right to be paid….his attempt to hold the innocent dog hostage is contemtible…and threatening to take him to the shelter..where as a large, black dog…he most likely would have died.

    I think Dr. Innocent should get in another line of work….the welfare of his bank account seems his first interest.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Link from 9/15
    http://www.ajc.com/services/co.....p;cxcat=13
    “After news broke Friday of a lawsuit about Pilot’s plight, however, the director of Gwinnett Animal Control hinted of a happy ending, saying authorities would not euthanize the dog if the vet brings Pilot to Gwinnett’s shelter and if Gomez proves he is Pilot’s rightful owner.”

    So the dog was not in danger of being put to sleep. IOM the owner was trying to get out of paying the bill. Owning a dog is expensive.

    Link from 9/16
    http://www.ajc.com/services/co.....p;cxcat=13
    “Now, instead of sending Pilot to the pound, the dog will be given to one of Innocent’s “star clients,” the veterinarian said.”It will be a much better home,” Innocent said. “He’ll be neutered, he’ll have his [Parvovirus] vaccination and he’ll be well cared for.”

    So the dog was not vaccinated or neutered. The owner had to borrow money from his boss and his girlfriend. Now he has taken a donation from a good Samaritan to treat this dog. Where did he get the money for the lawyer?

  26. mittens says:

    ALL the major hospitals for pets where i live- in particular the emergency ones- pretty much want they money first or your pet can die. they make you take them home and stop care when your money runs out.they’ll only make a payment plan if you meet their need specifications and the pet is deemed ‘ worth’ saving. my private vet has a payment plan but few of the bigger offices do.

    holding the animal hostage and threatening the shelter is just wrong- the vet’s a malicious jerk. you get more bees with polite proper humane business practices not strong arm thug tactics. was this a vet or an enforcer for the Mob?

    on the other had people do screw vets royal and just leave their pets if they don’t want to pay. there are plenty of losers out there that do not pay up and won’t honor any court settlement either-and you have to pay collection agencies.i do have sympathy for vets- like anyone they have to get paid-it’s only right. you can’t pay your rent and staff etc. if your clients don’t pay you. there has to be a middle ground here with adequetly holding people accountable for their bills but i don’t think threats of tossing the dog in a shelter are appropriate.

  27. catbird says:

    I agree that it is not fair to blame the owner because the pup had parvo. People are deceived and lied to every day. Last year an aquaintance of mine bought a pup from a breeder who told her that the pup had been vaccinated against parvo. The pup came down with parvo the following week and almost died. This was the woman’s first dog and she was not savvy about puppy mills, breeder reputability, etc. Her vet said that the pup had probably not been vaccinated at all. It’s going to small claims court.

  28. 2CatMom says:

    Anonymous:

    Who said he paid money to the lawyer? Most likely, a lawyer read about this and offered his service pro bono.

    And as far as I know, being poor is not a crime. Not yet anyway. There are a lot of us who would be hard pressed to come up with $2,000+ on a moments notice.

  29. Lorri says:

    >>

    Maybe Cashfirst Animal Hosptial….

    sometimes we plan well and things are beyond our control. I will give you a personal example. I rescued 22 cats/kittens from a high kill shelter in July. I set up arraignments with a local rescue group to offer them at our local petsmart so I could get them adopted. I planned for them to be tested, I planned for the extra expense of the food, litter, vaccines, and generic vet expenses. I did not plan for one to need an amputation, one to need surgery because he has complications from being blind, and nor did I plan for them to bring some sort of virus into my home which has killed 5 and left me running to the vet constantly.
    Does it make me a bad person because I have had to resort to holding ebay auctions to raise money to continue to care for these babies?

    http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQfg.....mcreations

    does it make me a bad person because I didn’t have thousands of dollars laying around ?
    I don’t think so,
    BUT
    I do think if I had walked away from this, knowing for sure these cats/and kittens would have been euthanised that day if I had not taken them (and yes I do know that for sure) then for sure I would have been a bad person.

    sometimes circumstances leave us unprepared, and we have to make choices. This Vet made a choice, and it was not one that was honorable nor in the pet’s best interest, and regardless of the circumstances good bad or indifferent of his client, his first concern should have been the pet.

    it’s easy to judge in today’s world. particularly on the internet. It is harder to step into someome’s shoes, or step up and help out.
    we need to do the best we can and we need to help those we can as well.

  30. Sylvia says:

    This vet is despicable - no one should be a vet (or a doctor) if ll they are interested in is money - and it is clear that’s ALL this jerk is interested in - the dog is a member of your family and should be treated as such. What if a child is sick and the family can’t pay the bill - do they put the kid to sleep? It’s the same thing. The vet should be ashamed, I’m sure he’s not but he has set his Karmic path…..

  31. Sharon says:

    My vet is good but when I lost my job and could no longer afford the diagnostic tests she wanted Kuma to have every two weeks she stopped caring whether my cat lives or dies.

  32. shibadiva says:

    If some of us were vets, we’d run our businesses into the ground with our pro-bono work. My plan is to Win The Lottery so that great works can be accomplished more readily.

    Karmically speaking, perhaps Dr. Innocent could regain his place in the firmament if he were to sponsor and set up a little charity to help those in need.

    Failing that, he might consider selling on commission at Best Buy.

  33. ryssee says:

    Bless her heart, this is the nicest thing I’ve heard or read or seen all day! :-)
    There ARE nice people in this world!

  34. KimS says:

    That lady was an angel. I hope the dog owner sets up payments to pay her back gradually.
    Dr Innocent (oh the irony of his surname!) could have made an exception to his normal rule and set up payments.
    He definitely made “euthanasia” threats and then later back pedaled. And who are these “star clients” he refers to?
    That’s just weird. You wouldn’t hold a child hostage at the hospital if the parents couldn’t pay. How lame. This vet is a nasty jerk. Publicity?
    Well, this obviously degenerated into a cash/hostage exchange. I think having a police officer there was smart.

  35. elizabeth says:

    I say all’s well that ends well. Let’s just be happy the dog received veterinary care, and is now safe; the clinic got paid what it was entitled to for services rendered; and we have seen evidence that there are some really good people in the world willing to step in and help someone in trouble. We all make assumptions about this story based on our worldview and personal experiences. None of us posting here can know all that happened, or what all transpired, or what kind of people the owner or vet are just from a couple articles in the paper.

  36. A Noun (is a person place or thing) says:

    What recourse do you have for an unpaid vet bill? Send the bill to collections.

    Holding a pet hostage is detrimental to both the owner and the pet. I hope the owner sues, and gets back 100 times more than the bill was.

    Worst. Vet. Ever.

  37. Lynn says:

    I still think we’re not getting all the facts.

    Maybe I want to believe that all vets are guardian angels. But I’m troubled that after her very kind deed, Carol may later hear that Pilot is still not neutered and still unvaccinated…..and in short, just not taken care of properly.

    Spread the word: Pets cost money.

  38. shibadiva says:

    Lynn, I hope Josh got the message, and will get Pilot checked out and put aside some money to take care of him regularly. It has been a blessing for him, not only that Ms. Diamantis generously helped him out, but that he went through this crisis as an opportunity to understand the responsibilities of petcare.

  39. Mark says:

    It’s people like Carol that restore your faith in human beings.

    My wife and I are in the business of trying to save dogs from Parvo, and it’s rewarding when you achieve this goal, but heartbreaking when you can’t get to the dog in time.

    The Parvo problem seems to be getting worse, and the latest 2c strain is the most aggressive yet - so much so that, as somebody has said, most vaccines do not offer complete protection, which is why there are in increasing number of stories hitting the news about dogs that have been fully vaccinated still dying from Parvo.

    The only vaccine we’re aware of that has been 100% challenge-tested against the 2c strain is PROGARD, from Intervet, which is the only one we recommend to our customers. Intervet even offer a monetary guarantee on their product, although most vets seem not to use this brand.

    We also came across one vet who was reported as saying that 75% of his clients opt to have their dogs put down because they can’t afford the treatment.

    So, the message we’re trying to get across to dog owners is “be prepared”. Yes, you should still vaccinate your dog, but there are other steps you can take to be ready should the worst happen, and there are also more cost-effective ways of treating Parvo, at home, that offer a 90% chance of success (which is much better than the 50:50 odds quoted by most vets).

    If nothing else, please eheck out our free book, Parvo Treatment 101, and pass it on to other dog owners - the more people that are educated about this nasty virus, the fewer dogs will die needless and painful deaths.

  40. Donna says:

    Vaccines,are not 100% effective. Vaccines do fail.Never count on anything to be fool proof.Medicine,human and animal is only a practice.Blessings to the lady that help the pup and the owner.She is a hero !

  41. LearnAlesson says:

    Here’s an idea.

    Investigate the costs of pet ownership before becoming a pet owner.
    Initiate a relationship with a vet before or immediately after becoming a pet owner.
    Locate emergency services before….
    Locate vets before that DO take payments plans when you have ZERO money (he borrowed 100% of the charge, not part).
    Get an adult dog that is not as succeptable to the millions of challenges that puppies are. “I want” should not come before what “I can do”.
    Save money before becoming a pet owner.
    If you have no money (again, 100% of bill was borrowed, not part of bill), consider fostering a dog/puppy or visiting with friends with pets.

    Pet ownership is not a right, it is a privelege. Flimsy excuses about “things happen” are not acceptable when we have oodles of options for investigating information BEFORE impulse pet acquisition.

    As for the vet, he wanted to “dispose” of the dog. That does not mean kill for those of you leaping to conclusions, it means many, many things. Our local vets have to “dispose” of 2-5 dogs PER WEEK thanks to lousy owners…and yes, he does payment plans.

    Substitute your job title for “vet” and see if it is acceptable to you. Do you want 50% of your paycheck and that is okey dokey? What shall the vet pay his bills with? Vets are rapidly raising prices to pay for deadbeats, supporting them continuing to do so only impacts YOU who are responsible pet owners who pay bills.

  42. anna_2007 says:

    Dr. Innocent? Dr. GUILTY. Who would want their pet in the hands of someone who would kill a pet over money? Until it’s seen as that black and white, someone else’s family will get hurt at Dr. Guilty’s hands.

  43. anna_2007 says:

    Dr. Innocent? Dr. GUILTY. Who would want their pet in the hands of someone who would kill a pet over money? Until it’s seen as that black and white, someone else’s family will get hurt at Dr. Guilty’s hands. Anyone doing business knows there are ways of identifying a deadbeat and dealing with them ahead of time… vs. someone who had no idea it would be so expensive. I have my wits about me and STILL get taken for sticker shock - not at the auto repair place where traditionally this happens - but ONLY AT THE VET’s. Perhaps there should be a similar procedure, and estimate given in WRITING with signatures - that would stop this practice because IMHO it ain’t the owners as much as a certain new breed of vets.

  44. anna_2007 says:

    In the Pet Food example above, when a pet medical situation is not in the normal course of owning pets, i.e. a force majeure sort of thing, like Katrina or the pet food terror attack, any responsible vet outfit would make exceptions e.g., in the $2,000 bill issue. But you’re asking The Establishment to make humane reasonable decisions en masse, and fly in the face of the dollar. That vet hospital - should have been ***metaphorically*** burnt to the ground in this sort of situation denying care when the entire community so to speak was hit. And refusing to make reasonable alternative arrangements. This new breed seems to be born with dollar signs imprinted on their retinas… and in my mind is the source of real terror - esp. to pet owners who don’t know where the next Pet disaster will hit us… and we give up on owning pets for good.


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