Home euthanization service was pet hell: trial
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 5, 2009 3:03PM EST
TORONTO - They called it Pet Heaven.
Instead, several animal lovers told an Ontario court Thursday, they got "pet hell."
The testimony arose in the case against a Toronto-based company and its co-owners, who pleaded not guilty to charges of practising veterinary medicine without a licence and holding themselves out as licensed vets.
Megan McGurk, an English professor at York University, said she called Pet Heaven in December 2007 because her beloved 15-year-old dog Jack needed to be put down and she wanted it done quickly and painlessly at home.
"My dog was tortured for the last half hour of his life and I paid dearly for that," McGurk testified.
"It was shocking in its brutality."
Pet Heaven, co-owned by Eric and Shelley Blechman, offers home-based euthanasia and cremation services.
Court heard that, typically, Eric Blechman would arrive at the pet's home, tender an invoice and get a release form signed, and a few minutes later, someone he said was the vet would arrive to administer the final shots.
Witnesses said Eric Blechman showed up wearing a Harley Davidson motorcycle jacket or driving a pick-up truck with Harley decals, something McGurk said she found "oddly inappropriate" for the occasion.
"It would be like me going to a lecture in a bikini," she said, adding she paid $689 for the services.
In McGurk's case, the vet asked no questions about her dog, and gave the animal the euthanizing drug in the hip, which she said was highly unusual, court heard.
"My dog started whimpering and moaning; he was clearly in stress and pain," she told justice of the peace, Kevin Madigan, adding she's still wracked with guilt.
"They were torturing my dog and they were clearly blase about it."
Margaret Routh, who had used Pet Heaven twice without any problems, said she called them in again in September 2007 to put her Jack Russell down.
She said the man she thought was the vet "stabbed" the animal with a syringe in the thigh and later in the chest as she held Blackjack in her arms.
"He was a butcher," Routh said. "I got pet hell that time."
Routh, who said she was an emotional wreck for two weeks, complained to the College of Veterinarians of Ontario, which eventually decided to prosecute the Blechmans.
Defence lawyer Michael Pasquale told the court it is not an offence "to be an agent to someone seeking the services of a mobile veterinarian" or to provide "ancillary services" such as funerals.
"They did not pretend to be vets," he said of the Blechmans.
Bernie LeBlanc, who is prosecuting on behalf of the veterinary college, called it irrelevant whether the couple wielded the needles.
The Blechmans maintain they offered the home-euthanasia services because vets typically won't go to people's homes.
The couple, who could face a penalty of up to $100,000 if convicted, said they were confident they would be exonerated.
"I think we'll be able to continue business as usual," Eric Blechman said during a break in proceedings.
"The service is needed, absolutely."
Shelley Blechman said licensed vets always gave the animals a needle, and said she had received hundreds of calls and thank you notes for the services Pet Heaven provides.
"I love animals; I love dogs," she said, adding that sometimes euthanasia simply doesn't go smoothly but was always done by a licensed vet.
The case is expected to continue into Friday.