Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Not-So-Innocent Georgia Vet Who Held a Dog Hostage

In Fall of 2007, the story broke of Josh Gomez and his pup, a Border Collie named Pilot -- who was held hostage by Georgia Veterinarian Garry "Innocent."

Gomez took Pilot in to see Innocent at PetFIRST Animal Hospital in Duluth, Georgia, where Pilot was diagnosed with parvovirus. Parvovirus is an intestinal virus that can be lethal to dogs. According to news accounts, Innocent gave Gomez an estimate of $1,125 to treat Pilot. But when Gomez, a music teacher, returned to get Pilot, he was presented with a bill for several hundred dollars more than that estimate.

Having made arrangements to get the money needed to pay the original estimate, Gomez paid the $1,125. But Innocent refused to release Pilot until the balance was paid, and then immediately began tacking on boarding fees of $27 a day additional for every day he held Pilot hostage.

Innocent told Gomez that if he didn't come up with the balance (which was growing by the day as he held the dog), he would turn the dog over to animal control, where he might be euthanized. Later, after the media got wind of this story and it began to get some publicity, Innocent changed his threat -- saying instead he would give Pilot away to someone elese.

Gomez filed a lawsuit in Gwinnett Superior Court to try to stop Innocent from sending Pilot to the shelter.

But then a good samaritan stepped forward, to pay the balance of the bill, and Pilot and Gomez were reunited.

Although Georgia law allows vets to "dispose of" pets when a bill is unpaid, considering the animal abandoned -- the law is one thing, and what's right is another.

In our book, Dr. Garry Innocent of PetFIRST Animal Hospital in Duluth, Georgia is a