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Veterinary clinic receives backlash after story of dog surrendered over $10K surgery bill goes viral

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Rachel Mullen
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The German Shepard puppy, Jaxx, on Rachel Mullen's GoFundMe page, Saving Jaxx.

Maine veterinarians are speaking out in support of an emergency veterinary clinic that has come under attack on social media ever since a story about its practice went viral last week.

Maine Veterinary Medical Center said staff and animals have received death threats as a result of a story first aired on WGME-TV about a dog named Jaxx whose owner surrendered him when she could not afford to pay for his emergency surgery. The woman later tried to reclaim him, but the dog had been adopted by someone else.

The clinic said facts of the case have been distorted and it's had to take extra security measures as a result. Other veterinarians say this kind of scenario happens regularly.

"People who are not involved in the case, people from out of state, people from around the world will spend their time running down a veterinarian based on a little tidbit of a story," said Janelle Tirrell, an equine veterinarian and the former president of the Maine Veterinary Medical Association. She said what happened to the Scarborough hospital has happened to other veterinarians in a state that already faces a shortage of emergency veterinary services.

"People have had to move. Their families have to leave town because they practice in a small town and people are threatening to burn their house down or threatening to do things to their children at schools," Tirrell said. "People are telling us that we're not living up to our responsibility to the animals. Add death threats on top of that and it's just impossible."

Tirrell points out that veterinarians have a high rate of suicide, in part she believes, because of the stressors they put on themselves but also because of the criticism they face from clients and others on social media who can have a profound effect on a business.

Corrected: June 14, 2022 at 8:23 PM EDT
The clinic is Maine Veterinary Medical Center, not Scarborough Medical Veterinary Center.