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Doggie Drama: Family pays vet to euthanize dog, later find her at a rescue

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FARMINGTON, Utah - A Utah family was devastated when their 9-year-old boxer, Zoey, became ill.

The family had just lost their home after Tawny Coates' husband went to prison for robbing a bank.

Zoey had been a source of comfort to her children, but she was suffering from seizures and a large tumor on her side.

"This felt like a final stab," Coates told KSL.

Coates says she assumed the tumor was cancerous, so she decided to spare Zoey a painful death.

She asked her father, Larry Coates, to take the dog to Bayview Animal Hospital and have her put to sleep - Coates says she was emotionally unable to take Zoey herself.

Mr. Coates did just that, and has the receipt to prove it - $215 for euthanasia, which is also listed in Zoey's final medical record.

The family even received a sympathy card in the mail from Dr. Mary Smart's veterinary clinic.

That was late November of 2016 - fast forward six months and Coates was hoping to find a new boxer to help her 11-year-old son, Jaxton, who was still grieving from the loss of Zoey.

"I slept with Zoey almost every night," Jaxton said. "She was my best friend."

His mother turned to an online boxer rescue group to find a new furry friend, and ended up finding Zoey!

"And I'm like, 'That looks like my dog.' Then I thought, 'I'm crazy,' but I click on it anyway and zoom in and say, 'No, that's my dog!'" Coates said.

KSL sent an investigative reporter to speak to Veterinarian Mary Smart.

Smart says she told Mr. Coates that there were other options than euthanasia, such as surgery, or medication, but she says that he repeatedly insisted on putting Zoey down, something Mr. Coates calls "a complete falsehood."

"No - emphatically no. She never said one word to me," Mr. Coates said, insisting that Dr. Smart never mentioned any other possible treatments for Zoey.

Meanwhile, Dr. Smart admits that once Mr. Coates dropped off Zoey and left the building, she used the euthanasia money to instead surgically remove the tumor from Zoey's side, and then contacted the boxer rescue group.

"In my professional opinion, this was a dog that had years to live and I didn't want to put the dog down. I was trying to save its life."

When asked why Dr. Smart didn't call the family back, she replied, "I screwed up. I should have called the family. Had I any inkling that they might at all be interested in having the dog back, I would have for sure called. But after my conversation with Mr. Coates, it just seemed very obvious to me that they didn't want the dog."

Coates says they would've taken Zoey back in an instant had the family known she wasn't dying, which they assumed was the case based on the seizures and tumor.

"It breaks my heart because I don't understand why somebody would do this to my family," Coates said.

A member of Utah's Veterinary Board tells KSL that veterinarians must carry out the treatment discussed with a pet owner, or refuse - as in euthanasia cases - and send the pet owner to another clinic.  However, once the pet owner has paid for a service, that service must be completed.

The Board may consider disciplinary action against Dr. Smart should a complaint be filed.

The Coates family shed many tears when they said goodbye to Zoey, and now joyful tears are flowing as they welcome her back home - which obviously would not have been possible without Dr. Smart's decision.

"If I had followed procedure, if I had followed protocol, if I had done what Mr. Coates asked me, they wouldn't have their dog," Smart said. "Their dog would have been euthanized and this family would be without their dog."

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