UPDATE: Emergency Room Closed When Family’s Pet Needed It Most

By: Jason Aubry Email
By: Jason Aubry Email

Daisy's owners provide proof of their phone calls. Questions arise to the validity of Animal Emergency Room employee's claims.

Losing a pet is a gut wrenching process for any family. Young or old, pets engrain themselves into our family units to the point where they are looked at by many as just another member of the family.

But why is it that so many of us aren’t ready when our non-human family members become suddenly ill or have an emergency? We know what to do if our sons or daughters, husbands or wives, get sick. We drive them to the Emergency Room at the hospital or a 24-hour clinic nearby.

Some pet owners think doing the same with their pets is enough, but the reality is, if you are unprepared it may be too late.

Lacy Harkin’s children called her to the backyard Wednesday afternoon. The kids were worried about their 10-month-old puppy Daisy. Her face was swollen and she wasn’t very energetic. After looking around, Lacy noticed some dead bees nearby and thought perhaps the dog had just been stung and she was staying still while the pain of the stings went away. Lacy decided to just keep an eye on her dog. (According to veterinarians, who were unable to look at the dog at the time but were given descriptions of the symptoms she was showing throughout the day, it is possible Daisy could have been bitten by a snake as opposed to being stung by bees.)

By 4:30 p.m. Daisy’s head had swollen to near impossible dimensions. Lacy asked her husband to bring the dog in, and when he did Daisy walked around acting somewhat normal, still not as energetic though. Lacy went to class that night.

When Lacy returned home, she found Daisy lying in the middle of the living room. Her husband told her Daisy had walked there herself, so Lacy thought nothing of it. After tucking her children into bed, she walked back through the living room. What she saw turned her quiet evening into a nightmare she won’t soon forget.

Daisy was bleeding from her mouth and rectum. "I panicked. It was one of those, I don't know what to do [moments]," says Harkin. In a panic, Lacy nearly fell down the stairs as she went to get her husband.

The two of them frantically started looking for help on the internet. That’s where they found the number for the Animal Emergency Room on 4th street. They called the vet immediately, it was 9:02 pm.

The Harkin’s say, the female on the other end of the line told them to bring the dog in right away, so they put the dog in the car and took off for the clinic. They arrived just before 9:25 p.m. to find the doors locked, and no cars in the parking lot.

From 9:25 p.m. until 9:36 p.m. Lacy’s husband repeatedly called the clinic’s number. All he got was the answering machine telling them the clinic was closed and sent to a voicemail box that was (and as of Tuesday afternoon, still) full. "I was upset because they told us we could come and they weren't there," says Harkin.

The couple called several other veterinarians, getting through to one who told them their doctor had stopped seeing patients for the night, and that they would have to take the dog to Colorado Springs to get it help.

With no gas left in the tank of their car, the Harkins decided to see if Daisy could make it to the morning. Daisy died sometime during the ride home.

KKTV contacted Dr. Merrilee Laas, the veterinarian for the Animal Emergency Room. She says, she was never told the Harkins were coming by anyone on her staff. She also says, she had been planning on closing up early that night as well.

According to Dr. Laas, she left the clinic around 9:20 p.m. to get gas in her car, but returned around 9:45 p.m. and stayed until after 10:00 p.m. before leaving for the night. Dr. Laas has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years, the last 10 have been spent here in Pueblo operating the Animal Emergency Room seven days a week, in the evenings.

She used to offer services from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. but says due to her age, she can’t handle that anymore. Her current phone book ads, and the sign on the clinic door says, she provides services from 6:00 p.m. until midnight, and that there’s always a Veterinarian on the premises.

Dr. Laas says, there are occasions when she closes up early, and many different reasons for doing so; and there is no state or federal regulatory board or commission that requires her to adhere to the hours she advertises, unlike hospitals and clinics that deal with human patients.

Still, some believe that if you advertise such a unique service that could be the difference in the life and death of a part of your family, you should honor those hours.

Dr. Scott Reed is the veterinarian who operates the Pueblo Area Emergency Hospital located on Fortino Blvd. Its hours are from Friday at 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. on Monday. During that time he is open 24-hours a day, and he says, someone is always there ready to help.

For Dr. Reed it’s a matter of principle and pride in what he does. "Many of our clients arrive at our location without even calling, so we have to be there and we have to be prepared for anything that comes," says Dr. Reed.

Dr. Reed hopes to be able to expand his availability to overnights during the week by next summer, but that will depend heavily on the amount of people who need, and are using his services.

As for Lucy Harkin, she learned a terrible lesson Wednesday evening. "I feel bad because I could have acted sooner. I could have not [gone] to school. [I] could have called my husband sooner. There was a lot of things I could have done different," says Harkin.

Here is what veterinarians say we all can do to be ready in case our pet has an emergency:

Know where you are going:

Whether it is day or night, know where you are going to take your pet. Have the emergency information taped to the inside of a cabinet door or posted on the refrigerator, and have a backup in case there is a problem with your primary choice.

Know the clinic:

Most emergency clinics will be happy to show you around when there is not an emergency happening. Take the opportunity to check them out. Find out if they are professional, if you like them, and if you feel you can trust them with your pet’s life.

Be financially ready:

Emergency procedures are expensive. The Parvo virus runs rampant in Pueblo because too many owners don’t get their dogs vaccinated. A Parvo vaccine costs $15, an emergency room visit because your dog has Parvo can cost you $500.

Being financially ready doesn’t have to be restrictive, although it can be. Some options include purchasing pet insurance. Yes, it’s for real. You can insure your pet just like you insure your house, car, boat, life, and your own health. It may be expensive, so shop around.

Another option is called Care Credit. You can sign-up for an account in advance. In a sense it’s like paying for the emergency in installments with zero interest (as long as you pay on time).

The bottom line, from veterinarians is, if you are going to say your pet is like a family member than treat it like one. Have a plan and be ready to pay for emergency services, because you never know when you will need them.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Anonymous Location: Pueblo, CO on Mar 20, 2012 at 10:10 PM
    You know, from everything I've heard about "Dr." Laas and my own personal experience with her, I'm amazed she still has her license. Right now she is under probation with DORA and is delinquent with the Secretary of State for her business license. If her licensing board would even Google this....female...they'd know to suspend her license. She gives all Vets a bad name!
  • by rochelle Location: pueblo on Mar 11, 2012 at 09:51 PM
    what you guys erase and delete true facts..seems a little prejudice dont you think...the public needs to be aware of these people..
  • by Anonymous on Jan 11, 2012 at 03:13 PM
    I know the person who wrote this for a fact is a angered former employee that was terminated due to NOT doing his job.
  • by you know Location: pueblo on Oct 25, 2011 at 03:41 PM
    little over a month my dog is gone. it took me asking over and over what the biopsy showed. the Vet finally said bone cancer. but she still said muscle tumor. i asked them do xrays @wks after her surgery she was crying when she put weight on her leg. i got oh no it takes awhile to heal. they sold me more pills while Onyx my pit was in pain.. money is what they saw. im paying for 2yrs because that Laas lied to me and the tumor came back because it wasnt a muscle tumor it was bone cancer. Onyx had surgery Aug.11 2011 and hadf to be put to sleep Sept.18 2011 that vet swore in front of my friends and daughter after the surgery my dog would be fine...i wouldnt recommend if you love your pet please go as far from there as you can. my Pit was my world for 11yrs and shes gone now...for that vet to get the money and make my dog suffer another month....thats cold and wrong...but its not over yet..oh and dont forget pay 85.00 to euthanize her...those people will see karma...
  • by Common Sense Location: Pueblo on Mar 23, 2011 at 05:18 PM
    I have heard bad things about EVERY vet in Pueblo. The government does not offer discounted medicine for animals like they do for people...duh. If you cant afford a pet then give it away or dont keep one. Dr. Laas does excelent work. it is just tough to have that kind of business in this town. It is her choice to run her business the way she wants, when she wants. Just like the other vets do. they are all trying to do their best, this town just sucks!
  • by RE Location: Unknown on Jan 22, 2011 at 06:29 PM
    I believe that some of you are way off. Just because this clinic has the name Animal Emergency Room doesn't not mean that she has to be open 24 hours a day. And I also believe that every professional of any business deserves a night out as I can understand working 7 nights a week for 10 years such as Dr. Laas has. I do it everyday as well. It's a killer thing to go through it effects your body, mind, and soul.
  • by RE:unknown on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:29 PM
    It definitely doesn't surprise me that Dr. Laas and Jessie wanted to go out and have a girls night. Yes they are both very unprofessional. Drinking is Dr. Laas' and her son's #1 priority. I know a lot that has gone on in that building and it's not only unethical but also some of it is illegal. I wouldn't go near that place.
  • by unknown Location: pueblo on Nov 27, 2010 at 04:39 PM
    I want to set the record straight but remain unkwon but the night in question the doctor and her assistant left early to go out and have a good time this is the facts they closed locked up went to springs for a girls night out dr laas and her assistant jessie are very unprofessional at there jobs and the way they treat animals and anybody thinking of bring there animals to animal emergency room in pueblo or aspenwood in colorado springs be a ware
    • reply
      by unknown on Jan 11, 2012 at 03:15 PM in reply to unknown
      Urgent Care claims to be an "emergency room" Yet they close at 7pm. Why are you complaining?
  • by concerned Location: pueblo on Nov 21, 2010 at 06:00 PM
    the animal er is a joke. to make a long story short, i took my dog there, who only had a sprained ankle. They wanted to keep him for 24 hours, do x-rays, etc, etc which would have totaled almost $600. I informed them he was trying to put pressure on his leg, and that it is not broken because of that. I asked for a pain injection and anti-inflammatory to be given so we can go home. The assist got upset and said that she would have to discuss it with the "vet." they did do what i asked them to do, but not without attitude and hesitation. By the way, when we got to the animal er, it took about 15 minutes for anyone to come out of the back. This "vet" has had more than a few complaints filed against her through the colorado department of veterinary medicine, and i agree that she should not be in business. I was also unable to find a valid veterinary licence for her through The State of Colorado's Department of Regulatory Agency (DORA).
  • by Ray Location: Colorado Springs on Nov 20, 2010 at 03:36 PM
    I completely agree with "me". A true emergency room, human or animal, should not be able to claim they are an emergency room if they are not open 24 hours a day. If an "emergency room" closes then it is a clinic or just a vet's office. Also to Jennifer...wow I feel very sorry for you. Sorry to the family for their loss of Daisy.
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