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Family Spots Their Dog Online 6 Months After They Thought She Was Euthanized

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi
Dina Fantegrossi is the Assistant Editor and Head Writer for HomeLife Media. Before her career in writing, Dina was a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.Read more
| Published on August 2, 2017

2016 was a difficult year for Tawny Coates and her family. Tawny’s husband was sent to prison, they lost their home, and the family dog Zoey fell ill.

The 10-year-old Boxer was suffering from seizures and had developed a tumor on her side that Tawny feared was cancerous. In November, the mother of three made the heart-wrenching decision to put Zoey to sleep. Too devastated to drive her to the vet, Tawny asked her father, Larry Coates to perform the difficult task.

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Larry brought Zoey to Bayview Animal Hospital where he consulted with a veterinarian, Dr. Mary Smart, about the dog’s condition. Exactly what transpired in that exam room is only known to the two people present, and each has a different version of events.

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According to Mr. Coates, the exchange was brief, ending with him paying $215 to have Zoey euthanized and cremated. The family has a receipt from Bayview for these charges and the dog’s records also reflect this version of events. They even received a sympathy card from the clinic staff.

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However, Dr. Smart claims that she discussed several other options besides euthanasia with Mr. Coates, but he was not interested in pursuing treatment. Smart says she felt uncomfortable euthanizing a dog that “had years to live,” so instead of using the $215 to put Zoey down, she applied it toward surgery to remove the dog’s tumor.

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Smart then contacted a local Boxer rescue group who agreed to take her in. It was on their Facebook page that Tawny saw a familiar face six months later. She was searching for another Boxer to help her 11-year-old son, Jaxton heal from Zoey’s loss.

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She came across a photo of a dog who bore a striking resemblance to Zoey. She zoomed in and saw an identifying nick in the nose. Tawny contacted Dr. Smart who confirmed the adoptable dog was indeed Zoey.

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In an interview with KSL, Dr. Smart acknowledged that she should have informed the Coates family of her decision to treat Zoey rather than euthanize her.

“I screwed up. I should have called the family,” Smart said. “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.”

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In their own interviews with KSL, both Larry and Tawny Coates emphatically denied Dr. Smart’s statement that they did not want Zoey.

“It breaks my heart because I don’t understand why somebody would do this to my family,” she said.

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If a complaint is filed, Dr. Smart could face disciplinary action from the Utah Veterinary Board. A member of the Board told KSL that in taking the Coates’ money for services, Smart was obligated to perform them. Prior to payment, the veterinarian had the choice to discuss other options, refuse service, or refer them to another clinic.



Zoey is now back in the arms of the Coates family – a reunion that would not have been possible without Dr. Smart’s actions.

“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.”

What do you make of this complicated case?


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