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Woman seeks justice for dog's death in retrial

Six years after her dog's death, Liza Baceols is, for the second time, seeking justice.

In 2007, Baceols left Cody, a 4-year-old golden retriever, at Noah's Place Animal Medical Center after veterinarians found a tumor on his tail. Before his scheduled surgery, Cody chewed off his tail, went into cardiac arrest and died.

Baceols, 40, sued three veterinarians and Noah's Place—now under new ownership —for damages, but the December 2011 trial ended with a deadlocked jury. The retrial is taking place this week.

"We still celebrate (Cody) on his birthday, mourn him on the day of his death," said Baceols, who works at Raymond James Financial. "It's not something that will ever go away."

Baceols said it's important to prove that pets are not just property, like Florida law says they are. By law, owners can recover only the market-value costs of replacing the lost pet.

Baceols said she should also get reparations for the pain and suffering that she and her son, now 16-year-old Kyle, endured after losing Cody.

"He was family to us, and that's what (the court) needs to understand," she said.

This week's trial will decide whether or not the veterinarians — Jennifer Buird, David Hoch and John Hodges — were negligent. If the jury finds in Baceols' favor, there will be a second trial to decide reparations.

Bryce Spano, the attorney representing the veterinarians, declined to comment.

Many veterinarians are strong believers in the human-animal bond, except when discussing liability, said Kenneth Newman, a veterinarian in Seminole and expert witness for Baceols.

Since Newman's dog, Gracie, was killed by a car several years ago, he has been trying to push lawmakers to pass Gracie's Law, which would give pets a value beyond just the cost of replacement.

"There is a disconnect between the way we see our pets and the way the law sees our pets," he said.

Newman, who also appeared in the 2011 trial, hopes that if the jury decides the veterinarians owe Baceols more than just what it would cost to replace Cody, it will set legal precedent for Gracie's Law.

Baceols has since adopted a new dog, a mixed breed named Wanda. Baceols said she will always love Cody, but she is ready to close this chapter in her life.

"It's very stressful having to go back in forth and relive everything," she said. "I'm not looking forward to this at all."

Contact Lauren Carroll at (727) 893-8913 or lcarroll@tampabay.com. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenFCarroll.

Woman seeks justice for dog's death in retrial 06/19/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 6:54pm]
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