TAMPA — A local veterinarian is in trouble with former clients who say the clinic let their puppy, Alice, die in a pet sitting accident.
Mark and Lisa Perez Atterbury are suing Country Chase Veterinary Clinic and its owners for at least $15,000.
They say the clinic, at 12501 W Linebaugh Ave., let employee Gina Franklin watch Alice at her home without making sure the 10 month-old English bulldog was safe, according to court documents. They say Franklin's dog mauled Alice, causing her death.
Dr. Jane Boston, who owns the clinic with her husband, said she doesn't understand the lawsuit. Country Chase never recommended Franklin as a pet sitter and doesn't offer boarding, she said.
Also, Franklin already reimbursed the Atterburys $1,800 for the dog and $90 for cremation, Boston said.
The Atterburys say in the lawsuit that the clinic allowed them to drop off Alice at the practice and allowed Franklin to keep the dog there during her shift.
Alice was fatally injured in February. She had been playing with four other dogs in Franklin's back yard.
Everything was fine, Franklin said, until her husband noticed that something seemed wrong with Alice.
She said she hurried home and rushed Alice to the clinic.
The dog was dead on arrival, with cuts on her neck, Boston said. The on-call veterinarian thought she'd died of asphyxiation, Mark Atterbury said.
The Atterburys refused a necropsy, which would have established a cause of death.
"My wife didn't feel like we wanted to have her cut up for a more definitive diagnosis," Mark Atterbury said.
Boston said she and her staff feel for the Atterburys. Franklin's husband took several days off work to console his wife because she was so shaken up.
Franklin said she's still reeling from February's events.
She was never meant to be Alice's pet sitter, but filled in for the dog's usual caretaker, also a Country Chase employee, who happened to be out of town for her birthday, Franklin said.
"I feel very terrible that my doctor has to go through this, that the clinic has to go through it," she said. "I wish it wouldn't have happened at all. I wish it could all go away."
Reach Victoria Bekiempis at (813) 226-3436 or [email protected]