‘My dog was left alone to die’ says devastated owner

'Loving goofball' Cooper was just two years old when he died
'Loving goofball' Cooper was just two years old when he died

A devastated dog owner is calling for action after she says her dog was “left alone to die” at a Hailsham vets.

“Kind, gentle loving goofball” Cooper, a two-year-old Weimeraner, died in January after a sudden illness brought on by swallowing a sock.

Cooper with Grace

Cooper with Grace

But his owner Lesley Donohue has criticised his treatment by Highcroft veterinary practice in London Road.

She said, “To lose him as we did has devastated us. It has left a huge hole in our lives and has called into question the absolute trust we place in veterinary professionals.

“He won’t ever be forgotten. And I hope his legacy will be no other animal will be left like he was.”

Cooper was taken to the vets with a high heart rate and vomiting symptoms on Thursday, January 24. An x-ray discovered he had a foreign body causing problems in his digestive system.

Cooper's owner Lesley Donohue is calling for an independent body to regulate vets

Cooper's owner Lesley Donohue is calling for an independent body to regulate vets

Vets operated on Cooper and the family was told he could be picked up on the Saturday but his condition worsened and he was kept at the surgery.

“They said it would be bad for Cooper to see us,” Mrs Donohue said, “It’s really good for animals to see their owners. Why I didn’t push that point I don’t know. I trusted in them.”

The mother, who runs a doggy daycare business, said they were told vets would have to operate on Cooper again and the family could expect a good outcome. After the second operation, Mrs Donohue said her husband James was told over the fine it had gone well and they did not have to prepare for the worst.

Cooper died at some point in the early hours of Tuesday, January 29. Mrs Donohue said, “I was assured they had been checking Cooper every couple of hours but when I saw him he was very cold and it seemed to me he had passed away some hours before.

Cooper and owner James

Cooper and owner James

“To learn animals are left for hours in a dark and unfamiliar environment, with no one supporting them or monitoring them, is horrific and unnecessary.”

She said, “There were clear indications and clinical signs even to me as a lay person that things were really not right and that a veterinary professional still believed that it was simply alright to turn off the lights and leave our precious Cooper alone and in the dark to die is absolutely unacceptable at any level.”

Mrs Donohue has joined a group of pet owners calling for an independent body to regulate the veterinary industry.

She has also set up a charity with another dog owner whose pet died tragically, called Cooper and Honey’s Over The Rainbow Charity. It is aimed at helping animals from other countries and helping owners who aren’t insured to get their animals treated.

Vet responds

Peter Stotesbury of Highcroft Veterinary Group said the situation is the subject of a full ‘critical incident’ review.

He said, “Cooper’s condition following emergency abdominal surgery had been judged to be ‘comfortable and stable’ when he was last examined at around midnight. Regrettably, he was found dead the following morning.

“We have discussed the events surrounding Cooper’s death at some length with Mrs Donohue. We have expressed our sincere regret that we appear to have misjudged his condition and that, as a result, he died unattended.

“Her experience is, fortunately, an exceedingly rare one that we regret very much. I would like to repeat my condolences to Mrs Donohue and her family.”