A case out of Marshall, reported today by Courthouse News, is truly the Bermuda Triangle for moral compasses. Janna Ardoin brought Chester, her Chinese Pug, into Patchwork Pet Resort and Veterinary Clinic with his eyeball dangling from its socket, attached by the merest of threads.
She had three choices: Pay $380 to surgically treat the grievous wound; pay $90 to help poor Chester shuffle off his mortal coil; or take him home with his eyeball dangling from his head like a paddle ball. Obviously, the latter was no real option. And the first Ardoin simply could not afford, nor would the vet, she claims, allow her to make payments on the procedure or post-date a check. Which left only option B: euthanization.
So she forked over the $90 and apparently didn't stick around to see the deed done. Over the next few weeks, Ardoin grieved for Chester, until one day she got a call from a friend who'd recently paid a visit to Patchwork. She had sighted Chester, who was alive and well. The vet had repaired his eye and given him to an employee. Ardoin got his proof of life and decided to take the vet to court.
The vet, she claims, breached his fiduciary duty to her over a years-long relationship by failing to deal honestly with her. She accuses him of conversion, reasoning that she paid him to whack her dog, and instead he took possession of it, violating their implicit contract.
What a moral conundrum! Part of me thinks a pet owner who does not have the resources to treat an eminently treatable injury cedes ownership. To be sure, $380 isn't chump change, but Ardoin had a responsibility to Chester. And because of the vet, Chester shall loudly mouth-breathe for another day.
Of course, a court may see Chester simply as property whose orderly disposal Ardoin paid a just fee for. But, really, who wants to make that argument?