Oct. 19 (UPI) -- A New Jersey family who took their dog to be euthanized were shocked to discover five months later that the canine was alive and living with a veterinary worker.
Keri and Lonnie Levy said they took their 15-year-old miniature pinscher, Caesar, to be euthanized May 17 at the Briarwood Veterinary Hospital because he was suffering from a long-term illness that left him in declining health with a poor quality of life.
"[Keri] picked up the collar. And actually paid her bill and received, even, a letter from the veterinary offices stating their condolences on the loss of her pet," Ross Licitra, head of the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told WPIX-TV.
The couple received an anonymous tip last week that Caesar was still alive.
"She received an anonymous tip from someone that told her that her dog was still alive and in the care of a vet technician that worked at the hospital," Licitra said.
"I'm dumbfounded. I don't even know how to say, I don't know how to feel," Lonnie Levy told WPVI-TV.
Police said Dr. George Menez, who recently sold the veterinary practice, allowed the technician to take the dog home.
"This employee wanted to do so out of compassion for the dog and a desire to rehabilitate his health, albeit without the owner's consent," Howell police said in a statement.
The couple contacted police Monday about the anonymous tip, and police ordered the vet tech to return Caesar to the Levys. They said they were able to spend some time with the dog before he was finally euthanized.
"The animal was suffering with a life-threatening illness," Licitra said. "To this date, we have not confirmed that there was any type of veterinary care being rendered to this dog."
The Levys were refunded for the original procedure that was not performed, but police and the Monmouth County SPCA said the investigation is ongoing and could lead to theft and animal cruelty charges.
"There's potential of theft charges against the doctor for basically taking the victim's money and not performing the service," Howell Township Police Chief Andrew Kudrick said.
The technician no longer works at the practice, which police said cooperated with the investigation.
"It's hard enough when you have to decide a pet should pass, but you have to deal with that twice with the same pet? It's just unthinkable," said Dr. Maureen Kibisz, Briarwood's new owner.