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Dog's tumor prompts charge against owner

Veterinarian Celina Hatt checks up on Daisy, a dog that recently underwent surgery to remove a giant, darkened tumor. - Jessie Stensland
Veterinarian Celina Hatt checks up on Daisy, a dog that recently underwent surgery to remove a giant, darkened tumor.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland

Veterinarian Celina Hatt spent two hours in surgery last Friday removing a seven-pound tumor from a 24-pound dog named Daisy.

The owner of Daisy, a 54-year-old woman North Whidbey woman, pleaded not guilty this week to second-degree animal cruelty for allegedly failing to provide the dog with medical attention needed to avoid unnecessary suffering or unjustifiable pain.

It’s one of those cases that is bound to stir coffee-house debates over the rights and responsibility of pet owners, the extent of animal rights and the cost of animal health care.

Island County Animal Control Officer Carol Barnes said she cited the woman and took the dog into protective custody after receiving reports from neighbors about the giant tumor extending from the pooch’s stomach.

Barnes said she went to check on the dog, which was in the back yard of a home, and saw the “massive growth.” It was so big, in fact, that she thought the dog was dead until it lifted its head. Barnes said she got a search warrant through the prosecutor’s office and seized the cocker spaniel-mix from the owner.

“I had never seen any type of growth of this magnitude,” she said, “and I was extremely concerned.”

According to Barnes, the owner of the dog claimed that she though the tumor was a harmless hernia. The woman’s attorney did not return a call.

A day later, the basketball-sized tumor was removed at Animal Care and Laser Center in Oak Harbor. The surgery was delicate and time-consuming because of the number of veins and arteries connected to the tumor, as well as its sheer size. The tumor, which is evidence, now sits in a freezer.

Daisy is slowly recovering. “She doing OK,” licensed veterinary technician Kellie Bartlett said. “She’s not doing great, but she’s holding her own.”

Daisy is already about 15 years old, which is pretty old for a dog, but Barnes said the surgery should give her a couple of extra quality years. A judge will likely decide if the dog will be adopted out or returned to the owner.

In the meantime, Barnes said she is trying to raise money to pay for the surgery and ongoing care. Donations can be sent to Animal Care & Laser Center, c/o Daisy, 33285 State Highway 20, Oak Harbor, WA 98277.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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