December 09, 2021

Jasper County dog owner disputes hefty vet bill

JCARL stands by effort to care for wandering stray

KELLOGG — Jewel might be back home again, but she brought a stack of bills with her. A Jasper County woman is concerned after her dog was picked up by the Animal Rescue League and given medical treatment, leaving her with a $1,300 vet bill.

Elaine Deppe, who lives north of Rock Creek State Park, in the northeastern corner of Jasper County is angry with officials at the Jasper County Animal Rescue League after her dog Jewel, a terrier mix was picked up by an animal control officer earlier this summer. Deppe and her husband Clayton leave their dogs, Jewel, and Duke, a lab mix outside during the day, allowing them to roam freely over their 6-acre homestead. On Aug. 2, Deppe realized she hadn’t seen Jewel recently, and the following Thursday, her husband told her he hadn’t seen Jewel in a few days.

This isn’t the first time Jewel or Duke has turned up missing. Last summer, the Jasper County ARL picked up Jewel and Duke at Rock Creek State Park after they managed to get out of their kennels. Deppe said it’s hard to keep the dogs confined, calling them “Houdini dogs.”

“They had been picked up last summer by the ARL, but since they are microchipped we don’t really make a big fuss about it,” Deppe said.

Unbeknownst to Deppe, that same Wednesday an animal control officer had spotted Jewel on a gravel road. The officer picked up Jewel, and after seeing the dog was injured contacted Rachel Long, the director of the Jasper County Animal Rescue League. Long took Jewel to the Iowa Vet Referral Center in Des Moines for treatment. Previously JCARL has used after hours veterinary services within Jasper County or the surrounding area, but Long said she was unaware of such services. Long has been in her position at JCARL since January of this year.

“That’s the clinic that we as an organization opt to use at this point,” Long said. “In that moment, the best interest of the animal was to get it to the clinic to provide it with the care that it needed.”

Deppe doesn’t dispute Jewel needed treatment, but she doesn’t understand why Long decided to take the dog to Des Moines instead of opting to use a local veterinarian. Veterinarian Dr. Drew White, who works at the Grinnell Veterinary Clinic has responded to after hours emergency calls for the JCARL in the past, although he said he hasn’t received a call from them in last eight months. He examined Jewel after Deppe brought her into the Grinnell Veterinary Clinic, and in his opinion, Jewel’s injury wasn’t as significant as Long believed it to be.

“The wound looked relatively superficial, it hadn’t gotten into the muscle layers,” White said.

During his work with JCARL, White said a similar procedure would cost between $200-$500, depending on whether or not sedation was required. Grinnell Veterinary Clinic has a $130 charge for emergency after hours service, up from their standard rate of $50. White said he’d have to see an itemized bill to understand why IVRC’s fees where so much higher, but when Deppe contacted the organization in an attempt to make payment arrangements, she said they refused to speak to her and referred her back to JCARL. White said that level of confidentiality is standard practice.

“If the rescue league brings a dog in they are considered the owner, and the dog is our patient,” White said. “Due to confidentiality, we’re required to get permission from the shelter in order to give information to the owners.”

According to Long, when Jewel was picked up by the animal control officer she was scanned for a microchip, which the officer was unable to detect. When the animal control officer brought the dog to Des Moines Long was present, she said watched staff at IVRC scan Jewel again without finding the microchip.

Long’s story doesn’t add up to Deppe. She claims that Long told her she forgot to scan Jewel, and later changed her story to say she attempted to scan the dog but wasn’t able to find the microchip.

Microchips have a tendency to migrate throughout the animal’s body, White said and a thorough scan usually goes from leg to leg to make sure the microchip isn’t missed when a dog is picked up. When Long scanned Jewel at the Grinnell Veterinary Clinic he found the microchip in the correct location, between her shoulder blades.

“I’m not sure why it didn’t come up for them, the battery may have been slightly low, they may have tried one side or not the other,” White said. “Maybe they scanned it perfectly, and it didn’t come up. It came up very easily for us.”

Deppe is convinced Long and staff at JCARL failed to scan Jewel correctly, and she thinks the organization should refund half of the money they paid the ARL to get Jewel back. In order to pay the bill, Deppe and her husband maxed out their credit cards.

“We’re a middle class family with four kids, with back to school time things are tight for us, this was very difficult to swallow,” Deppe said. “We’re not denying that she needed that care, but since she wasn’t scanned properly I think it’s pretty reasonable to ask for half our money back.”

When Deppe contacted Long to express her frustrations Long said Deppe could contact the board with her concerns, but she’s confident she handled the situation correctly. Long said JCARL plans to continue using the veterinarian services in Des Moines even though they are more expensive than local vets.

“Cost is an important factor but quality of care is an important factor as well,” Long said. “We are using the facility that we use because during my time here I’ve never had a reason to seek care otherwise.“

In a subsequent interview with the Daily News on Thursday, Long claimed she had reached out to local veterinarians in the past.

“The small number of times that I’ve reached out to these facilities they’ve refused care or failed to respond in a timely manner,” Long said.

In March of 2017 Long said she sought assistance from Grinnell Vet Clinic utilizing their after hours services, and they said they were unable to assist because the animal was a stray, and they did not know who the owner was. Because none of the on-call facilities in Jasper County are staffed 24/7 Long prefers to take injured animals to Des Moines where there are facilities staffed around the clock.

Meanwhile, Deppe and her husband no longer allow Jewel to roam free with Duke. During the day Jewel stays inside, and when Deppe lets her out in the afternoon, she’s kept on the leash. According to White, the idea of free roaming “farm dogs” is largely a thing of the past.

“In Poweshiek and Jasper County they have pretty strict rules on lost dogs,” White said. “Any dog that’s a stray, or they think is a stray will be sent to the ARL and the first visit is free, but second, third, and fourth you’re going to be paying, and it goes up every time.”

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com