A Waikato woman is distraught after one of her beloved dogs died during a stay in an animal import quarantine facility, and she says the company wouldn't give back her other dog until she paid emergency bills worth thousands of dollars.
Donna Young, the founder of New Lives Animal Rescue, told Newshub earlier this year she decided to return home to New Zealand after a stint working in Rarotonga.
She decided to bring her two german shepherd dogs Tyla, aged six years, and Jake, five, back with her and booked them in for their mandatory 10-day quarantine at MPI approved animal facility Auckland Quarantine Service's Brookby Lodge, which she had previously used.
Young told Newshub both Tyla and Jake were given full health checks prior to leaving Rarotonga including x-rays, ultrasounds, blood works. They were both deemed to be in "excellent health", she said.
The plan was for the dogs to fly to New Zealand on June 21 and spend their 10 days in Brookby Lodge, before Young would fly over on July 2 and collect them.
Once the dogs arrived they were taken to the quarantine facility and in the following days the company posted photos of them to its Facebook page. Young thought something didn't look right, but brushed her concerns off.
"I mentioned to a few friends that Tyla didn't look good in the photos that had been posted on their site and was told by my mate not to worry, that she would be fine," Young told Newshub.
But on June 30 Young said she received a message that Tyla had died suddenly.
Speaking to Newshub, Young was distraught by Tyla's shock death, but was even more at the quarantine facility's handling of the death.
She said after Tyla died, an autopsy was undertaken and found the cause of death was cancer and Young advised the facility she would like her dog cremated.
But when she planned to pick up Jake, who was "really traumatised" from the incident, she was shocked Brookby Lodge wouldn't release him until the emergency fees were paid.
"I'd arranged for mum to come and pick him up on the Friday morning and on Thursday night NZ Time I got emailed a bill for $2500 which was for Tyla's autopsy and cremation," she said.
"I just said '[that's] not a problem, I will deposit the funds when I get back to New Zealand. I've got to transfer some money'. And they said 'no, you can't have Jake until you pay'."
Young said the company replied with the "heartless and cold" response - "no money, no dog".
She told Newshub it felt like the facility was "holding him to ransom", despite none of the company's terms and conditions on their website saying this would occur in the event of death of an animal.
Luckily, Young's mother was able to pay the emergency fees and collect Jake, but she expressed concern other animal owners might not be able to if they were in the same situation.
"Where is the care? How could they be prepared to hold a clearly distressed dog until they
received payment for my other dog's autopsy, when I had already paid for Jake's quarantine bill in full and when I was not even in the country to arrange the payment. Where is the compassion when I have just lost one of my two beautiful dogs unexpectedly?"
Newshub has contacted Brookby Lodge and Auckland Quarantine Facility multiple times for comment but they have not replied.