An Auckland couple who picked up a supposedly desexed dog from a Hawke's Bay pound before Christmas are now caring for eight puppies.
Sarah Bryant and Hera Nathan are now trying to get answers - and money - from the Hastings District Council, who she claims have offered to put the young pups down.
Bryant told First Up's Lydia Batham that the advertisement on their website stated it would cost $250 for Bella to be desexed, vaccinated, wormed, and get flea treatment.
Bella was picked up the weekend before Christmas last year by Nathan's sister, who handed over the sum upon arrival but was told Bella was not vaccinated, Bryant said.
"[She] just assumed that was part of the agreement and didn't ask any questions. She was told she had to sign an adoption form on our behalf, so she did that, and on the form there's a few boxes and it says vaccinated, wormed, desexed, etc, and there was a cross in the vaccination box, but that was the only one that had any marking in it."
Bryant said they were confused when they were told by the sister that Bella was not vaccinated, but took her to the vet to get it done.
That was when they decided to ask to check on the other items on the list, including desexing.
"[The vet] looked at [Bella] and said she doesn't have a scar or anything, it doesn't appear like she is [desexed], it actually appears like she is on heat.
"He said he wouldn't desex her while she is on heat, apparently there's a potential for that to cause a whole lot of bleeding and issues, so he said to bring her back in March to have her desexed or she could potentially be pregnant, and I'm not going to know for a couple of weeks, so bring her back."
In the meantime, Bryant said they had been trying to get a hold of the pound but got no response.
When Bella was taken again to be checked, the vet said it could be potentially be a false pregnancy but couldn't be sure, Bryant said.
"He said the only way you're going to know, so we can figure out if you can do desexing or not, is to take her in for an ultrasound."
But while they waited for the day of the booked ultrasound appointment to arrive, Bella delivered eight puppies.
"It was definitely a surprise, and at the time we were just like 'well it's happening now', and just sat with her and waited for all the puppies to come out ... and made sure they were healthy."
Bryant said it was "not what we signed up for", and had been in touch with the council to possibly ask for money back or pay for Bella's treatment and something to contribute towards the puppies.
"[The person contacted at the council] said that that wasn't part of their policy and that their policy would be that we could surrender them and they could put them down, and so I said that's not an option for us."
After another chat, the council offered a refund of up to $250 for the desexing, vaccination, worming, flea treatment or again to surrender Bella with the puppies, Bryant said.
She said she was angry about being told they would be put down.
"I tried calling back to say that's not an acceptable resolution and we need to work this through, and that was on Tuesday and I left a message, and I haven't heard back again from them."
In a statement, Hastings District Council said dogs that were adopted were treated for fleas, wormed, vaccinated, microchipped, registered and desexed prior to release at a cost of $250.
However, the council claims that because the owners wanted the dog immediately, it was agreed for them to pay $250 up front but they would have to make their own arrangements for treatment and desexing.
It said the dog was registered and microchipped prior to release, and that the person who picked Bella up was aware none of the treatments, including desexing, were done.
The council said it offered to pay for the treatments up to a cost of $250, but 36 days later, Bella had puppies.
Since Bella was at such an early stage of gestation when taken, the council said it could not have known she was pregnant.
"We have had discussions with the owner since the birth of the pups - they are wanting us to pay to look after the pups for three months, but this is not council’s responsibility.
"When you adopt a dog, or get a dog from anywhere, you run the risk that it may have health or behavioural issues or, as in this case, be pregnant."
The council reiterated its offer for the owners to surrender Bella and the puppies, but said they could either foster them until they could be rehomed, or get SPCA's help with this.
"Unfortunately, in some circumstances euthanasia is the best option."
Bryant said she was in the process of filling out a Disputes Tribunal form, and would like to see the council apologise.
"I would really like them to change their policy and do what it says on their website they would do."
Meanwhile, she said the puppies were the "cutest little things", and they were getting support from the community.