Whitehorse bylaw creates new guidelines after dog suffers 2 days without enough painkillers

A badly injured dog spent at least 48 hours at the pound without enough painkillers or life-saving medical treatment.

'He had no oxygen therapy, no IV fluids, no pain management,' says vet Candace Stuart

Saul is a 6-year-old dog. He was hit by a car last month and severely injured. (Alexandra Byers/CBC)

City of Whitehorse bylaw services are working with Humane Society Yukon to develop clearer animal care guidelines after an incident last month with a severely injured dog.

Saul, a six-year-old dog, is happy and healthy these days — but it was a much different situation a month ago.

Bylaw officers picked up Saul after he was hit by a car and severely injured.

He was taken to a veterinary clinic for examination, where he was given pain management medication then sent back to the city's animal shelter while officers attempted to track down his owner.

Through a combination of miscommunication and lack of proper action, Saul was kept at the city facilities for 48 hours, long after the medication wore off.

The city's policy is to give a dog over to the humane society if they haven't been reclaimed within two or three days.

When staff from the local humane society (also known as the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter) picked Saul up, they say he was clearly in distress.

'I felt his heart just stop'

Through a combination of miscommunication and lack of proper action, Saul was kept at the city facilities for 48 hours, long after the medication wore off. (Humane Society Yukon/Facebook)

Three days after the accident, Saul had surgery at All Paws Veterinary Clinic.

His lungs had collapsed and his diaphragm had torn. His liver and part of his stomach had been pushed up into his chest cavity.

"He couldn't breathe very well, and we decided at that point it was time to take him to surgery," said Candace Stuart, a veterinarian at All Paws.

Stuart said this type of surgery is normally referred to a specialist, or at least a clinic with a mechanical ventilator, but travelling wasn't an option given Saul's condition.

The surgery was over an hour, with one technician physically pushing the ventilator bag, "breathing for Saul while he was in surgery," Stuart said.

During a critical point of the operation, Saul's heart stopped.

"My hand was actually literally in his chest, I felt his heart just stop. But the good part about being in there was then I was able to mechanically move his heart," said Stuart.

"I only had to do three little beats manually with his heart, and then his heart kicked back in on its own."

Saul's heart stopped mid-surgery, but was revived manually by a vet's hand. (Humane Society Yukon/Facebook)

Stuart said the rest of the operation went smoothly, and Saul "woke up like nothing had happened."

Stuart said she has no idea how he survived for days before getting medical treatment.

"He had no oxygen therapy, no IV fluids, no pain management long-term in those first three days. I think that's part of what makes him so amazing, his strength and his will to persevere," she said. 

Saul 'full of life'

There were a few complications following the surgery, but when Saul came back for the removal of his sutures a few days later, Stuart said she was moved by what she saw.

He's pretty spunky.- Dan Moore, Humane Society Yukon

"He was just so happy and so full of life and so wonderful."

His foster family told her they hadn't found him a permanent home yet, so she reached out to the humane society and asked if she could post about him on social media. Stuart said she's never made a public post about a patient in her 17 years of practice.

Saul's foster mom, Tanya Mickey, said he's been "one of the best house guests we've ever had."

"He's pretty healthy now; he's pretty spunky," said Dan Moore, the executive director of Humane Society Yukon.

Moore and the society's board president met with bylaw and community services after what happened to Saul.

"We talked about the incident, and we talked about how, procedurally, some things were missed, and action wasn't taken properly," said Moore. "I'm feeling pretty confident the city has realized the severity of the situation and they're looking to correct it in the future."

Moore said it's nice to see the relationship between the shelter and bylaw services getting stronger.

'Pretend this dog is your child'

Dave Pruden, the manager of bylaw services, said Saul should have been handled differently.

"Ideally in this situation the animal should not have come back to our facility. It should have stayed at the vet at the cost to the city," he said, adding that the city should have paid for the animal to stay with the vet while officers tried to track down the owner.

'He was just so happy and so full of life and so wonderful,' says Candace Stuart, a vet in Whitehorse. (Alexandra Byers/CBC)

Pruden said there were new staff members on the job, and some confusion over what to do with an injured animal when a supervisor wasn't around.

"We've taken corrective action to make sure that everyone's aware of the procedures," said Pruden.

Within a week, a draft was set of step-by-step guidelines for different scenarios bylaw officers may encounter.

"I said pretend this dog is your child," said Pruden.

"[It] becomes more obvious for a lot of people when you start thinking 'OK well, it's my child.' ... So we want to also apply that same lens."

​The city is covering the costs of Saul's veterinary care.

The humane society said they have a stack of applications from people hoping to take Saul home.

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