Passing the Buck: Teenager Steals Dog to Prevent It From Being Euthanized

Police in New Zealand have an interesting necessity defense to deal with in a theft case. Bronson Stewart’s puppy, Buck, was hit by a car and neither Stewart, 19, or his father could afford the money to pin the puppy’s broken leg back together or the lower price to have the leg mputated. While the family (which is on welfare) offered to pay $3.50 a week, the vet declined and said that it was best to euthanize Buck because he was in agony. That is when Stewart took matters into his own hands.

Stewart, who lives on the North Island city of Wanganui, went to the clinic and asked to see his dog whom he describes as his brother. He then ran away with him.

Presumably facing possible theft charges for any unpaid bill, New Zealand’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) also threatened Stewart with prosecution for animal cruelty unless he got veterinary care for the dog.

Thanks to the media coverage, people have come forward to raise money to save Buck.

For the full story, click here.

9 thoughts on “Passing the Buck: Teenager Steals Dog to Prevent It From Being Euthanized”

  1. whoa. I don’t think the vet should have to work for free. But there are a million ways to solve any given problem. I dont think the only answer was to say ‘sorry kid, you have two choices: give me the entire amount up front or the dog should be killed”. I may be making some assumptions about what could have been possible in this particular circumstance, but then you are also making assumptions about what may or may not be true of this particular vet.

  2. TomD.Arch:

    why do professionals have to provide pro-bono services? They don’t, your first post was the correct one. Then you went all wobbly.

    Professionals should only provide free services if they choose to. I knew a hand surgeon who went to Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation to do hand surgeries, he did it because he got a huge amount of experience, he also helped many people. Professionals have no moral/social responsibility to provide free services unless it is their choice.

    Why should anyone be forced through societal opprobrium to provide free services? Why is someones success a blank check for free service to those less fortunate? By that line of reasoning the mother of 4 working 2 jobs should wash dishes or do laundry for the mother of 6 working 3 jobs.

  3. Sorry, in all my ranting I left out a comment about the vet’s responsibility to provide some pro-bono services. He/she should provide some, either at his/her practice and/or at area animal shelters. My assumption was that the vet already is providing some level of pro-bono services, as almost all vets do. The problem is that the demands placed on almost all veterinarians to provide discounted or pro-bono services in moderate to low-income communities is usually overwhelming.

    If this vet is providing zero pro-bono services, then he/she is shirking professional responsibility. But you can’t judge the veterinarian based on this one situation – particularly if you have no clue what vets face on a regular basis.

  4. “A pox on the vet.”

    What? Are you really unable to think through what it’s like to be a veterinarian? Were you really unable to figure out that veterinarians are faced with this situation day in and day out? How many times has any given vet been told by a low-income family “We promise we’ll pay x each week! We swear!” and then get two of those payments, if they’re lucky? (Even if the family had actually paid NZ$3.50 per week, it would have taken them more than 3 years to pay the bill, assuming that there was no interest being charged.)

    The vet had already provided the preliminary services to examine and stabilize the injured dog, and had no realistic expectation to be paid for those expenditures, let alone be paid for the costs of performing additional surgery. Even if the vet had donated his/her time to perform the surgery, there would have been direct costs for a tech to assist with the surgery, plus the costs of the drugs and consumables. I’d ballpark the minimum direct costs to the vet of around US$500, without including his/her time, the costs of running his/her clinic (rent, utilities, etc.), insurance, and so on. When is the last time anyone reading this blog essentially pulled out $500 in cash and gave it to a client, who you know will never give you future business? (I’m not talking about donating $500 of your billable rate in time/services, I’m talking about direct costs.) And imagine that you’re put in a position where you are asked to do this once a month or once a week?

    The fact that this vet had his/her practice in an area where a family on welfare could get to them is, itself, impressive. (Poor/low-income areas generally do not have veterinary practices available anywhere near them.) Also, excluding the fact that the vet has to eat, he/she also has staff who need to be paid. Giving away too much of your services and/or undercharging and/or not collecting on bills is a key way to run your practice into bankruptcy, leaving your community without any veterinary services at all.

    Despite the fact that you need better grades and test scores to get into a veterinary school in the US than to get into med school, the fact that veterinarians have to learn to practice medicine on multiple species, and on patients who can’t tell you what’s wrong, they can expect to make a quarter or a fifth what human doctors are paid in the US.

    And what, exactly was this kid thinking would happen when he ran off with the dog? This story could have gone very differently – the dog could have developed a horrible infection and died a truly gruesome, terrifying death over the course of a day or two, instead of just suffering with the excruciating pain of an untreated broken bone being moved and jostled.

    I have a huge amount of sympathy for this kid and his dog. I would go to extraordinary lengths for my own goofy, skittish dog. But the veterinarian didn’t do anything wrong, and the kid didn’t deal with the situation well.

  5. He can’t steal his own dog. An unpaid bill is for the civil courts, it isn’t theft. A pox on the vet. And a pox on the SPCA, which should have tried to help, not lumber in like some school yard bully making threats. This is a disgrace on so many levels.

  6. That’s a good story. It’s nice to see people “Pay it forward” instead of letting the Buck pass.

  7. Isn’t this nice, when people will go to any length to save the family pet. Makes one wonder if they would rally behind if it were a human being?

    The SPCA offered to initiate the criminal charges? This make sense to me. Not at all, where is the compassionate care that they so much advocate?

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