HOWELL TWP., N.J. (WPVI) -- A New Jersey family was told their dog had been put down five months ago, but little did they know the pet had been living with a veterinary worker all that time.
Caesar's family grieved for their pet when they believed the chronically ill dog they had for 15 years was put down at Briarwood Veterinary Hospital in Howell, Monmouth County.
That was until they received a tip call last week saying the dog was actually still alive.
"I'm dumbfounded. I don't even know how to say, I don't know how to feel," said Caesar's owner, Lonnie Levy.
He paid $192 for the dog's cremation and even got a condolence letter from Dr. George Menez, the family's longtime vet.
But instead of euthanizing Caesar, Menez allegedly let a vet tech in the office take the dog home without the Levy's knowledge or permission.
"You charge me to put him down and then sneak him out the back door? It's horrifying," Levy said.
When police got involved the vet tech was ordered to return Caesar, who by then was so ill he had to be euthanized immediately.
"To this date, we have not confirmed that there was any type of veterinary care being rendered to this dog," said Chief Ross Licitra of the Monmouth County SPCA.
"There's potential of theft charges against the doctor for basically taking the victim's money and not performing the service," said Chief Andrew Kudrick of the Howell Twp. Police Department.
Action News was unable to contact Dr. Menez for comment. He and the vet tech involved no longer work at Briarwood.
The veterinarian who bought the practice just last week and helped the Levys figure out what happened is upset.
"It's hard enough when you have to decide a pet should pass, but you have to deal with that twice with the same pet? It's just unthinkable," said Dr. Maureen Kibisz.
Local police and the SPCA will meet with the Monmouth County prosecutor's office on Thursday to discuss if any charges will be filed.
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Dog thought to be put down turns up at vet worker's home