Pet Owners Upset Over Animal Care in Willow Creek Area
By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune
Several pet owners are upset after routine visits to Paradise Animal Clinic in Willow Creek ended with sickness or death for their animals.
Tasha Norton took her six-month-old puppy in for her first shots. Within hours, the puppy was dead.
“I was trying to be a responsible pet owner, and it killed her,” Norton said.
She took the puppy for shots on her lunch break, and dropped her off at home before returning to work.
“I brought her back and dropped her off at 11:30 and she was perfectly fine,” Norton said. “Then at 4 I got a call from my uncle. He said she was having seizures and foaming at the mouth.”
Ken Norton found Brandy, his niece’s puppy, convulsing in the gravel driveway.
“She’d cleared two inches of gravel off the road. It reminded me of a snow angel,” Ken Norton said. “It was very disheartening. No animal needs to have a gruesome death like that.”
The dog was barely breathing when he lifted her onto her bed on the porch. She died.
Sharon Jordan’s dog, Tana, had better luck.
“I took her to Willow Creek to get spayed and they held her overnight,” Jordan said. “When we picked her up, she was so sore she couldn’t walk and she couldn’t get on a bed or a chair.”
Jordan’s daughter noticed that something was wrong with the dog’s belly.
“She had this big bump come out on the side of the incision. It looked so bad, like a piece of sausage on her chest,” Jordan said.
“We took her to Cutten Animal Clinic and as soon as the vet saw the incision, he said he was taking the stitches out,” Jordan said. “He had to cut into her to get the stitches out, and he said the lump on her side was an infection.”
The dog was given antibiotics, and recovered within a few days.
“I called them [Willow Creek] and told them ‘that’s the worst spaying job I’ve ever seen’ – and I’ve probably had five or six dogs spayed,” Jordan said.
Assistant Veterinary Technician Stacey McConnell worked at Paradise Animal Clinic for seven years, before she left in April 2011.
“We rarely had any complications with spays or neuters,” McConnell said. “Health complications were very rare, and the big problems that did come in were things like Parvo and salmon poisoning.”
McConnell handled some complaints from customers when she worked at the clinic, but said they were usually because of misunderstandings over stitches.
“In the seven years that I worked there, we only had one infection from a spay or neuter. It was a pretty simple process,” McConnell said.
The TRT was unable to speak with Dr. Menegay to find out what – if anything – may have changed since McConnell left in 2011; multiple phone calls and messages over a week-long period were unreturned.
Joseph Hailey and Mercedes Porras said they still miss their dog Ayla, who died after being spayed at the Paradise Animal Clinic in Willow Creek.
“She was part of our family. She was our first dog when we got together,” Porras said. “She meant a lot to us.”
Hailey and Porras took Ayla to the clinic in Willow Creek on Wednesday, Jan. 16, left her overnight, and picked her up the next day.
“She came home and she really wasn’t moving around very much. She wasn’t herself,” Porras said. “The last day she was really bloated and wouldn’t move at all.”
The dog died early Sunday morning on Jan. 21, and the couple went to Willow Creek the next day to talk to the veterinarian, Dr. Michael Menegay.
“We had questions and we wanted answers,” Porras said. “We wanted him to do an autopsy. We brought her up there, and he was really rude to us.”
Hailey said, “He just kept saying ‘well, how am I supposed to know what happened? She was fine when she went out of here’.”
Porras said, “He told us that we must have done something wrong, but after the autopsy he started being nice and apologized, and gave us a refund.”
“He said she bled to death internally, and there was so much blood he couldn’t tell what happened,” Porras said.
Hailey said, “We tried to complain online to the Better Business Bureau, but there was some sort of a glitch.”
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website for Northern California, the Paradise Animal Clinic in Willow Creek is not BBB accredited, has no rating, and has no records of any complaints from customers.
A search on the California Department of Consumer Affairs Veterinary Medical Board website shows that Doctor Michael Menegay is a licensed veterinarian, with no mention of disciplinary actions or citations.
There also isn’t any mention of the 20 dead animals, 17 dogs and three cats, that were found dumped in a remote area along Horse Linto Road in December 2006.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department investigated the pile of deceased animals, and determined that all of the animals had been euthanized before being dumped at the site.
Several of the animals were skeletons and others were freshly dumped. Investigators concluded that the animals had been dumped in stages, and later identified Menegay as a suspect.
Menegay eventually pleaded guilty, and half of the charges against him were dismissed. He ended up paying six fines of $920 each for unlawful dumping of waste.
Porras said, “I feel like he doesn’t even like the animals.”
Hailey said, “We’ve been trying to get the word out, and I told all my friends and family what happened.”
For the couple, losing Ayla was like losing a member of their family.
Porras said, “We took family pictures with her. I still get sad when I think about it. We’re going to plant a tree over her grave.”