Bamboozled: Pet adoption agency shut down over sick puppy’s vet bills dispute

Eleventh Hour Rescue, a pet adoption and rescue agency in Rockaway Townsquare shopping center, was temporarily closed late last week amid an investigation into Bamboozled, according to the health worker. of the canton.

The closure came after a complaint from Michele Nardino, a woman who adopted a puppy there in November.

The puppy, Harley, fell ill five days after adoption and was later diagnosed with parvovirus, described by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as a “highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs, but dogs and unvaccinated puppies under four months of age are most at risk. “

Nardino’s complaint prompted the township to send two specialists to the facility, where “the records reflected the parvovirus conditions in three additional dogs,” said Peter Tabbot, township health official.

The shutdown will continue “while staff thoroughly clean and disinfect the areas where dogs and cats are held,” Tabbot said.

Tabbot said Eleventh Hour has been cooperative and adoptions will not resume until the Health Division gives its approval. While he can’t predict when the store will reopen, he said the best estimate is 10 to 14 days.

Eleventh Hour confirmed the closure, noting that it was not cited and did not violate any health codes.

He said all dogs currently at that location have been examined and found to be healthy.

But that was not the case for Nardino’s puppy.


Nardino’s daughter Taryn, 8, has been asking for a new dog since the family’s pug died in 2015.

They went to the mall and Taryn cried with joy when she heard of the surprise.

That’s when they saw Wendy Wonderpaw, a 9 week old Australian Cattle Dog and German Shepherd mix.

Michele Nardino and his daughter Taryn (8) visit Harley during her treatment for the parvovirus.

“She was the very first dog we saw and we fell in love with her instantly,” Nardino said. “She was in the arms of a volunteer, her stomach in the air, cuddled like a little baby.”

The family renamed the puppy Harley.

On her fifth day at home, Harley stopped eating, didn’t want to drink, and vomited twice.

Nardino took Harley to Totowa Animal Hospital that night, Monday, November 20.

“The animal hospital immediately called Eleventh Hour Rescue, but no one answered the phone or called us back,” Nardino said.

The blood tests returned to normal but the dog was ill, so she was admitted to get a proper diagnosis.

Nardino said she called and emailed Eleventh Hour on Tuesday and Wednesday, but no one responded to her messages.

“They repeated the blood test on Wednesday because she was still sick,” Nardino said. “They also tested her stool for worms and parasites because she was not improving.”

The tests returned to normal.

Thursday – Thanksgiving – Nardino said the Eleventh Hour manager finally responded via email.

Nardino explained what had happened, then the manager spoke to the vet’s office.

They repeated blood tests again.

“His white blood cell count dropped dramatically on Friday,” Nardino said. “That’s when the vet tested for Parvovirus.”

Taryn Nardino visits Harley at the Totowa Veterinary Hospital. Harley is hooked up to an IV for the treatment of parvovirus.

It was positive.

The incubation period for the virus is three to 14 days, according to several veterinary sources, while most parvovirus deaths occur within 48 to 72 hours of the onset of clinical signs, AVMA said.

It looks like Nardino took Harley to the vet just in time.

She was convinced the puppy had contracted the virus by the eleventh hour because she had not been exposed to other dogs since adoption.

Nardino continued conversations with the adoption group. She said the president of Eleventh Hour agreed to pay the vet’s bills from Friday – the day Parvovirus was diagnosed. But he wouldn’t pay the fee before the diagnosis, or consider reimbursing the $ 425 adoption fee.

“They said the reason they wouldn’t pay Monday through Thursday is because I should have contacted them before going to the vet,” Nardino said. “This would mean the dog would have had to wait four days before receiving medical attention, which would have resulted in death.”

Nardino shared her call log and email history with Eleventh Hour, proving that she always tried to contact the group.

Then the group changed their thinking about why they wouldn’t pay.

“Then they said no because they disagreed with the tests done and the vet’s course of action,” Nardino said. “But the vet contacted them early on. They now say the vet did unnecessary testing. But none of them went to vet school.”

Frustrated, Nardino contacted Bamboozled.


We looked at Harley’s adoption contract, Nardino’s phone and electronic records, and veterinary hospital bills.

The contract states that it is the client’s responsibility to provide “regular medical care necessary to maintain the dog in good health”.

“Although Eleventh Hour strives to place only healthy animals, it cannot guarantee the health of any animal and cannot be held responsible for any medical expenses that may be incurred after the date of adoption,” he indicates.

8-year-old Taryn Nardino visits Harley, who was being treated for parvovirus.

But given that the incubation period could last up to 14 days and Harley’s illness started five days after adoption, and given that Eleventh Hour agreed to pay all the bills after the diagnosis, qu what makes those early days in the hospital different?

Who should pay?

Not necessarily Eleventh Hour, said Dennis Polizzi, group counsel and director of kennel operations.

He said Eleventh Hour is a non-profit, 100% no-kill dog and cat rescue that is primarily run by volunteers. He rescues and adopts more than 3,000 dogs a year, he said.

Polizzi said when the Eleventh Hour kennel manager spoke to the hospital, she asked about a Parvo test because the puppy was “showing all the classic symptoms.”

Polizzi said that after the test came back positive Eleventh Hour was concerned about the “misdiagnosis … in particular that a Parvo test was not performed until four days later. [after admission] and more expensive tests were carried out. “

He requested that the dog be transferred to one of his vets, but agreed to keep Harley in Totowa at Nardino’s insistence.

Michele Nardino and daughter Taryn, 8, with Harley at Totowa Animal Hospital while Harley was being treated for parvovirus.

Polizzi said Eleventh Hour will pay for the dog’s care starting Wednesday, rather than the initial promise to pay for the care from Friday – an improvement on its original offering.

We brought Polizzi’s review of Harley’s treatment to the Totowa Veterinary Hospital. He disagreed with Polizzi’s statements, saying the dog did not exhibit “classic symptoms” as she had only vomited twice, was active and had no diarrhea. He denied performing any unnecessary tests, claiming he had not taken the Parvo test earlier because nothing in the blood tests indicated Parvo.

As the fight continued, Harley continued her recovery.

She returned home after nine days in the hospital, racking up a total bill of $ 3,525.16 – and it was at the “rescue” rate.

We asked Polizzi for the final payment decision for Eleventh Hour. He said he would pay $ 2,385 directly to the vet, leaving Nardino with more than $ 1,100 in bills.

“We hope this fixes the problem and our position has not changed that the vet should have done a Parvo test earlier and that would have canceled the other tests,” Polizzi said.

A few hours later, we learned that the Rockaway sanitary inspector was arresting him.

Nardino isn’t happy with the bill, but she hopes other families and pets will be spared what she and Harley have been through.

“I saved dogs today, improved conditions for animals, exposed injustices and advocated that future adopters no longer receive sick animals,” Nardino said.

Have you been scoffed at? Contact Karin Price Mueller at [email protected] Follow her on twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of

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