Local News

Payment Promised For Treatment Of Injured Pet Never Received

Posted November 26, 2003 9:42 a.m. EST

— Lots of people board pets while they travel. They expect their animals are safe. Sometimes, though, accidents happen.

One accident that happened last Thanksgiving caused heartbreak, anger and frustration. It involves the Ultimate Pet Resort in Fayetteville, a family dog and a big bill that neither the owner of the dog nor the owner of Pet Resort can agree on.

Last November, while boarded at the Ultimate Pet Resort, Sugarbaby escaped out the front door and was hit by a car.

"The kids were crying. It was emotional," said Candy Johnson, the dog's owner.

What happened afterward upsets Johnson almost as much.

Sugarbaby's injuries were serious: she suffered a broken pelvis, hip and femur. Johnson knew it would be expensive to save her and decided it best to put the dog to sleep.

Then, the owner of Ultimate Pet Resort, Viktoria Runningwolf, offered to pay for everything.

"It made us feel better," Johnson said. "We thought, 'What a nice lady. She's going to take care of everything. Pay for the surgery. Take care of our dog.'"

The two women took Sugarbaby to North Carolina State University's Veterinary Hospital. Runningwolf wrote a check for $1,750 to cover the downpayment.

The surgery ended up costing $1,630, so Runningwolf's check should have covered it -- until she stopped payment.

Johnson called Runningwolf, who later left the following message on Johnson's answering machine:

" I did get in touch with N.C. State and my bank did make a mistake on something I requested them to do. So it has been taken care of and the credit was still left for you."

"She was just so convincing. She was very convincing," Johnson said.

Runningwolf said she sent a new check to the vet school. The school never received it.

Five On Your Side became involved in April. In the months that followed, Runningwolf canceled interviews four times, before meeting WRAL in September.

"I had to go from shock mode into damage. How am I going to save this doggie?" Runningwolf said.

Runningwolf said she felt responsible and wanted to do whatever it took to save Sugarbaby's life.

"I owed it not just to Candy Johnson or the son. I owed that obligation to that four-legged guest of mine that came and stayed at the resort," she said.

Runningwolf said even though she wrote the check for $1,750 she agreed to pay only $1,000 toward the vet bill. She said Johnson was to reimburse her the $750. She claimed that was why she stopped payment on the check.

"I don't have that kind of money. We have a small business here," Runningwolf said.

But Runningwolf never even paid the $1,000.

"(WRAL: 'N.C. State does not have $1,000.') No, they don't. (WRAL: 'I'm sure if you came up with the $1,000 for N.C. State...') I will pay N.C. State," Runningwolf said.

To resolve the issue, Johnson went ahead and paid the N.C. State Vet School $630.

Five On Your Side told Runningwolf that one week ago, and she said she would pay N.C. State the remaining $1,000 "probably Thursday or Friday" of last week. She did not.