dog fostering

Who Decides? The Fight Over a Foster Dog's Leg Amputation

Last Hope K9 Rescue's medical team determined amputation was the best option for Kirklin's future, but the dog's foster mom wants to adopt him and said she is willing to pay the costs of exploring other medical options first

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A foster parent and a pet rescue group are in court sorting out who gets to decide a dog’s medical future.

A Boston woman who’s been fostering a dog is in a legal battle to prevent the pet’s leg from being amputated.

The rescue organization says the procedure is necessary for the dog’s long-term health. However, the foster mom wants to adopt the dog and said she is willing to pay the costs of exploring other medical options first.

The canine conundrum is now playing out in a Suffolk County courtroom.

Ever since she started working from home during the pandemic, Michelle Begovic has been fostering dogs. Kirklin, the fourth dog she’s fostered, is her current companion.

“He has a big personality,” Begovic said. “He has very high energy and loves people. His ears speak for themselves.”

After caring for the pit bull for nearly a year, Begovic wants to give Kirklin a forever home and adopt him from Last Hope K9 Rescue.

However, there’s a problem: the rescue organization said it will only offer the dog for adoption after he has one of his front legs amputated.

“I try to think about the situation logically and the position I’m in… it’s unfathomable,” Begovic said.

Michelle Begovic and her foster dog, Kirklin

Kirklin certainly appears like a healthy dog when he strolls around his Jamaica Plain neighborhood or wrestles with a friend in the backyard.

But it was a different story last summer when the dog fractured his wrist during a walk.

A metal plate was put in during surgery to help the bone heal. Kirklin’s recovery did not go as planned.

The plate shifted, causing swelling and infection. Even months after the surgery, Kirklin continued to walk with a significant limp.

Last Hope K9 Rescue’s medical team determined amputation was the best option for the dog’s future.

However, Begovic took it upon herself to get a second opinion from other veterinarians. Prior to something as drastic as an amputation, she would like to have the plate surgically removed to see if that allows the leg to completely heal.

Begovic also said Kirklin has made big strides in recent weeks since he started taking antibiotics.

“It’s almost like you can’t even tell there was an issue,” Begovic said. “The improvement is tremendous.”

Begovic hired an attorney to take the rescue organization to court and win ownership of Kirklin.

“We came with our hands open, saying we would pay for surgery and pay for care of the dog,” said Samantha Kemp, who’s representing Begovic in the litigation. “The dog is perfectly fine. Just let us adopt it.”

Jeremy Cohen, an attorney who specializes in legal cases involving pets, is representing Last Hope K9 Rescue.

He told NBC10 Boston the organization is relying on the expertise of top veterinarians around the state to make the determination about amputating Kirklin’s leg.

“They are doing what they think it best for the dog. They’re in a much better and stronger position to make that decision,” Cohen said. “Amputating the leg would stop all the problems permanently. No more pain and no more infection.”

Cohen said Last Hope K9 Rescue has offered to allow Begovic to adopt Kirklin after the amputation procedure has taken place. He added that dogs, especially a young one like Kirklin, adapt quickly to life on three limbs.

“It’s not her decision because she doesn’t own the dog,” Cohen said. “If this foster is allowed to just arbitrarily say, ‘No, it’s my rules now,’ that will bring down the entire foster system.”

The rescue organization is trying to take possession of Kirklin immediately, but Begovic and her attorney are fighting that effort in court.

Both sides made their arguments in court this week, but the judge has yet to issue a decision. The next court date is scheduled later this month.

“For me, morally, I don’t think it would be an easy thing to live with, knowing there were other solutions,” Begovic said.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@nbcuni.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.