Red Bank animal hospital beheaded his cat — now he’s seeking justice
An appeals court has ruled that a Hoboken man can sue an emergency veterinarian hospital in Monmouth County over the traumatic discovery that his beloved cat's body had been beheaded after being put to sleep.
Mario Quesada said in his lawsuit that the veterinarian and staff at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital had only told him that a brain tissue sample was needed from "Amor," the cat he suddenly had to euthanize in June 2017 after the rescue animal had developed a critical blood clot at the base of its heart.
The cat apparently had bitten one of the nurses during the process and despite Quesada offering his pet's complete medical records — which he had brought from their usual vet — the hospital intended to test for rabies, according to the suit, initially filed in June 2019.
When he arrived at a Mercer County pet funeral home a few days later, once the negative rabies test result had been confirmed, “Mario instead beheld the horror of seeing his beloved pet’s headless body, with a towel where Amor’s head should have been,” according to his lawsuit.
Quesada had told the staff at the Tinton Falls vet facility that he was planning a private viewing of his cat before cremation and no earlier concerns were raised, his suit said.
“In anguish and outrage," he called the veterinary hospital, who referred him to call state health officials, who said that the cat's entire head had been thrown out as medical waste, days earlier.
Quesada and his parents had adopted the animal as a one-pound kitten four years earlier in the wake of his sister's death and his mother's "rapid onset" of Parkinson's disease and dementia, according to the lawsuit. They found the cat provided critical emotional support. The pet was diagnosed with heart disease in 2014 and had been receiving treatment for the condition up to its death.
The gruesome surprise of his pet's headless body at the funeral home prompted a panic attack, according to Quesada's lawsuit, and has lead to long-term mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, insomnia and outbursts of anger.
His lawsuit against the hospital and parent company, Compassion First Pet Hospitals, was initially dismissed in September 2019. An order issued two months later denied Quesada's motion for reconsideration, as a judge referred to the case as a "bystander" liability claim instead of a "direct" liability claim.
In April, an appeals court reversed that decision and has allowed the suit to proceed.
At least one tech supervisor that Quesada spoke to at the veterinary hospital after the decapitation of his pet said that it wasn't the only method of testing but that the facility usually just “sends the whole head," according to the suit, which also quoted the tech as saying “doctors don’t usually tell people because they think the animal is going for cremation, and they don’t want to upset anyone.”
The lawsuit cited the state Veterinary Procedures Manual, published in June 2017, as saying “in situations where the animal owner is upset that his/her pet will be decapitated for rabies testing, practitioners can remove the brain, submit it for testing, and return the body of the animal to the owner in (almost) intact condition.”
The appeal and lawsuit were first reported by the Asbury Park Press.