ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Arlene Saiz wants her dog back.
The Albuquerque woman signed a form surrendering Maddie, her 1-year-old Labrador retriever, after tests performed at a veterinary clinic this week showed that the dog had consumed both cocaine and marijuana.
Saiz now says she regrets surrendering the dog and contends that she felt coerced into signing the city Animal Welfare Department form, because she could not afford the veterinary costs of at least $2,000 for the dog’s treatment.
City officials said police found no evidence to file criminal charges against Saiz, who said she doesn’t know how the animal consumed the drugs.
“I just want my dog back,” said Saiz, who drove Maddie to the veterinary clinic about 6 p.m. Tuesday after the dog showed symptoms of illness – twitching, shaking and difficulty with balance. Saiz said her 11-year-old daughter is devastated by the loss of her dog.
“I don’t have an answer for how my dog got cocaine,” Saiz said. Someone could have poisoned Maddie during the five hours she remained in the back yard of Saiz’s home on Tuesday.
“I’m assuming that either somebody threw it in my back yard, or she ate something,” she said. Saiz told a veterinarian she had seen Maddie eating something beside a Dumpster earlier that afternoon.
A toxicologist suspected that Maddie had ingested marijuana laced with cocaine, according to a report written by a veterinarian at VCA Animal Hospital, where the dog was treated Tuesday.
Maddie appeared to be heading for full recovery Thursday in the care of a nonprofit rescue group, said Desiree Cawley, a spokeswoman for the Animal Welfare Department. An adoptive home will be found for the dog after she recovers, she said.
Saiz is barred from retaking possession of the dog because she signed a waiver surrendering ownership, Cawley said. City law also prohibits Saiz from adopting an animal from a city shelter for one year, she said.
The dog was not licensed, Cawley said. Saiz said she didn’t realize she needed a license.
Saiz first noticed symptoms of illness when she took Maddie for a walk Tuesday afternoon.
“She was real fatigued,” Saiz said. “She wasn’t really wanting to walk.” Later, the dog began shaking and had trouble holding her head up.
After Saiz drove the dog to VCA Animal Hospital, a veterinarian observed that the dog was twitching and shaking and had poor balance, according to VCA’s report provided to the city.
The dog showed marked improvement by 3 a.m. Wednesday, the report said.
A test of the dog’s urine showed “strong positive cocaine” and the presence of THC, the active element of marijuana, the report said. The clinic contacted Albuquerque police, which dispatched two officers.
Saiz was unable to pay for the dog’s treatment, according to the clinic’s report, but demanded to take Maddie home.
Clinic officials wrote that allowing Saiz to take the dog home would amount to animal cruelty. She then surrendered the dog to VCA for treatment, the report said. The city took custody of the dog on Wednesday.