Problem Solver: After dog fight, owner fights for money

A neighbor's dog attacked and injured Elizabeth Morrissey's dog. The Bridgeport woman's efforts to get payment for the veterinarian bill proved difficult.

The attack happened so quickly that neither Elizabeth Morrissey nor her dog, Mia, had a chance to react.

The two were out for a walk near their Bridgeport home Dec. 21, 2011, when an unattended dog raced across the street and began biting and scratching Mia.

"I finally got the dog off of her, but she was all bloody," Morrissey said. "I was really upset and scared. I went home with her and then went straight to the vet."

Mia suffered wounds to her neck and back, some of which required stitches. The veterinarian's bill came to $599.11.

When Morrissey got home, she realized the dog that attacked Mia looked a lot like her neighbor's dog — a medium-size, brown German shepherd and pit bull mix. She had her landlord call the neighbor, who admitted her dog had gotten out of the yard and had been in a fight.

"She said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. Let me know what I can do,'" Morrissey said.

But the neighbor's attitude changed once Morrissey told her about the vet bill. The neighbor agreed that her dog had gotten out and that the dog had been in a fight. But the neighbor said her dog had fought another dog, not Mia, Morrissey said.

Upset, Morrissey filed a police report, and the neighbor was charged with failing to have her dog restrained. On April 24, 2012, an administrative law judge found the neighbor guilty and fined her $360 plus restitution for Mia's vet bill.

At the hearing, the neighbor refused to pay for the rabies shot Mia was administered the night of the fight, and Morrissey agreed to remove that from the bill.

According to the ruling, the neighbor was to pay the fine and $569.26 in restitution to the city. The city would then pay Morrissey the $569.26.

Months went by, and the neighbor didn't pay. In October, the city sent the bill to collections. With court and administrative fees, the neighbor's total swelled to $1,639.11.

Morrissey said she called the city and the collection agency repeatedly to ask if the neighbor had paid. Finally, in February, the collection agency told Morrissey that it had received full payment, she said.

Since then, she has inquired about how to get her $569.26. No one at the city seemed to know what to do, she said.

"On all of the paperwork my name and address are provided, and it clearly states that restitution is owed to me," she said. "I have not heard from anyone. It is very frustrating because I keep getting different stories."

Worried she would never get her money, Morrissey emailed What's Your Problem?

She said she has called a half-dozen city departments, but none calls her back — and none seems capable of helping.

"It has been very frustrating trying to get reimbursed," Morrissey said. "I don't know what to do except wait, but I feel if I wait and do nothing, no one will reach out to me to send me the restitution."

She said Mia, now 10, has experienced other, unrelated health problems in recent months that have required veterinary care.

"It's adding up, and I keep thinking if I had that money, I could use it toward Mia's care," Morrissey said.

The Problem Solver called Kathleen Strand, a spokeswoman for Chicago's Department of Revenue.

Strand said in an email Wednesday that the neighbor had entered into a payment plan with the city's Law Department but defaulted on the plan in August. The neighbor then paid the total amount due sometime before January.

Strand said the city approved payment to Morrissey on April 22, but the check was not sent on that date. The spokeswoman said the city would mail the check within days.

Morrissey was elated.

"That's amazing," she said. "I'll be very happy to see it."

She said the lack of communication from the city was the hardest part.

"I just wish somebody would have called me back and given me an update," Morrissey said.

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