California couple files lawsuit alleging vet did wrong surgery on puppy

‘Dr. George’ Djordjevich worked at Mohnacky Animal Hospital. The hospital’s owner denies the allegations.

SAN DIEGO — The wife of a former U.S. Marine is taking legal action against a North County veterinarian, accusing him of performing the wrong surgery on the couple’s puppy.

Stephanie Spears said the Cane Corso puppy was injured in 2019 when it jumped out of the couple’s car at their home in Fallbrook.

“We opened the car door, and when he landed with one foot on the concrete and one foot on the dirt area, he immediately yelped and then he started limping,” said Spears.

The puppy, named Rockie, was supposed to be a service dog for Spears’ husband, Taylor Spears, a former U.S. Marine.

“I do have a VA rating for PTSD, and Rockie was going to be my service dog for that, and just help me with that, taking him for walks and things helps me relax,” said Taylor Spears.

Stephanie said she first took Rockie for treatment to Mohnacky Animal Hospital in Vista.

“They did x-rays, and they were like, ‘We see a lot of things going on. We’re going to go ahead and send you to the Carlsbad location, where we have a board-certified surgeon there. He can take a look at Rockie. He specializes in orthopedics,’” recalled Stephanie.

Veterinarian Dr. Zoran Djordjevich, also known as Dr. George, diagnosed Rockie with hip dysplasia and performed surgery on the puppy’s pelvis.

For the next three years, Rockie continued to limp and appeared to be in pain, according to the couple. They finally decided to get a second opinion.

“We found out that (Dr. George) wasn’t board certified, and we found out that Rockie had two torn ACLs,” said Stephanie.

The allegation that a staff member at Mohnacky Animal Hospital falsely portrayed Dr. George as board-certified orthopedic surgeon is now at the center of a lawsuit filed last year by Rockie’s owners.

The lawsuit alleges, “…instead of (hip) surgery, Rockie should have undergone bilateral knee surgery.”

WATCH RELATED: CBS 8 interview with attorney Sarah Thompson, who represents Stephanie Spears

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The owner of the Mohnacky Animal Hospital, Dr. Craig Mohnacky, admitted Dr. George is not board certified and, he said, he doesn’t need to be certified to perform orthopedic surgeries. “General practitioners do orthopedic all the time,” said Mohnacky.

He also said Rockie’s hip surgery was needed to correct a hip condition the dog was born with.

“The surgery that was done originally had nothing to do with the knees. Nothing to do except help the confirmation of the hips. Dr. George did the two follow-ups, two x-rays. The dog did perfect. The surgery went well. The next contact that I recall having with the client was a discussion she wanted to have about us paying for future surgeries for the dog. She wanted money,” said Mohnacky.

Mohnacky also denied that anyone on his staff ever portrayed Dr. George as a board-certified orthopedic surgeon.

CBS 8 tracked down Molly Rice, who said she used to work at the Carlsbad branch of Mohnacky Animal Hospital about a decade ago.

“Surgeries were very much pushed, obviously for money,” said Rice.

She claimed she once heard a manager telling a customer that Dr. George was board certified. “The executive director entered the room and spoke to the dog owners about Dr. George’s qualifications, and did convey that he was board certified,” Rice recalled.

“I have no response because it’s just hearsay,” said Mohnacky.

CBS 8 also found a number of other lawsuits filed in recent years against Mohnacky Animal Hospitals, which has locations in Carlsbad, Escondido and Vista. Some of the lawsuits involved Dr. George, some did not. Some resulted in judgments, some were settled out of court, and some were dismissed.

Mohnacky said lawsuits are fairly common in the medical business. “Anybody that’s in their own business, small business, will understand what a litigious society we live in. Lawsuits happen all the time for no reason at all, just because they can,” said Mohnacky.

Mohnacky Animal Hospital told CBS 8 Dr. Djordjevich would not be making any statements because of the ongoing lawsuit. CBS 8 checked with the California Veterinary Medical Board and Dr. Djordjevich had no disciplinary history.

WATCH RELATED: Extended interview excerpts with veterinarian Dr. Craig Mohnacky

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