The Correctional Service of Canada is investigating after a long-serving drug-sniffing dog was left in a dog rescue service when prison staff initially refused to pay a $5,000 vet bill.

Doc, a six-year-old chocolate lab, needed surgery to fix a torn ligament before he was retired, and Canada’s prison system should have stepped up to help him right away, according to his current foster owner Devin Meads.

“I don’t think that’s fair that you hurt yourself and that’s it, game over?” said Meads.

A Corrections spokesperson wouldn’t comment on camera, but said in an e-mail that the agency now plans to pay the bill, after lobbying by the dog rescue agency, Victoria Adoptables, and questions from CTV News.

“CSC is examining this incident to learn how the dog’s case was handled, and to ensure that the appropriate process will be followed for any future incidents of dog injury,” spokesman Jean Paul Lorieau wrote.

The agency's policy is to pay for vet expenses for all active dogs, and to pay for vet expenses before a dog is retired, Lorieau added.

Doc’s trouble began in early December, when his handler wrote an e-mail saying Doc needed extensive surgery because of a torn ligament in his hind leg.

That e-mail was passed around until it was received by Victoria Adoptables Dog Rescue, a Victoria-based non profit that rescues abandoned dogs. On December 13, Victoria Adoptables agreed to take Doc into care by the end of the month.

Members fundraised the $5,000 estimated cost. On December 19, Corrections agreed to pay up to $2,500.

On January 14, Doc was taken into surgery, and the total cost for surgery was $4,467.89. Several days later, Corrections agreed to pay the total cost.

Both Mounties and Vancouver Police have policies where their dogs’ medical needs are tended to before they are retired.

In the case of Teak, a VPD service dog who was stabbed by an assailant in mid-January, VPD paid for his bills before he was retired.

That’s standard treatment in the guide dog world as well, said B.C. Guide Dogs CEO Bill Thornton.

“These dogs are serving humanity and working for us and performing an important function,” he said. “They should be cared for.”

Thornton said while sometimes the cost of treatment can be born by a service dog user, even his non-profit steps up when its dogs need help. The dog would never end up in a dog rescue, he said.

“A dog would never get put at risk, it would always receive first class health care,” he said.

Doc is recovering from surgery and in a few weeks he will be ready to be adopted, said Meads. Anyone interested in adopting Doc can visit the Victoria Adoptables website.