Catherine Lenihan knew she had only a few days left with Cara. Her 14-year-old golden retriever was struggling to walk. The dog had been declining slowly for years — steady weight loss, arthritis, her pumpkin-coloured coat had faded to grey around the eyes — but now her back legs were buckling.

“The idea of bringing her to a vet, to die on a cold table with strange people around, I was never doing that,” she said. So Lenihan called Toronto Pet Heaven, a North York agency that dispatches mobile vets to perform euthanasia at Toronto-area homes.

A vet arrived within the hour. Cara was put to sleep with her head in Lenihan’s lap.

“Pet Heaven, they were absolutely wonderful,” Lenihan said. “I’m just so upset about what’s happening to them.”

Today, Pet Heaven and its owners, Eric and Shelley Blechman, begin a two-day trial in Markham court on charges of practising veterinary medicine without a licence.

Bernard LeBlanc, who is representing Ontario’s College of Veterinarians, the agency that laid the charges, said the fact licensed vets, not the Blechmans, were the ones holding the needle is immaterial.

“You don’t practise any profession in a vacuum.”

The couple and Pet Heaven could face up to a $100,000 fine if found guilty.

“We didn’t do anything wrong,” Shelley Blechman said. “For them to give evidence on how we’re practising veterinary medicine without a licence — we’re not.”

Michael Pasquale, who is representing the Blechmans and the corporation, says he is confident common sense will win out.

The hearing begins today.

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