Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mixed Feelings

For those of you who know me personally, you are well aware of my concern for the future of animal legistlature. Many people are in the dark about how much animal law is growing in this country; in fact, there are a number of law schools that offer an entire course on animal law. My greatest concern is with that of the Guardianship Campaign. There is a well-supported push across this country to legally promote the status of companion animals from property to wards. While this may seem insignificant, this would mean that when suing someone over the life, health, or welfare of their companion animal(s), they can receive non-economic damages (i.e. emotional damages) from their suit. Personally, I am really torn about the whole issue. For the most part, I can understand the purpose of the campaign and agree how we in the United States have certainly elevated the status of pets from their utilitarian purpose to that of family member. Being a veterinarian in training, I should appreciate this more than most. On the other hand, this will result in some serious economic ramifications that many don't realize. My theory is that once this becomes nationwide, there will be an excessive number of these lawsuits and the law will be greatly abused. Just go here to understand where I'm coming from. Most importantly, I feel there will be a great change in the costs of small animal veterinary services. With so many people becoming sue-crazy, there's not a doubt in my mind that malpractice insurance costs for veterinarians will skyrocket to match those of human physicians, thereby causing veterinary services to likewise skyrocket in cost.

Again, I will point out that this movement is for a good purpose and it has already been used to great effect. A professor I had in my first year told me about a case where a woman in Kentucky sued a ranch over her two appaloosa horses. The owner was a professional and traveled for months at a time for her job, while boarding her horses at this ranch. She came back after a month of traveling to find that the owners of the ranch had to send her horses to some other ranch they owned on the far side of the state. Concerned, she drove all the way to the address given to her, only to find that the place didn't exist. After hiring a private investigator, she found out that the ranch owners sold the woman's horses to one of the last remaining horse slaughtering facilities down in Texas, to be sold to the French, Canadians, etc. She, of course, sued the ranch owners and received an enormous cash settlement. I also see the the guardianship changes having positive results in reducing the number of malicious poisonings of pets across the country. I don't know the statistics, but veterinarians everywhere see dogs and cats that have been poisoned with ethylene glycol (antifreeze), rat poisons, insecticides etc. At the moment, when you sue someone for mistreatment of your animal, all you can be awarded is the property value of the pet. So to put it in perspective, sueing over an 18 year old diabetic cat isn't worth the hassle. What are your thoughts on the whole campaign? I'm interested to see what other people think and see if they have the same concerns.

(In regards to my work, I'll post again probably this weekend. There is an exam for the whole lab services block this Friday that I have been studying for all this week, preventing me from posting in much detail. Stay tuned!)

1 comment:

The Foodist said...

The courts are going to have to prove reason when awarding on this law. There are gonna be some that squeeze by but I dont think any of these suits are actually going to go to Jury trials.

Seeing as though its a fledgling law I think its gonna be really bumpy for the first few cases, but I think if the court keeps a clear head (HA HA HA yeah ok) with alot of these cases I think itll be ok.

I mean said woman with the horses vs the 12 yr old diabetic cat? man I hope the court doesnt screw this up.