Pets Aren’t “Children” in Court’s Eyes

Herald Tribune, October 4, 2009

A Florida appellate court has ruled that a dog owner can pursue a lawsuit seeking damages for emotional distress against a veterinarian who prescribed an injectable heartworm treatment that led to the dogs death. After the dog died the dog owner signed a release.  The Florida appellate court held that the release was valid as to all claims of damage resulting from use of the heartworm treatment but held that the release did not bar “any claims that did not result from the use and administration of [the heartworm treatment].”

Read the news article discussing the case and the issue of veterinary malpractice.

Vermont Supreme Court Ruling Supports Animal Welfare in Turning Back Attempt to Expand Pet-Related Litigation

Reuters, May 8, 2009

The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision not to introduce non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, into pet litigation joining a long line of state courts reaffirming the longstanding legal principle that emotional harm damages are not allowed in litigation over pets. In its ruling the Court stated, “Plaintiffs fail to demonstrate a compelling reason why, as a matter of public policy, the law should offer broader compensation for the loss of a pet than would be available for the loss of a friend, relative, work animal, heirloom or memento — all of which can be prized beyond measure, but for which this state’s law does not recognize recovery for sentimental loss.”

Read the article

Growing trend of pet law gives animals their day in court

Chicago Tribune, June 29, 2005

Today, people are seeking out lawyers like Chicago’s Amy Breyer who specialize in the growing field of animal law and will pursue cases such as veterinarian malpractice, animal abuse or landlord-tenant issues with as much aggressiveness and skill as any other type of legal claim. And as the animal law landscape grows, so do questions about where it’s headed and what pet owners can or should do.

Is your pet entitled to his day in court? The answer: Maybe.

Chicago Tribune, June 5, 2005

In every court system, animals have been considered property. But animal advocates and attorneys along with their clients are making headway in getting the legal system to recognize what society increasingly believes: Animals are more than just property. They’re like family.

When pets die at the vet, grieving owners call lawyers

USA Today, March 14, 2005

The patient had dental surgery, there were complications, and he died. Now his family members are accusing the doctor of negligence and claiming that the episode caused them emotional distress. It’s a typical medical malpractice case — except in this 3-year-old dispute, the patient was a sheepdog named Lucky.

Read the article

Veterinarians in the Doghouse

Richard L. Cupp, Jr. and Amber E. Dean
The Brief, Spring 2002

Read the Article (pdf)

ALDF on Veterinary Malpractice

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) Web site includes a section instructing pet owners and lawyers how to pursue veterinary malpractice claims. The site states the following:

“One of the most frequest requests for assistance that ALDF receives is from people whose companion animals have suffered injuries, or even death, and who fear that negligence by their veterinarian was the cause. If you suspect that your companion animal was injured by veterinary malpractice, there are several things that you can do.”