Law.com has this story about a lawyer's attempt
to change tort law as it applies to loss of one's
animal. He wants to
make it so that you can sue for "loss of companionship" damages when
your dog is harmed through veterinary negligence.
Under existing law, one can sue for loss of companionship when
someone negligently or intentionally harms your spouse or child. You
can't, however, sue for loss of companionship when someone harms your
best friend - even when your best friend is a dog.
As an animal lover, I respect the activist's sentiment. But ultimately it will do allowing these suits would cause much more harm than good.
Before changing existing law, you must first show a problem.
Are veterinarians running wild, negligently and recklessly killing animals? If there isn't a vast record of veterinarian malpractice, why should existing law change? Ultimately, tort law should decrease human suffering. So if vets are causing significant human suffering by untimely killing animals, the law should be changed.
But proponents of changing existing law have offered no such evidence - probably because they can't! Of course there are incompetent vets, but competent vets far outnumber the incompetent ones. Indeed, having had dogs for most of my life, and having visited with many different vets, I'd more willingly place my dog's life in the hands of a vet, than I would place my own life in a doctor's hands. I think vets are better at taking care of dogs than doctors are of taking care of people.
Existing law would increase health costs, thus leading to more human suffering.
My dog is a high energy Austrian shepherd. When he was neutered and had fresh stitches, he tried running and jumping. We literally had to drug him to keep him from re-opening his stitches. Given his breed and crazy energy levels, there is about a 90% chance that, in a few years, he will need hip surgery.
Do you know how much this will cost? Five-thousand dollars. That's it.
Now, the wife and I are far from rich, so $5,000 is still a lot of money for us. But for an advanced operation, that's very inexpensive.
One reason this operation is so inexpensive is because vets can not be sued for veterinary malpractice. They thus don't have to spend tens-of-thousands or hundreds-of-thousands of dollars on malpractice insurance.
As every business owner knows, increases in overhead leads to
increased costs to the consumer. Vets would have to charge more for
their services. How much more? Who knows, but for every price
increase, there would be a consumer priced out of getting that
operation for his pet.
Without hesitation, my wife and I do whatever we needed to do if
that was what we needed to do to save our dog. But what about people
who don't have access to savings, a 401(k), or a friend or relative who
would help out?
They'd have to euthanize their dogs.
In the tort reform debates, far too many claims are overstated. But there's no overstatement here: Allowing loss of companionship suits in animal tort cases would literally mean that more dogs would die.