Pet Welfare at Stake

Monday, August 24, 2009

I read with angst the article about attorney Lanny Davis's attempt to use the courts to change Virginia law by asking for emotional-distress damages in a case involving a pet ["Court to Hear Va. Suit Seeking Damages in Chihuahua's Death," Metro, Aug. 17]. As a veterinarian, pet owner and Virginia resident, I hope that he fails.

If people are allowed to recover money for their emotional loss every time a pet is injured, pets will suffer. People will sue veterinarians, boarding kennels, dog walkers and friends whenever accidents happen.

The result, as with human health care, is that the cost of pet care will skyrocket. The recent economic downturn has demonstrated that while we love our pets, we will not spend an unlimited amount of money to care for them. As costs rise, animals will receive less care. As with most veterinarians, I have seen far too many pets euthanized because owners could not spend a few hundred dollars on needed care.

In the past five years, several state courts -- most recently in California -- have followed the law and rejected attempts to allow for emotional-distress damages. For the sake of our pets, the Arlington court should come to the same conclusion.



The writer is a lawyer with the Animal Health Institute in Washington.

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