Is your pet property or part of the family? If you’re like the good majority of pet owners, you’ll say family without batting an eye. After all, a pet is a live being that we share our homes with, whom we love, and who love us back unconditionally. Sometimes the bond is even stronger than family.
Yet our current law suggests that pets are merely our property like a couch or a television. But one veterinarian is working to get that law changed. Unfortunately, the effort was undertaken as a result of a tragedy.
Dr. Kenneth Newman, a practicing veterinarian for 31 years was nearly killed when a driver backed up without looking. Dr. Newman’s Labrador Retriever, Gracie, was crushed to death. The driver admitted to not looking when she backed up. Dr. Newman suffered a broken leg but was devastated by Gracie’s death and infuriated at the treatment of it in court:
“I knew I had to do something when the Geico attorney looked me in the eye and told me that my case was a simple broken leg case. Gracie was just a dog and I could not receive a penny for loss of companionship or pain and suffering. I was far more upset that Gracie had been killed than the fact that my leg was crushed. In every state, laws view pets as property. Owners are entitled to no more than replacement value.”
Dr. Newman plans to work to change the laws regarding the legal status of pets: “I know it will be an uphill battle; however, slaves, women, and children were all ignorantly considered to be property in our past. It is a logical progression that pets, which give us unconditional love, receive some minimal standard of care and that the emotional loss of a pet be recognized by our courts.”
Currently, the laws in all 50 states “entitle the owner of a pet that is killed deliberately or accidentally to the depreciated cash value of their pet.” That attitude, says Dr. Newman does not reflect the attitudes of most owners. The American Animal Hospital Association survey finds that:
—90 percent of owners consider their animals part of the family.
—52 percent of Americans would rather be stranded on a deserted island with their pet than with another person.
—83 percent call themselves “Mommy” or “Daddy” in reference to their pet.
—59 percent celebrate their pet’s birthday.
Not only did Gracie deserve more compassion and consideration, but Dr. Newman and the countless other owners and pets who have suffered a similar fate did, too. Dr. Newman has written a memoir entitled Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge which recounts the importance of dogs in his life.
Do you think this law should be changed? Is your pet part of your family?
Image: Dr. Kenneth Newman
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