Animal Lawyers Increase in Numbers, Popularity

Animal LawyersSunday’s Boston Globe article, “Lawyer for the Dog…” underscores what pet lovers already know: animal rights are on the rise. The article opens with a veterinarian and animal behavior specialist explaining how she makes recommendations during pet custody disputes. (The new Illinois law featured on Itchmo earlier this week, HB 9, also mentions “custody” of animals.)

Comparing this Sept. 9, 2007 article with a Sept. 3, 2006 New York Times article, “New Breed of Lawyer Gives Every Dog His Day in Court” can highlight how quickly the field seems to be moving in a pet-positive direction.

As both articles note, few schools taught animal law 10 years ago. The number increased to 70 by 2006, and today “nearly half of the 190 accredited law schools in the United States offer animal law courses.”

In 2004, the American Bar Association formed an animal law committee, according to the New York Times. The Globe says such committees are now active in 13 state bar associations.

Pet trust funds can be created in 39 states and the District of Columbia. A few years ago, only 16 states offered this option, as reported in this 2002 USA Today article.

In the 2006 New York Times article, an Oregon man was awarded $56,400 in damages after a neighbor was convicted of intentionally running over the man’s dog.

This case was mentioned more recently in DVM Newsmagazine, a publication for veterinarians, in its May 2007 article, “Emotional Damages: Will Pet Food Lawsuits Fuel a Fight?”

Continuing our examination of the New York Times and Globe articles, we find a common voice: Adrian Hochstadt, assistant director of state legislative and regulatory affairs for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Then – “The minute we start with skyrocketing awards, it would lead to higher malpractice insurance rates and higher fees. The only people who would benefit would be a few owners who hit that jackpot and a few attorneys.”

Now – “You have this strange phenomenon where we’re placing pets above certain people.”

Let me acknowledge here that malpractice is a broad, complex subject, beyond the scope of this entry. I have noticed materials offered by Itchmo readers and others; perhaps we can explore such resources, ideas and opinions in the future.

The Globe closed its article by quoting animal lawyer Jonathan Rankin:

“If corporations can be persons in the eyes of the law, if ships can be persons in the eyes of the law, then the law should be able to figure out something for animals.”

Photo: Artfavor.com

10 Responses to “Animal Lawyers Increase in Numbers, Popularity”

  1. Stefani says:

    The AVMA’s position that malpractice insurance rates will skyrocket if owners are allowed to sue for recognition of their pets value has been disproven. It is the same old canard that they use to fake people out into opposing more legal protections for our pets.

    I can provide hard statistics and references and will post them later on this thread.

    Stefani Olsen
    The Toonces Project
    http://www.TheTooncesProject.com
    “Is Your Pet Safe at the Vet?”

  2. Anonymous says:

    ON link between RFID chips and cancer -http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/ brief excerpts: VeriChip told the Associated Press that it had not been aware of any previous studies linking RFID chips to cancer in animals, although Katherine Albrecht of Spychips.org had little trouble unearthing three such studies at the Harvard medical library. When the AP asked if the FDA had considered these or other studies before it approved the use of implanatable chips, the agency declined repeated requests to specify what studies it had reviewed for its decision.

    The AP also uncovered an important connection between VeriChip and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, whose agency oversaw the FDA while it was considering the VeriChip for approval.

    Two weeks after the device’s approval took effect on Jan. 10, 2005, Thompson left his Cabinet post, and within five months was a board member of VeriChip Corp. and Applied Digital Solutions. He was compensated in cash and stock options.

    Thompson, until recently a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, says he had no personal relationship with the company as the VeriChip was being evaluated, nor did he play any role in FDA’s approval process of the RFID tag.

    “I didn’t even know VeriChip before I stepped down from the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said in a telephone interview.

  3. Anonymous says:

    IDENTIFYING DIACETYL IN DOGFOOD: http://scienceblogs.com/effect…..t.php#more
    “The FDA years ago declared the chemical safe for consumption. Labels on almost all products containing it call it a **FLAVORING** and only rarely do the labels mention diacetyl. [MY CAPS]

    …the findings of the EPA’s study — which began in 2003 and was completed last year — have been released only to the popcorn industry. (Seattle Post Intelligencer)”

    MORE: http://thepumphandle.wordpress.....t-to-know/
    Here’s a brief review of what each agency is doing (or not doing) about food flavor chemicals…
    NOTE: THINKING OF DOGS WHO MIGHT BE ENJOYING THE “FLAVORING”
    commentor: “If you eat the diactyl laden popcorn you probably are inhaling the stuff directly through the chewing-breathing process.
    It’s engineered to smell attractive so the natural response is to want to inhale it.”
    commentor: def. of “fumes” “1 a : a smoke, vapor, or gas especially when irritating or offensive b : an often noxious suspension of particles in a gas (as air)”
    commentor: “Hint: popcorn chemicals are made by IFF on same equpment as chemicals for McDonald’s Big Mac, and Philip Morris’ Marlboro…”

    …The Michaels post at TPH gives the details of the case and also a rundown of what many of the relevant federal agencies aren’t doing and which ones aren’t doing it. http://thepumphandle.wordpress.....t-to-know/

  4. trucorgi says:

    Popularity?

    “As both articles note, few schools taught animal law 10 years ago. The number increased to 70 by 2006, and today “nearly half of the 190 accredited law schools in the United States offer animal law courses.”

    Due in part to many million dollar donations from Bob Barker.

    “The Globe closed its article by quoting animal lawyer Jonathan Rankin:”

    In the late 90’s he was employed by the Humane Society of the United States to investigate the use and exploitation of animals in various industries. Not surprising that he is working for animal personhood and the abolishment of pet ownership now.

  5. Stefani says:

    Duplicate see below

  6. Stefani says:

    Re” In the late 90’s he was employed by the Humane Society of the United States to investigate the use and exploitation of animals in various industries. Not surprising that he is working for animal personhood and the abolishment of pet ownership now.”

    You people who think those of us who advocate for more legal protections for our animals want to “abolish” having pets really are missing the point.

    YES, animal law is an increasingly popular field. Bob Barker has helped people who already were interested in this option by helping to establish animal law programs, but he can’t MAKE people enroll. AND PEOPLE ARE ENROLLING. I went to an animal law conference in the Spring with about 300 attendees, highly motivated people who were thrilled to be there.

    I think the “compromise” of creating a special class in the eyes of the law for our companion animals - that of “sentient property” - is a good first step. This would recognize that animals cannot be property in the same way as a chair or table is property, and that this particular class of “property” is accorded special protection.

    You should not have the right to do whatever the heck you want with your property when that property has feelings, thought, and is an individual sentient being.

    Those of you who find that position extremist — well, your defensiveness over your property “rights” makes me believe you are doing something you DESPERATELY wish not be found out. Maybe someone needs to conduct an investigation on you to see how you are treating your “property” and what rights it is you are so afraid you might be deprived of.

    Stefani

  7. trucorgi says:

    “You people who think those of us who advocate for more legal protections for our animals want to “abolish” having pets really are missing the point.”

    Animals already have legal protections. Every state has animal cruelty laws. In most it’s a felony. If the laws are not being properly enforced, that is where the efforts and funds should be focused. Why do we need new laws and special lawyers? Frivolous suits? Different language? Vet ambulance chasers? Higher cost of vet care? Pets as wards of the state? MSN? Breed bans? Skyrocketing home owner’s insurance premiums? ,etc. Makes no sense. Personhood opens up a huge can of worms and unintended consequences.

    “I think the “compromise” of creating a special class in the eyes of the law for our companion animals - that of “sentient property” - is a good first step.”

    Compromise?

    First step to what end? Extinction! The animal rights movement has told us this. They are banking on these young law students to grow up and become judges and lawmakers. They are telling us that too. Are you really listening to what they say? Do you understand what it means when they say animals are not ours to own? Animal cruelty laws, already on the books, make domestic pets “sentient property”. You can support welfare without supporting rights. Doing so does not mean you have anything to hide.

  8. Stefani says:

    All of these doomsday predictions about litigation involving animals, and liability (e.g., vets etc). leading to high insurance premiums and rising costs of vet care, etc. are simply unfounded. I did research this summer on the issue in preparation for testifying on a bill, and here are the facts I uncovered which I promised you:

    The current average annual cost of veterinary liability insurance is approximately $300, which buys $1 million of liability insurance. The low cost itself is almost obscene. Do you know of any health professional who has that kind of liability insurance rate for that level of coverage? You don’t! This is less than 1/3 the cost of car insurance, for crying out loud!

    The reason is that vet liability insurance is so low is that it is almost impossible to bring a vet mal case, and recovery in such a case is often limited to the market value of the pet and any subsequent vet expenses. If the vet, however, negligently kills your pet, then there are no vet expenses to recover (dead dog doen’t have any vet bills) so, you are then limited to market value in most states, which — for a non-pedigreed pet, esp. an older one — is virtually nothing.

    What would happen to the cost of veterinary liaility insurance if there WERE more lawsuits, and if vets could be held liable for something more than the market value (usually zero) of the animal?

    And what would happen to the cost of vet care if there were more veterinary malpractice cases?

    Here is what would happen: VERY LITTLE. The impact would be essentially unnoticeable to the consumer, and negligible to the vet.

    How do we know this? Because SOME states do allow recovery of non-economic damages, and we can see what has happened in those states.

    As Susan Hankin stated in “Not a Living Room Sofa: Changing the Legal Status of Companion Animals”:

    “[The veterinary opposition’s] conclusion – that increasing animals’ status and value will lead to increased malpractice premiums that will either drive them out of business or make the cost of veterinary care prohibitive – is based on a faulty premise. One commentator who has researched and crunched the numbers concludes that the
    effect of higher damage awards on malpractice premiums – especially if those awards are subject to a legislative cap – is likely to be negligible. Veterinarians seem to be using the “malpractice crisis” in human medicine as their guide. But while there is hardly universal agreement that malpractice has reached crisis proportions in human medicine, there is even less evidence that such will be the case in veterinary medicine if the valuation or status of companion animals formally changes.”

    Christopher Green, drawing on information from AVMA PLIT, the largest veterinary malpractice insurer, stated that:

    “ . . . the price of liability coverage for veterinarians has not risen once in over a decade and premiums actually dropped in each of the two prior years. This means that veterinarians are now paying less for their malpractice coverage than they were 14 years ago. If one further adjusts for inflation, the average price of veterinary liability insurance is now 44% lower than in 1989 ––an effect verified by the country’s largest veterinary
    liability insurer who reports that it collected the same total dollar amount in premiums from the 42,000 veterinarians it insured in 2001, as from the 26,000 it insured ten years earlier. Furthermore, not only have veterinary liability insurance prices stayed flat for over a dozen years, but they also were extremely low to begin with. In 2003, basic liability coverage for a companion animal veterinarian still costs only $147 per year. For a scant $41 more, small animal veterinarians can boost their policy to the highest coverage tier of $1,000,000 per claim and $3,000,000 in total annual claims––a ten-fold increase in protection for a total premium price of only $188 per year. When one divides the cost of this maximum primary
    coverage by the average number of clients per veterinarian, it becomes apparent that American pet owners currently are paying less than 12¢ each for their portion of veterinary malpractice insurance coverage . . . ”

    (See: http://www.animallaw.info/jour.....0_p163.pdf)

    It is clear at these rates, that the impact of an owner being able to recover — say $10,000 per pet — in cases of PROVEN malpractice, abuse, and negligence — would NOT cause insurance rates to go up significantly, and would NOT subsequently impact the cost of veterinary care more than scant pennies. Stay focused on the keyword PROVEN. In order to get any award, the pet owner would have to WIN in court, which means there would be a verdict of wrongdoing (negligence, etc) against the vet. Why in the world would you be against an award in such cases of PROVEN malpractice?

    Given the known low cost of veterinary liability insurance, the provable negligible impact that increased standing to sue would have on those rates [based on insurance co. analysis] — WHY does the AVMA continue to scream that the sky will fall if there are more suits based on negligent care of animals by vets and others?

    The reason is that if plaintiff’s (owners) have a CAUSE OF ACTION - a legal basis for a lawsuit — THEN acts of malpractice will come into the light of day — they will be litigated in the courts. Public record will be established, and the public will know the truth about the epidemic of veterinary malpractice going on in our country. THIS is the revelation they seek to suppress.

    As for the “Special Lawyers” they are people who want to improve the treatment of animals because they recognize how few protections animals have. I am not just talking about pets. I am talking about circus animals, farm animals.

    People like me have little to no legal recourse when our loved ones are severely damaged or killed by so-called veterinary professionals. I don’t think it is “frivolous” to be able to sue someone who kills — or severely injures through negligence or abuse — your pet. I hear about this kind of stuff all the time.

    There is NEVER going to be any significant amount of money to MAKE off these cases — that is not the point, no one (no victim, when I say victim, I mean the “owner”) wants to make any significant amount of money off them. What we want is SOME legal accountability on the part of people who negligently harm our pets. Right now, it is nearly impossible to get that, and it is because of the law, which needs to be changed.

    In the past 2 months I have received inquiries through my website from people who believe that veterinarians have negligently harmed or killed their pets, and who are looking for references to lawyers who will take their cases. They actually have a hard time finding lawyers who will take these cases at all, even on a pay-as-you go basis.

    And when we have all the animal lawyers we need, the sky will not fall. And the vets insurance rates will still be low. And people will still have pets. And there will be more accountability. And that is a good thing.

    Stefani
    The Toonces Project
    http://www.TheTooncesProject.com
    “Is Your Pet Safe at the Vet?”

  9. Anonymous says:

    Stefani said: You should not have the right to do whatever the heck you want with your property when that property has feelings, thought, and is an individual sentient being.

    Certainly agree. Well said.
    As far as vet prices rising? I don’t mind paying for care the HEALS AND DOES NOT HARM. Consider the current REAL costs of disease and injury caused by presently sanctioned practices (approved due to lobbying by big business for profit–nothing to do with pet health or safety) and the real cost of treating those diseases, to the petowner - and consequences to the animal. If more suits makes vets get honest—I say so much the better. We must have real studies before approval and mandatory administering of vaccines etc etc and the public must have the truth about these BEFORE decisions. That’s the only way to produce accountability there. If vets are doing something that causes harm, petowners should know about it, and call them to account. If vets aren’t doing any harm then what do they have to be defensive about? I’m for the public having ALL the facts and for adequate independent and honest research BEFORE my animal is harmed. If vets want to avoid suits they should make sure the treatments they sell are safe and they can do that by insisting upon real and honest research instead of what’s fed to them from industry.

  10. Anonymous says:

    contd … , or they can go on padding their pockets and pushing industry lies.

    and see us in court.
    However, I’ll make it my business to protect my animal up front wherever possible.


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