People spend millions of dollars a year on their pets and a major portion of that is vet bills. A study showed over $15 billion was spent on veterinary bills in 2016. Currently, pet owners spend more than $18 billion a year on pet healthcare. Some people feel their pets are a member of the family, just as a child would be. This seems especially true when the person has no children. Additionally, many studies have been done which point to distinct health benefits pet owners receive from the relationships they have with their pets. There have been important advances in veterinary care and services in recent years which may account for an almost 4 percent increase in pet spending from 2015. Pets have become a large part of American culture and the court system is beginning to realize that.
Traditionally, pets have been looked at as property. Recent court decisions have made major changes in that tradition, however. New York, Texas and Maryland courts have make landmark decisions in medical malpractice involving pets and their vets. Divorce court also sees a few pet custody cases. Instead of considering only who bought the pet or took most care of it, judges consider the best needs of the pet, just as they would in a child custody case in family court. There have been more than 25 state judges to manage financial trusts set up in pet’s names. It is clear the laws are changing when it comes to pets.
With so much more emphasis on pet’s owners as parents of a sort, the courts are seeing more cases of pet medical malpractice. For instance, a pet owner may admit their dog to a vet for dental surgery, being spayed or neutered, or a broken bone. It is possible for something to go wrong and the animal lose its life in the process. What if the vet was at fault? If there is proof some form of negligence occurred on the vet’s behalf that caused the dog to die, the owner could possibly receive remuneration for not only the cost of the dog and vet services, but also pain and suffering and other nonfinancial claims.