Occasionally I get a call from a client about possibly suing someone for injuries to their pet.
Someone called me years ago to tell me that their new groomer basically cut the hell out of her standard poodle since he was inexperienced as a groomer and the poodle was quite experienced as a wiggly, impatient dog. The dog’s fur was unevenly groomed and worse than that, the poodle looked like he had run through a narrow hallway filled with razor blades.
Recently, a good friend was watching her dog being groomed through the waiting-room window only to see the groomer (again, new to her) haul off and belt the dog around the snout. The groomer later claimed it was a form of acceptable discipline again, for a non-compliant dog.
Now, this groomer was told by my friend that this young pup was a rescue dog and was quite skittish. She was advised to “please do gentle” so the dog could enjoy the experience and wouldn’t fear it in the future. Instead, this groomer just flat out smacked the dog.
Now, as your blood pressure level rises reading this, the doggies in both situations lived to bark another day. The scarring on their adoptive parents was another story…..Many of us love our pets as much as family. Let’s face it – some love their pets more than family. Our pets are almost certainly with us more than most family members and their unconditional love provides the perfect foil for that painful Thanksgiving dinner with judgmental Uncle Albert who acknowledges your great cooking and adds that must be why you’re getting fat.
Alas, in the eyes of the law, our pets aren’t living, breathing things, they’re “chattel”. Chattel is defined as “any article of tangible property. “ So our beloved pets are more akin to an end table, than a furry loved one.
Given that, the best we can do when our pets are injured by another is to make a claim for what it cost to help fix little Max. How about a vet’s bill for $1,000? – yes, if the person’s negligence or intentional actions required extensive veterinarian care.
But Max suffered for so long wearing that ridiculous collar as his sutures healed, shouldn’t he be compensated for his pain and suffering?
First, Max probably won’t remember his discomfort once the collar is off and he certainly didn’t care about how silly he looked. In a word: No.
In the eyes of the law, Max cannot feel, so he cannot be compensated for pain and suffering. End tables can be repaired, but they cannot feel or express pain.
Sorry to say!
Now, can the owner sue for “intentional infliction of emotional distress”? Maybe-to-probably depending on the jurisdiction you are in. However, you’d have to have one pretty messed up pet to require psychological assistance to help you deal with this situation to rise to the level of provable emotional distress.
But I don’t doubt for a minute that pet parents can feel psychological pain way more so that whatever physical pain may be ladled on our pet family.
Another way to deal with horrible customer service that is not legally actionable, is to go the route of social media. Sometimes an ounce of bad publicity is more valuable than a pound of money. And you’re also alerting others in your network of the very bad customer services of your pet’s professional.
Image source: Pavel Timofeev