WRONGFUL PET INJURY AND DEATH
Someone caused harm to your pet and it is time for accountability
PET INJURY CAUSED BY DOGGIE DAY CARES, VETERINARIANS, BOARDING FACILITIES AND GROOMERS
Every year pets are injured or killed when they are not in the hands of their owners. It is important to be holding the people and businesses we trust with our pets accountable for harming our pets. These entities include but are not limited to boarding facilities, groomers and veterinarians. These instances of harmed pets or dealing with their loss are tragic and could have been avoided if the professionals had upheld the standard of care they promised. While historically pet owners and their attorneys are told they cannot be compensated for their emotional distress, we believe otherwise. We are succeeding in court on these claims because we never surrender. While we have not made new case law, yet, we are persuading judges to not dismiss claims like these for pet owners and that leads to better leverage for settlement discussions.
Under the law in most states, pets are seen as property which means victims are entitled to compensation for the animal’s market value and other damages. Market value is the cost a new pet would be of the same breed, age, condition, and training. As pet owners know, the love for our furry friends cannot always be summed up with a “market value” and emotional distress can play a role as well.
At Boston Dog Lawyers we evaluate each case and the “damages” that have been suffered as a result of the alleged incident. These financial damages could include the cost of the treatment the vet performed initially as well as the cost of any additional medical treatments that were necessary due to the vet being negligent. In doing so we fight against the injustices of your loss and for your right to compensation.
This may be done in court or as part of a settlement negotiation or mediation. The calls to the dog line alleging veterinary negligence are some of the hardest to navigate. Veterinary negligence is essentially the failure of the doctor to adhere to the minimum standard of care expected of a veterinarian. It is a very low threshold so it’s highly likely that the vet’s actions did fall within the standard and there is no case. In a twenty-minute call with a pet owner, we go through outrage, sadness, anger, finger-pointing, and guilt pretty quickly. The pet owner’s guilt is bubbling just below the surface and often the motivating factor in calling my office. A pet owner needs to heal by understanding that he or she has not contributed to the harm because they chose to go to a particular vet or followed their advice.
Only a handful of lawyers take on vet negligence or malpractice cases in part because historically they do not generate good fees. These cases are so hard fought by the vet’s insurers that lawyers will lose money handling them. Nationwide our state legislators need to challenge the status quo and modernize the laws that view our pets as personal property. Under the present law a pet owner is rarely able to successfully seek damages for loss of companionship and emotional distress. That makes sense if it was a car or television that was damaged. It no longer makes sense for our dogs and cats and horses, because they are property with special properties. This is not to say they should be equal in the eyes of the court to humans, but they certainly are not equal to other physical personal property.
If the pet owner who suffers the loss can have another remedy besides anger, it would benefit the vet practice. If the vet industry (including its lobbyists and insurers) agrees to open modern avenues of
recovering for a loss, then perhaps there will be less cynicism, anger and negative energy which has had nowhere else to go. Turning to the state licensing boards, based on our experiences, has meant taking a long winding road full of tolls and potholes, to nowhere satisfactory. We are human beings, and we have a need to investigate and closeout the bad things that happen to us. If pet owners see social media as the only way to avenge the loss of a pet, they may be unfairly damaging a veterinary practice and ultimately not obtaining the proper compensation.
Those we pay to care for our pets should be held responsible for more than the cost to repair or replace them. We just want the pet business that we frequent to accept responsibility when they cause harm, regardless of intent. Mistakes happen and that is why they have insurance. Financially punishing bad behavior has a way of creating better behavior. Expanding damages for which pet owners can recover is a way to more accurately reflect how important pets are not only to us, but also to the vet practice. Presently there is not an equal playing field when it is pet owners vs. vet owners. To be fair and satisfying, pet owners must be able to recover loss of companionship damages and emotional distress damages.
So far throughout the country there has been minimal accountability for veterinarians and their malpractice and here at Boston Dog Lawyers we know that is wrong. Veterinary malpractice is when a vet harms an animal due to negligence. The standard of care for a pet is far lower than that of a human but there still needs to be accountability if a pet is wrongfully injured or killed due to the treatments provided by a vet.
We VET the VETS
At Boston Dog Lawyers we have built a panel of 30 veterinarians nationwide who will review veterinary records as part of a “record review” which is the first step in taking on such a case. We share the pet owners’ theories of fault and the records to decide as to whether there is enough evidence to file a lawsuit. Oftentimes we tell pet owners after the review that what occurred was not their veterinarian’s fault. While they are free to get a second opinion, many owners appreciate the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the vet is not to blame. Pet owners feel a great sense of guilt when their dog or cat is hurt, thinking they should not have chosen that vet or they should have spoken up. Learning what did not cause the injury or harm is very important as well.
At Boston Dog Lawyers we determine whether a vet lived up to their obligation of care by comparing their actions to what any reasonable professional would have done in similar circumstances. It is important to show that the vet was indeed negligent and did not reach the standard of care. Additionally, there can be the case of negligence carried out by other employees in the medical facility, including vet techs. In addition, it is important to have all of the proper documentation. This includes the medical history of the dog, any pre-existing conditions, the veterinary records and the veterinary notes. These aspects help to prove that the negligence was the direct cause of death. For a vet malpractice suit the plaintiff must also show that the vet accepted responsibility for treating the animal, and as a result of the death or harm of the animal the owner was harmed as well.
In a vet malpractice case, there are different players that could become involved including the insurance companies and the vet board. In Massachusetts the statute of limitations is three years from when the injury or death occurred. A case against your veterinarian can be filed in small claims court if the compensation you are seeking does not exceed the dollar limit in your state. For instance, in Massachusetts it is $7,000.
Most states do not regulate boarding facilities and doggy day care centers. It is a wild west right in the middle of our cities and towns’ and injuries and deaths are occurring at an unacceptable rate. Our clients, Ben, Gabby, Lily, Miley, Ollie, Pebbles, and Suki have all suffered at the hands of day care facilities. The theme through these cases is that all had to be hard fought to compel the pet businesses to take accountability.
At Boston Dog Lawyers, we are the regulators in the absence of regulators. Unfortunately, like many lawyers, we tend to be called upon only after something bad has happened. It is time to get out ahead of it. We now offer free safety training sessions to doggie day cares which include a client of ours sharing their story and an expert of ours sharing their knowledge. You, too, can become a regulator by having the courage to seek information before you entrust people with your dog’s life. Pet owners should feel empowered when interviewing a day care manager to decide whether their pet will be safe there. Feel comfortable asking some form of the questions below.
Do you have a fire safety plan and has your staff practiced it?
Does someone stay overnight with the boarded dogs?
What is the experience level of the staff?
Are you affiliated with a nearby vet in case of emergency care?
What is the fewest amount of employees working at any one time?
If someone calls out sick, do you call for a substitute worker?
When was Animal Control last here and why?
How many dogs have been injured on the premises this year?
Show me your tools for breaking up a dog fight;
Show me your current declarations page of your insurance policy;
How many injury claims by clients in the last 3 years?
Do you hold any staff trainings and are they documented?
Show me where you keep dogs of different sizes separate;
Is your AC/Heating system working? When were the systems last checked?
Then, call the local animal control officer or police chief and ask if they have received any complaints about the facility or had to go there on a call and whether they would bring their own dog there.
We must be diligent when it comes to doggie day cares because right now, the law is not.
If you present a case to us we will investigate the licensing of the business itself to determine if it is operating within the zoning restrictions of a city or town. We have received so many lame excuses from these businesses that we usually end up suing them. One boarding business said that even though the dog died from heat exhaustion per the necropsy, she found her facility to be quite cold requiring her to wear a sweater when she arrived in the morning to find a dead dog.
Another told us that when the dog did not leave its cage (and the employee cleaned around her with harsh chemicals anyway) she, the dog, consented to the consequences. Those included burned paw pads, a burned (and partially removed tongue) and pneumonia with 8 nights in the hospital. For too long these businesses have been able to get away with avoiding or even bullying pet owners to drop the blame game. Those days are ending now.
DOG SITTERS, WALKERS, GROOMERS
As for entities such as dog sitters, walkers and groomers there is a different standard because in these situations there is no reason why your dog should come back from these services injured or even worse, killed. Under Massachusetts law the responsibility of a pet is on the owner or keeper of the dog at the time something bad happened. This means that when your pet is in another individual’s care with your permission, they are fully responsible for the safety of your pet. When you trust someone with your property (which is how dogs are viewed in the law) then they have an obligation to return it to you in the same or better condition.
You need to be very careful with the unlicensed pet grooming industry. We have cases where dogs walk in and limp out. The injuries are usually the result of the groomer not paying attention. Are they on their phone? Is your dog left strapped in without anyone present (they fall or choke)? Do you have a visual on the groomer or is it done behind closed doors? Are there cameras? Know where the closest vet is because mistakes can happen!
WHY HAS BOSTON DOG LAWYERS CHOSEN TO REPRESENT PET OWNERS IN THESE CASES?
Our decision is based on some not-so-obvious reasons.
1. If we reject this class of cases, then who else can the pet owner turn to?
2. Holding the right people accountable in the dog world when things go wrong is very important to us as it will work to improve their behavior;
3. The responses we have seen to pet owners from some in the veterinary field are abysmal. It is a lawless land that begs owners to seek justice via the wrong arenas. Rather than fighting on the playground or on social media, we bring the matter to the proper forum and we expect defendants and judges to take these matters very seriously. And they have been (after the first few years).
4. The difficulty in finding a veterinarian to critique the work of a colleague or peer has been a major obstacle for our predecessors. Now though, we are breaking that barrier;
5. It is pretty cool to be part of the frontline as we battle to make change. What we have learned so far is that to present a veterinary negligence case you must demonstrate clear liability, so a vigorous records review is paramount. We are not veterinary vigilantes and only a small percentage of calls lead to an actual case.
Free initial discussion with knowledgeable staff to help you determine your rights or obligations based on the facts you present.
Was your dog hurt at a boarding facility but they did not tell you how or said it is not their fault?
Did you ask your veterinarian questions about what went wrong and they stopped talking with you?
Did the groomer leave your dog unattended and she fell of the table or was cut but you were not told?
Did the doggie day care keep large and small dogs separate? Were they properly staffed?
Did you bring a healthy dog to the groomer only to get an injured one back?
Did your pet eat rat poison because the exterminator did not use the proper bait trap?
Your pet survived surgery but died in post-op, was she being monitored properly? Was he positioned properly to prevent choking or aspirational pneumonia?
Through Boston Dog Lawyers you can hold your veterinarian, groomer, doggie day care or dog walker accountable! As pet owners we invest a lot of our money on these services and we deserve answers and compensation!
We can help. Contact Boston Dog Lawyers by email or by phone to schedule a free initial consultation. We offer flexible office hours to accommodate the needs of our clients, scheduling evening and weekend appointments upon request.
Lawyers for the dog world because It's Time To Bark Back!