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Pets Not People: Why the AVMA is Fighting Our Perception of Pets

The American Veterinary Medical Association is a non-profit association that represents the interests of thousands of veterinarians across the United States. The organization lobbies to make meaningful impacts on US policy and legislation that pertains to pets and the veterinary profession. These efforts aim to improve animal and human health while advancing "the science and art of veterinary medicine".

Although one might expect this cause to coincide with the best interest of pets and their owners, a new legal trend is challenging this assumption. As the law grants greater legal standing to pets, the veterinary industry is threatened by increasing financial culpability. This threat is reflected not only in the veterinary industry, but also in any industry pertaining to pet care.

Pet Privilege or Pet Right?

The issue of pet's rights is anything but simple. Currently, pets are considered property by United States law, but recent court cases have deviated from this strict categorization. For example, court cases have considered the health and well-being of cats and dogs when deciding custody of pets. Other court cases have made history by ordering compensation paid to plaintiffs for the emotional distress caused by the wrongful death of a pet.

These cases build precedent for the treatment of pets under the law. Although it may seem comforting that pet owners are protected in these cases, the situation quickly changes when the bigger picture is considered. The AVMA argues that these rulings threaten the pet industry by increasing the costs associated with owning a pet.

Veterinary care isn't cheap. With rulings that treat pets as human, the number of lawsuits filed against veterinarians and other professionals in the pet industry is becoming a significant burden. Unfortunately, this means that the cost of veterinary care will increase, as veterinarians struggle to protect themselves from malpractice suits. Other industries will see similar cost inflation as these industries are forced to include exorbitant legal costs in their budget.

Still No No-Brainer

It's clear that giving pets the same legal standing as people brings about more problems than solutions. In addition to crippling a substantially large industry with inflated risk, there are serious ethical concerns with equating the life of a human being with the life of a pet. These arguments aside, it's equally problematic to equate pets with non-living property, or even livestock.

As things stand, the laws regarding the treatment of livestock are considerably more lenient than those regarding the treatment of pets. If pets were given the same legal standing as livestock then they would likely be deprived of protection from problems like puppy mills. In any event, laws that protect animals from abuse come at a price.

If pets do gain more rights in the future, pet owners could see a day where spaying and neutering pets is required (or forbidden) by law. Interestingly, this could create legislation that is good for the pet population but less than ideal for individual pets. Do you think that pets should be treated as people, property, or something in between? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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