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PVMA adopts legal positions on animals
Hershey, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA) approved last month the release of two position statements and a resolution addressing hot-button issues involving pets.
HERSHEY, PA. — The Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA) approved last month the release of two position statements and a resolution addressing hot-button issues involving pets.
Guided by its Animal Law Task Force, the association formally opposes the use of "guardian" to legally describe the relationship between animals and owners as well as efforts by activists to raise the economic value of pets. PVMA also backs the Council of State Government's (CSG) opposition to legislation permitting the recovery of non-economic damages for the loss of injury of a pet, livestock or any other animal. CSG is a nonprofit organization that works with state governments to network and find solutions to controversial issues.
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The association is attempting to act proactively concerning pet status, PVMA Executive Director Dr. Tim Ireland says. A movement to recognize pets as more than property has marched across the country in the form of legislation and court cases. Any changes, whether involving guardianship language or legal decisions to allow for emotional distress claims in malpractice cases, promise to alter the way the country practices and pays for veterinary care.
"I think there's change that's coming, and it makes more sense for the people who've dedicated their lives to animal health to be involved in the evolution of that change," Ireland says. "We take an oath to protect animals; that's our primary focus."
In the pipeline
Like many other states, Pennsylvania has seen its share of legislation involving these issues. Last year, a bill designed to open up noneconomic damages including court fees and legal expenses in veterinary malpractice cases failed to pass the Legislature. At the same time, a move to add the term "guardian" to the state's cruelty statute failed to surface from committee.
Ireland's confident similar bills will continue to emerge. Some might even come from PVMA, he says.
"We do feel like fair market value is not appropriate, but we need to explore change in economic value without opening noneconomic damages," Ireland says. "How that might happen still needs to be figured out. We want to do everything we can not to drive up the cost of veterinary care."
Legal consultant Dr. Charlotte LaCroix is advising task force members.