Maddie's Fund and AVMA: Proactively Support Elevating the Legal Status of Companion Animals...Sponsor Such Legislation at the State (All States) and Federal Level

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Maddie's Fund and AVMA: Proactively Support Elevating the Legal Status of Companion Animals...Sponsor Such Legislation at the State (All States) and Federal Level

This petition had 27,137 supporters

Stand Up for Dogs started this petition to Deputy Director, Animal Legal Defense Fund Nicole Roth (Deputy Director, Animal Legal Defense Fund) and



The central theme underlying most of Stand Up for Dogs’ petitions – including the one below -- is that the mammoth $55.7 Billion/Yr. U.S. Pet Industry heavily influences what initiatives national (and local) humane organizations, animal care & control agencies, etc., undertake and, more importantly, what they do NOT undertake.   PLEASE ESPECIALLY NOTE THE SHOCKING 2013 ARTICLE BY THE WELL-RESPECTED ANIMAL LEGAL DEFENSE FUND (ALDF ) WHICH FOCUSES ON THE AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB (AKC), AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (AVMA)…”…AND OTHER PET INDUSTRY GROUPS”:


Those humane organizations and other organizations effectively become part of an ‘Extended’ Pet Industry’ working, in many ways, to the detriment of millions of companion animals throughout the U.S.   This is addressed in the following blog at (these blogs are in ‘date order’; the condensed version is the Nov. 5, 2014 blog and the full version is the blog dated Oct. 31, 2014).:




This petition has been initiated with the considerable concern that most of the general public in the U.S., including those who care deeply about dogs and cats (“companion animals’), have not been made aware of the ongoing opposition of the veterinary community to elevating the legal status of companion animals!   (Animal proponents in countries abroad might do well to see if this is happening there as well).

Opposing heightened legal status serves to oppose the heightened actual and perceived ‘value’ of companion animals at a time when ‘cheapening’ them can only be to their substantial detriment across the entire spectrum extending from poor care….through neglect and abuse…. to heinous and widespread dog fighting (pictured above) brought to the public’s attention in the ‘Michel Vick case’.

The veterinary community opposition is, not surprisingly, monetarily based and claimed to stem from a fear of increased veterinary malpractice awards and malpractice insurance premiums.  (This is addressed further near the end of this petition).  

Contrast this to what France has done, i.e.:  “France altered its legal system by amending its 300 year old civil code to recognize companion animals as “protected property/living sentient beings”. [1]

By opposing elevated legal status, veterinarians are ‘commoditizing’ companion animals and reinforcing the increasingly antiquated notion that they are mere ’personal property’ or ‘chattel’, i.e. no different than a suitcase, tire or chair!    Many years have passed while numerous individual court case law decisions slowly have been incorporated into ages-old common law with increasing recognition that companion animals are much more than inanimate personal property.   Unfortunately, the veterinary community has continued to oppose such changes.   Contrast this opposition, for example, with an excerpt from a recent newspaper article:  "During team training, students, such as Ben, are strategically matched with assistance dogs and learn how to work with them safely and effectively. The dogs receive training for two years and learn up to 40 commands before they are matched-up to become someone’s full-time helper." [2]   (Ben is a 7- year old boy with mitochondrial myopathy). 

Increasing companion animals’ legal status will pave the way for enacting and enforcing stricter animal abuse and cruelty laws.  It is basic to causing pet owners to view them as having greater value and being more worth keeping… and to look for alternatives to dumping them onto overwhelmed animal shelters, both public and private, or outright abandonment.  (Increased legal status and value would be entirely consistent with the ‘Pets for Life’ program of the Humane Society of the United States).

The significance of elevating the legal status of companion animals to more effectively address cruelty extends well beyond animals.  Please see the following piece written by the Animal Legal Defense Fund:  "No Boundaries for Abusers: The Link Between Cruelty to Animal and Violence Towards Humans".

 (In Conclusion):   Companion animals throughout the U.S. (and perhaps abroad) have suffered substantially from abuse and even extreme cruelty during the many years the veterinary community has opposed elevating their legal status and, thus, their value.   You are urged, therefore, to not just ‘stand by’ while one-at-a-time case law decisions take many more years to finally correct this.  Instead, move forward and proactively work with all states’ veterinary medical associations to sponsor states’ and federal legislation to recognize the true value of all companion animals…companion cats, therapy dogs, seeing-eye dogs,  children’s "buddies", etc.    As a possible legislative model, consider once again what France has done (discussed earlier above), i.e.:  “France altered its legal system by amending its 300 year old civil code to recognize companion animals as “protected property/living sentient beings”.


ADDENDUM (to include Maddie’s Fund as a petitionee here as well as the AVMA):

Please consider that Maddie’s Fund (MF) web site states:  “The Maddie’s Fund mission is to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals”.   Further, the MF  Annual Report for 2011/2012 states that this ‘family foundation’ ( i.e. the Dave Duffield family) has “…given more than $300 million to Maddie’s Fund to save the lives of homeless dogs and cats in animal shelters nationwide.”

 Over the years, MF has had a very close working association with the veterinary profession and, as relates to the 2011/2012 report year, had awarded grants to 69 veterinary hospitals, 9 universities and 1 veterinary medical association. (One MF board member, a DVM, also is MF’s Veterinary Programs Director).    The above report also states (under ‘Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Programs’) that MF funded programs at CornellUniversity, Purdue University of Florida and IowaStateUniversity…” etc.

 As recently as Aug. 7, 2014, Maddie’s Fund/Maddie’s Institute conducted a webcast titled “Everybody Wins:  Learn How to Change the Way Animal Groups and Veterinarians Work Together” (the groups were identified as animal rescue groups).  A substantial portion of the webcast was devoted to the economic plight of veterinarians, i.e. their smaller slice of the growing pet industry expenditure pie (this U.S. total pet industry ‘pie’ was $55.5 Billion in 2013), and the problematic public image of veterinarians.      

 The publication on which this webcast was based is “The VPI-Veterinary Economics Financial Health Study” and the statement from which much of the webcast obviously stemmed is:

 “While pet spending as reported by the American Pet Products Association held steady or improved as the economy stumbled (hitting an all-time high of $55.5 billion in 2013), veterinarians were conspicuously absent from seeing the financial result of America’s growing love of companion animals.”  

 (This VPI study can be reviewed at: )

 Maddie’s Fund:   Based on your Aug. 7 webcast where you discussed such things as veterinarians’ high levels of student and business loans, etc., it is quite clear that MF is very pro-active in supporting the veterinary industry’s financial health.  

 Maddie’s Fund also expressed concern about improving the veterinarians’ public image, especially in terms of shelter and rescue groups….viz. in the notice for the webcast, you stated:  “Have the words “veterinarians are only in it for the money” crossed your minds or lips?”  In attempting to diminish the mistrust between veterinarians and adoptions groups, the statement was made:  “For example, shelters and rescue groups frequently design programs they think local veterinarians should support, only to find the opposite happening”.

 Inasmuch as MF works so closely with the veterinary industry, please very pro-actively influence and assist the AVMA and the many state veterinary associations to act in accordance with this petition to introduce and strongly support legislation elevating the legal status of companion animals and, in so doing, greatly improve the industry’s public image.

 It is one thing for the veterinary industry to be seen as not doing something ‘good’ for all but their paying clients, but quite another thing to be doing something very ‘bad’ for companion animals collectively, i.e. opposing elevating their legal status.


Stand Up for Dogs

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 (URL’s for references cited above follow below).


 For those concerned enough to read further, several particularly illuminating statements from the Rutgers Journal of Law and Public Policy (Reference [3]) are as follow:


(In response to veterinary opposition…):  “…One argument is that it is simply disingenuous for veterinarians, whose profession has achieved so much because of the increased status of animals, to say that these animals are just property.”   (p. 396).


“…Some critics of such veterinary opposition go even further, arguing that veterinarians have engaged in professional complicity to increase the public’s perceived value of companion animals, actively promoting the human-animal bond, and they are therefore in no position to deny that such a bond exists when advocating against a change in animals’ legal status.”    (p. 397)


“…A further argument against such veterinary opposition is that its conclusion – that increasing animals’ status and value will lead to increased malpractice premiums that will either drive them out of business or make the cost of veterinary care prohibitive – is based on a faulty premise.  One commentator who has researched and crunched the numbers concludes that the effect of higher damage awards on malpractice premiums – especially if those awards are subject to a legislative cap – is likely to be negligible.”   (p. 397)


“…Veterinarians, particularly, the majority who treat companion animals, have a great deal to gain from a formal recognition that the animals they treat have a status that is fundamentally different from inanimate property.  Such a change would likely have a positive effect on the professional role of veterinarians, raising both the prestige and the remuneration of practitioners”.   (p. 399).




References:  (Please see petitioner’s comments under “Rothberg” and “Manning”)


[1]        Roukas, Marcella 


  “Determining the Value of Companion Animals in Wrongful Harm or Death Claims:  A Survey of U.S. Decisions and An Argument for the Authorization to Recover for Loss of Companionship in Such Cases”   2007… (Updated 2011) 


 MichiganStateUniversityCollege of Law    Animal Legal & Historical Center    



[2]        Gordiejew, Joel


  “On the Town: Canine companion helps boy achieve independence” (July 22, 2014)


The Folsom Telegraph 



[3]   Hankin, Susan J.  


 “Not a Living Room Sofa:  Changing the Legal Status of Companion Animals”


 Rutgers Journal of Law & Public Policy      Winter 2007    Vol. 4:2"legal status companion animals"


See Also:


 -- Root, William C.


“Man’s Best Friend: Property or Family Member?    An Examination of the Legal Classification of Companion Animals and its Impact on Damages Recoverable for their Wrongful Death or Injury”


Villanova Law Review (2002)


Michigan State University College of Law Animal Legal & Historical Center


-- Rothberg, Daniel


Pet insurance complaints prompt California legislation”


Sacramento Bee      July 11, 2014




[“While only a sliver of American pet owners hold policies – 1 percent – the niche insurance has become an increasingly tempting option. Veterinary care can be costly, experts say, with more sophisticated medicine on the market and owners who treat their pets like members of the family...”


…”…Unlike human health care coverage, insurance for dogs, cats, even hedgehogs, falls into the category of property insurance.   Providers have considerable leeway to place coverage limits and can carve out exclusions for pre-existing conditions or hereditary diseases.”    (Comment from Stand Up for Dogs:  Here, this implies that the ‘property’ designation puts insurance coverage for animals at a considerable disadvantage.)]

Read more here:


-- Manning, Sue (Associated Press)


“Americans spend $56B per year on pets, and that will grow”


The Salt Lake City Tribune        March 13, 2014




“…Americans spent an all-time high of $55.7 billion on their pets in last year and spending will creep close to $60 billion this year, the president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association told buyers and exhibitors at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla. Overall pet spending has not dipped since record-keeping started, according to APPA, based in Greenwich, Conn….”


…”…Other spending included $14.37 billion for veterinary care; $13.14 billion for supplies and over-the-counter medicines; $2.23 billion for live animal purchases; and $4.41 billion for other services…”.


(Comment from Stand Up for Dogs:  Given the American pet industry’s above long-term uninterrupted growth, even during the recent protracted recession, it is difficult to imagine that veterinarians cannot absorb the cost of malpractice insurance premiums without needing to pass this on to their clients – especially if care is taken to practice high standards of veterinary medicine to avoid malpractice awards and if such  awards are ‘capped’.   Elevating the legal status and thus ‘value’ of all companion animals should be as basic and important to the veterinary profession as caring for the animals of their paying clients!)



--  PERENICH the Law Firm....Veterinary Malpractice Actions Elevate the Legal Status of Animals



--  Mariner, Joanne


“Pets As Property”


FindLaw’s Writ     Feb. 17, 2013


-- Bjorkenstam, Melissa




“Rights for Animals” (circa 2001)       



Petition Closed

This petition had 27,137 supporters