Attack-dog lawyers in Colorado may soon be able to fetch bigger fees for bereaved pet owners by suing negligent vets for "loss of companionship." Right now, all they can recover is "fair-market value"-because the law regards domestic pets as property. Colorado legislators are poised to unleash upon the state lawbooks a bill that would recognize pets, for the first time ever, as "companions."
WORLD expected this. Culture editor Gene Edward Veith, in an April 6, 2002, column ("Pets are people, too?"), reported that animal-rights attorneys are laying the legal groundwork for declaring apes, monkeys, and other primates persons under the law. He wrote: "From winning over pet lovers, they can then change the status of 'higher primates' and then, ultimately, eliminate the feed lots and cattle ranches."
Behind the companionship effort is the Colorado-based Next-To-Kin Foundation. But leading the legislative charge in Colorado are Republicans, who usually love to hate trial lawyers. In typical GOP fashion, the proposal caps damages awards at $100,000; still, that's a far cry from "fair-market value." The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association is not rolling over: "Veterinarians will have to pass on to consumers the increased costs of doing business, including time spent responding to frivolous lawsuits and [the costs of] defensive medicine."
The proposed legislation has Gov. Bill Owens backed into a corner. He won't commit to signing the bill, but allows that "Hannah," his 7-year-old Springer Spaniel, "is very much in favor" of the bill.