The American Kennel Club has announced a writing competition on the subject of companion animal law. The contest is open to all law students at ABA-accredited law schools.
The subject of the paper submitted must be one of the following topics:
1. Companion animals have long been recognized by the law as personal property. When an owner brings suit for loss of a pet or injury to a pet, the damages are calculated under property principles, which may cap recovery at fair market value. The courts and/or legislatures of several states have been willing to accept claims requesting damages beyond a pet’s market value, including for reasonable and necessary veterinary costs that are above market value and for a pet’s “actual value” which can include economic factors besides market value. A few states have allowed emotion-based claims when a pet is maliciously injured or killed, but nearly all states have rejected claims for emotional distress, pain and suffering, sentimental value, loss of companionship and other non-economic damages in negligence claims involving harm to pets. Discuss the causes of action and types of damages above with relation to companion animals. What types of situations would give rise to lawsuits over animal injuries? What are the benefits and disadvantages of allowing expanded liability in these situations? What would be the net impact on pet welfare? All points of view are welcome.
2. Pet custody has become a highly dynamic area of the law. Under the traditional view, which is reflected in most state laws, companion animals are considered personal property. In recent years, some courts have started changing how they handle pet custody in family law cases, such as divorce. When a couple separates, the pet is traditionally allocated to one of its owners. It may be determinative if the pet was a gift from one of the owners to the other. In recent years, courts have been experimenting with different types of solutions, including split custody and assessing the best interests of the pet. Custody issues also arise with law enforcement, when the police or animal control take custody of a pet that has been severely neglected and is in need of immediate medical attention. Comparable issues arise when a local shelter takes custody of a pet found in the street. Discuss the relevant law surrounding pet custody, the potential limits on ownership interests in pets, the pros and cons and any potential future impacts of changing the law. All points of view are welcome.