Poor Poor “Poopi” the Poodle

pet malpracticePoopi the poodle and her owners sued their veterinarian after Poopi underwent anesthesia for teeth cleaning and woke up with a three-inch scar on her abdomen. The vet mistakenly tried to spay Poopi, even though she had already been spayed as a puppy.

Poopi’s owners sought emotional distress damages for themselves as well as for Poopi, including expenses for Poopi’s psychological care. Plaintiffs conceded that under Ohio law dogs are considered to be personal property, but argued that the court should “do the right thing” by distinguishing pets from inanimate objects. They quoted from a law review article that equated the death of a “companion animal” to “the wrongful killing of any other family member.”

The Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed the trial judge, which had rejected the claim, although one member of the appellate panel concurred “reluctantly” and suggested that the legislature consider allowing damages for tortious injuries to pets.

Now that the suit has been wrapped up, perhaps Poopi should consult independent counsel about the possibility of pursuing emotional distress of having to go through life named “Poopi.”

— Oberschlake v. Veterinary Assoc. Animal Hosp., 785 N.E.2d 811 (Ohio Ct. App. 2003).

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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