Profession must be proactive in developing alternatives to market value as a basis for compensation
Several factors must be considered when determining compensatory value for animals, including the purchase price, age, and utility of the animal to its owner, according to a position statement adopted by the AVMA.
The statement provides guidance for establishing compensatory values for animals beyond their property value. Submitted by the AVMA Committee on the Human-Animal Bond, it was approved by the Executive Board. The position reads:
Establishing Compensatory Values for Animals Beyond Their Property Value
The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes and supports the legal concept of animals as property. However, the AVMA also recognizes that some animals have value to their owners than may exceed the animal's market value. In determining the real monetary value of the animal, the AVMA believes the purchase price, age and health of the animal, breeding status, pedigree, special training, and any particular utility the animal has to the owner should be considered.
The committee crafted the statement after reviewing relevant case law, court decisions, and legal trends. Also, a representative of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association was consulted.
In the recommendation background, committee members indicated they believe the veterinary profession must be proactive in developing reasonable alternatives to market value as a basis for compensation before those alternatives are set by others.
Moreover, the committee believes that compensatory caps are not a good solution, since legal and legislative history have suggested that these caps are arbitrary and can easily be raised.
Board members were split evenly in their support for the committee's recommendation, and Executive Board Chair James H. Brandt cast the tie-breaking vote that passed the position statement.
During deliberations, AVMA President Joe M. Howell wondered whether the statement focused too much on economic factors while not adequately accounting for the relationship between people and animals. "Does this statement water down the human-animal bond?" Dr. Howell asked.
District VI Representative Roger K. Mahr agreed, saying the statement was too market focused.
But several board members thought the position statement a good idea. It charts a careful course between those concerned about excessive awards and those concerned with the human-animal bond.
Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver, District VIII representative, said, "This is one of the most carefully crafted statements I've seen."