AVMA provides guidance on guardianship, noneconomic damages

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The Executive Board has approved the content and distribution of white papers offering guidance on two controversial legal matters pertaining to animal welfare.

The documents, Animal Guardianship and Pros and Cons of Allowing Non-economic Damages (as Opposed to Punitive Damages) for Injuries to or Loss of Animals, were developed by the AVMA Task Force on the Legal Status of Animals. Both papers can be viewed on the AVMA Web site.

The AVMA considers it important to maintain the legal status of animals as property and opposes the use of the "guardian" term to describe the relationship of the pet owner to the pet. Moreover, the Association is also against awarding noneconomic damages as compensation when a pet is injured, lost, or killed.

The task force took a comprehensive approach to the concepts of animal guardianship and noneconomic damages. Each white paper identifies legal questions and consequences expected to impact animal owners, animal-related service providers, society, and the animals themselves.

The documents are meant to assist veterinarians, service providers and their organizations, and policy makers as they consider the appropriateness of applying guardianship to animals.