Practical Advice

Suing a veterinarian is not recommended

Complicated. Difficult. Expensive to prove. That’s not the worse part. The dog owner most certainly needs legal advice — in fact, needs legal representation. However, the compensation you could receive is surprisingly little compared to your high regard for your pet. 

The compensation is little because, in most states, the says a dog is simply another item of property, like a table or chair. Therefore, your compensation will be limited to the costs of further veterinary medical treatment — or euthanasia, cremation, and the market value of the dog.

The point is that after looking at the costs of getting these expert opinions, plus the cost of the attorney, the dog owner usually has to conclude there is nothing that can be done except to politely ask the defendant veterinarian to pay up or go to small claims court with whatever you have and make the most forcible presentation you possibly can.

An excellent analysis of the veterinarian malpractice issue: Terence J. Centner and Nikita Smeshko, Compensating Companion Animal Owners for Veterinary Malpractice Through an Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism, Journal of Social Sciences 7(4);597-604, 2011. 

Sue the veterinarian and the clinic if you decide to proceed

If you decide to proceed in small claims court, sue both the veterinarian and the clinic. Here’s the reason:

If you sue only the veterinarian, she might come to court and say, “I work for the clinic. It supplies the equipment and veterinary technicians. I have the following proof that this piece of equipment (holding it up for the judge to see) failed and Mr. John Smith, the veterinary technician at the office that day, was inattentive, and that the failed equipment and the negligence of Mr. Smith caused the unfortunate and regrettable death of the plaintiff’s dog.”

If the judge believed that testimony, you would lose your case against the veterinarian. So you have to sue the clinic too, to be sure you will win your case.