A legislation in America could mean pet owners would be considered guardians.
A legislation in America could mean pet owners would be considered guardians. Reuters

Businesses in the US are battling back against legislation that would reclassify pet owners as guardians, meaning that they will be able to file larger suits and earn more in damages through the loss of a pet.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has warned that humanising pets could mean that courts will become inundated with pet related cases and could force veterinary practices out of business.

One of the more notorious cases came when a man from Los Angeles sued a veterinary practice for $39,000 in 2004 after the death of his Labrador.

Marc Bluestone's dog, Shane, died in 1999 of liver failure whilst at the All-Care Animal Referral Centre in Fountain Valley, California.

Mr Bluestone sued for negligence, deceit and unfair business practices and won after a five year legal battle.

A legislation in America could mean pet owners would be considered guardians.
A pug in a mexican outfit. Reuters

Veterinarians are worried that a host of cases like this could now come up and where it will stop.

David Grimm, author of Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs, told Wired: "Right now in the United States, cats and dogs are considered property. In a court of law, your cat or dog is no different than a toaster or a couch. A lot of people recoil from that, but some also worry that turning cats and dogs into legal people is a bridge too far."

"David Favre at Michigan State University has proposed an intermediate category of 'living property' dogs and cats could have some rights, even some responsibilities, but legally be like children."

However, Grimm feels like this too could be a slippery slope in legal terms. "If we create this intermediate category, why can't elephants in the wild be living property? If we let cats and dogs in, and open that door, does it open the floodgates?

"This is already happening. Late last year, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York, arguing that they deserve to be legally recognized as people."

Biomedical research firms and the agricultural sector are also worried about the repercussions as they fear that the rising legal status of pets could spill over into their field as they could hamper the possibility of cures for human diseases and affect meat production.