UC Law Journal


Animals are considered the personal property of their owners, and as such, when they are delivered by their owners to a veterinarian, the facts of the situation perfectly satisfy the elements of a bailment relationship. Nonetheless, when courts consider negligence by a veterinarian, animals' classification as property is disregarded and bailment principles are not applied. Instead, veterinary malpractice principles are used. If bailment principles were applied, it would be easier for owners to prove liability for injury to their animals. In these same cases, animals' classification as property is an important factor in the determination of damages, usually limiting damages to the fair market value of the animal. This approach is inconsistent: it disregards animals' status as property when it would be beneficial to them to be treated as such, but applies it when it is detrimental to their interests. This Note explores this inconsistency. First, animals' status as property, bailment doctrine, and veterinary malpractice principles are each reviewed. Second, the reasons for applying veterinary malpractice rather than bailment are explored and critiqued. Lastly, this Note concludes that bailment principles should be applied in cases regarding negligence by a veterinarian.

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