What do you think should happen to this veterinarian?

FORT WORTH – A local veterinarian has been accused of telling a dog owner that her dog needed to been euthanized. However, the dog had a clean bill of health and the vet allegedly kept the dog in his clinic for blood transfusions. This entire time, the dog owner was under the impression her dog was dead. A former employee of the clinic notified the owner that the dog was still alive. The dog is now safe and sound with its owner.You may ask yourself, “What kind of legal remedies does the dog owner have?”Funny you should ask…Civil TheftAnyone who commits theft is also civilly liable for that theft. Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem. Code § 134.003Anyone who is successful in a suit for civil theft is entitled to costs and attorney fees. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 134.005.The elements of Civil Theft are:(1) the plaintiff had a possessory right to property or was the provider of services; (2) the defendant unlawfully appropriated property or unlawfully obtained services in violation of certain sections of the Penal Code; and (3) the plaintiff sustained damages as a result of the theft. Wellogix, Inc. v. Accenture, LLP, 788 F.Supp.2d 523 (S.D. Tex. 2011).Dogs are property in Texas. Because they are property, they can be stolen. Here it seems that the vet exercised control by false pretenses thus unlawfully obtaining control over the dog.Fraud(1) the defendant made a material representation that was false;(2) the defendant knew the representation was false or made it recklessly as a positive assertion without any knowledge of its truth;(3) the defendant intended to induce plaintiffs to act on the representation; and(4) plaintiffs actually and justifiably relied on the representation and thereby suffered damages.Ernst & Young, L.L.P. v. Pac. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 51 S.W.3d 573 (Tex.2001)It could be argued that the damages here are the loss of use of the dog or the fair market value of the dog.What makes Fraud an attractive cause of action is that punitive damages are available. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 41.003. Punitive or exemplary damages are additional damages available in certain circumstances. The aim of these damages is to punish wrongdoers and prevent others from engaging in certain devious behaviors.What about Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)?The elements of IIED are:(1) the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly;(2) the conduct was extreme and outrageous;(3) the actions caused emotional distress; and(4) the emotional distress was severe.Kroger Tex. Ltd. P’ship v. Suberu, 216 S.W.3d 788, 796 (Tex. 2006)Unfortunately, Texas does not recognize emotional damages for the loss of a pet. Strickland v. Medlen, 397 S.W.3d 184 (Tex. 2013). Also IIED is only available if the damages cannot be obtained any other way. It isn’t fair, as the Texas Supreme Court points out in Strickland, but it is the law.The police are investigating the case so what can the vet be charged with criminally?Animal Cruelty Tex. Pen. Code § 42.092a) In this section:(1) “Abandon” includes abandoning an animal in the person’s custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person.(2) “Animal” means a domesticated living creature, including any stray or feral cat or dog, and a wild living creature previously captured. The term does not include an uncaptured wild living creature or a livestock animal.(3) “Cruel manner” includes a manner that causes or permits unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering.(4) “Custody” includes responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of an animal subject to the person’s care and control, regardless of ownership of the animal.(5) “Depredation” has the meaning assigned by Section 71.001, Parks and Wildlife Code.(6) “Livestock animal” has the meaning assigned by Section 42.09.(7) “Necessary food, water, care, or shelter” includes food, water, care, or shelter provided to the extent required to maintain the animal in a state of good health.(8) “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.(b) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:(1) tortures an animal or in a cruel manner kills or causes serious bodily injury to an animal;(2) without the owner’s effective consent, kills, administers poison to, or causes serious bodily injury to an animal;(3) fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody;(4) abandons unreasonably an animal in the person’s custody;(5) transports or confines an animal in a cruel manner;(6) without the owner’s effective consent, causes bodily injury to an animal;(7) causes one animal to fight with another animal, if either animal is not a dog;(8) uses a live animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a racetrack; or(9) seriously overworks an animal.(c) An offense under Subsection (b)(3), (4), (5), (6), or (9) is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a state jail felony if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.09, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.09. An offense under Subsection (b)(1), (2), (7), or (8) is a state jail felony, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.09, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.09.(d) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that:(1) the actor had a reasonable fear of bodily injury to the actor or to another person by a dangerous wild animal as defined by Section 822.101, Health and Safety Code; or(2) the actor was engaged in bona fide experimentation for scientific research.(e) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (b)(2) or (6) that:(1) the animal was discovered on the person’s property in the act of or after injuring or killing the person’s livestock animals or damaging the person’s crops and that the person killed or injured the animal at the time of this discovery; or(2) the person killed or injured the animal within the scope of the person’s employment as a public servant or in furtherance of activities or operations associated with electricity transmission or distribution, electricity generation or operations associated with the generation of electricity, or natural gas delivery.(f) It is an exception to the application of this section that the conduct engaged in by the actor is a generally accepted and otherwise lawful:(1) form of conduct occurring solely for the purpose of or in support of:(A) fishing, hunting, or trapping; or(B) wildlife management, wildlife or depredation control, or shooting preserve practices as regulated by state and federal law; or(2) animal husbandry or agriculture practice involving livestock animals.(g) This section does not create a civil cause of action for damages or enforcement of the section.Theft Tex. Pen. Code § 31.03(a) A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.(b) Appropriation of property is unlawful if:(1) it is without the owner’s effective consent;(2) the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing it was stolen by another; or(3) property in the custody of any law enforcement agency was explicitly represented by any law enforcement agent to the actor as being stolen and the actor appropriates the property believing it was stolen by another.What do you think should happen to this vet?This blog, like all blogs on this website, was written for the purposes of general legal education and should not be taken as legal opinion or advice. This blog in no way creates an attorney/client relationship.

Leave a Reply