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Can I take action against my vet for a wrongful communal cremation?

Q:

March 30th I very unexpectedly had to have my 13 year old dog put to sleep due to sickness. I brought her to a Vet that I had trusted and had been to before. I paid for private cremation and for my dog's ashes to be returned to me (should have had her remains back within 72 hours.) Needless to say, I recieve a call from the Vet's Manager regretting to inform me that I will not be getting my beloved dog's ashes after all because the Vet Tech made a mistake and tagged my dog wrong. The tech tagged my dog to be in a "communal Cremation" after the box that was checked off on the paper work clearly states that the remains are to be returned to the owner.

I not only had to make the heart wrenching decision to put her to sleep, but I do not even have her remains to take home. Is there any legal action I can take against them.

A:

I am so sorry to hear about your dog. There was a 1979 case in New York (Corso v. Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital) involving similar facts. A woman brought her fifteen-year-old poodle to the animal hospital for treatment but once euthanasia was recommended she had the dog euthanized. The poodle’s “owner” planned a funeral for the dog. Upon opening the casket at the pet cemetery, she found a dead cat. Her dog’s remains were never located. The court held that the destruction of the dog’s body was actionable. The court also stated that “In ruling that a pet such as a dog is not just a thing I believe the plaintiff is entitled to damages beyond the market value of the dog. A pet is not an inanimate thing that just receives affection; it also returns it. I find that plaintiff Ms. Corso did suffer shock, mental anguish and despondency due to the wrongful destruction and loss of the dog’s body.” The court awarded Ms. Corso $700. It is difficult to predict how other courts would decide the amount of damages to award in such a case.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

 

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