Disagreements about pets can
quickly escalate and lead to litigation. Increasingly, people have been turning
to mediation to resolve these issues. In mediation, a neutral party guides
discussions between disputing parties so that both sides can share their points
of view and work together to create acceptable solutions. This article provides
some examples of instances in which mediation can prove a productive
alternative to litigation.
do I talk to my neighbors about their barking dog?
A: Having this conversation on
your own is often frustrating and may even be dangerous. It is wise to schedule
the discussion in a neutral location and not while anyone is angry, preferably
in a community or private mediation setting. A neutral setting generally helps
to keep the parties’ anger at bay. Community mediation services are often free,
or you can hire an independent mediator and split the cost between the
am getting divorced and my spouse wants me to pay to keep the dog. How can I
stop him from holding the dog for ransom?
A: Frequently, ‘Who gets the pet?’
is the final sticking point in divorce. These conflicts are often about much
more than money. If your attorney is unable to hold an effective discussion
about the costs of keeping the dog, you may choose to hire a mediator to help
guide the conversation. A mediated discussion will, for example, help to
clarify why the pet is important to both parties rather than focusing on the
cost of keeping the pet.
Q: My dog has a congenital defect, and the
breeder isn’t willing to talk to me about the problem. How do I get some answers and reimbursement
for costs without suing the breeder?
A: Getting the parties to discuss such an
issue can be a challenge, and your initial approach is key to a successful
resolution. First, get all the clinical information about the health of your
dog, including a brief letter from the vet outlining the medical findings. When
you speak to the breeder, try to avoid an accusatory tone and use the term “we”
instead of “you” to indicate your willingness to work together to find a
solution. Breeders often see health complaints as a criticism of their entire
breeding program, even though unfortunate things happen even with the best of
breeders and breeds. How you approach a solution makes a big difference in the
outcome, so a mediated discussion is often beneficial.
Q: A vet gave my dog a drug I specifically
said should not be used. I want to talk with the vet and maybe get some money
back for the cost of follow-up treatment. Is there anything I can do short of
A: Veterinarians must sometimes
make split second decisions about how best to save a pet. Afterwards, their
hands are often tied by the terms of their malpractice insurance when it comes
to discussing the case with a client. If you want to speak to your vet, refrain
from using the words “I am going to sue you” and leave your emotions at the
door. Approaching a vet to discuss best practices is difficult in the best of
circumstances, so if you want to have this conversation, approach it from a
position of wanting knowledge rather than trying to prove a position.
mother is moving to an assisted living facility that permits dog, but I’m
concerned that she will not follow the facility’s pet rules. How can I help my
mother keep her dog while assuring the facility that the rules will be
A: It can be difficult to initiate
discussions between your mother and the facility owner about pet rules that
help the facility function. If your mother and the facility owner can talk
about why the rules are necessary, they may then be able to discuss how to make
these rules meet everyone’s needs. To facilitate this discussion, you may want
to consider hiring a mediator who specializes in elder conflicts. By asking the
right questions, a mediator can help the parties discover where they agree and
disagree, and find a solution for the conflict.
“Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was
prepared by Debra
Vey Voda Hamilton, Esq., Hamilton Law and Mediation
(www.hamiltonlawandmediation.com). Articles appearing in this column are intended to
provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this
information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from
Labels: animals, divorce, mediation, pets