Recently a woman in New York filed suit against a petstore because the dog she purchased suffers various medicalcomplaints. The suit seeks to hold the store liable for theanimal's pain, suffering and medical bills, as if it were a personrather than a piece of property. While the woman's ultimate goal isto help shut down puppy mills, the issue is a valid one.

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While pets are not people, they are also not inanimateobjects. A coffee table doesn't run if something gets spilledon it. It doesn't wait for you to come home; nor does it snuggle inbed. A pet will do all of those things.

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Pets feel pain and, if properly cared for, receive regularmedical attention. Annual vaccinations and checkups are routine,similar to humans. Some people even dress their pets and take themto the groomers for what amounts to a wash, cut and blow dry—andmaybe even a pedicure. Sounds like a spa treatment to me.

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What does all this mean for the insurance industry? How is painand suffering measured in an animal? Pets can't tell you that theirpain is a 6 on a scale of 0 to 10, so how is that to be measured?Will there be payments for loss of future affection, the way adisabled person may be paid for loss of future income?

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I agree that medical payments need to be paid when a pet isinjured. You haven't restored the insured or claimant to theiroriginal position by just getting a replacement pet. If the animalcan be treated, then payment for those medical bills should bemade. An injured pet isn't necessarily a total loss—and if medicalattention can restore the animal to health, those costs should bepaid even though a replacement from the pound would be cheaper. Anyanimal lover will tell you animals have distinct personalities andthat pets aren't interchangeable.

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So yes, I agree with the woman in New York that pets are livingsouls. How about you? Is a pet more like a coffee table, or morelike a human?

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