Beams (pictured), diagnosed with severe and debilitating hip dysplasia as a puppy, recently had his day in court.
In November 2016, the Animal Law Institute commenced a lawsuit against the pet shop that sold Beams (Mad About Pets Pty Ltd) and Beams’ breeder (Murray River Puppies Pty Ltd) claiming that they should reimburse Beams’ owner for the vet bills that his owner had to pay to treat his medical condition. Jodie Knox, a former president of the Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders, is the sole director of the breeder.
The lawsuit was recently heard by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) at Melbourne.
Both the pet shop and the breeder made applications for the tribunal to dismiss Beams’ owner’s lawsuit without the matter proceeding to a full hearing. The breeder argued that Beams’ owner was only entitled to a refund for Beams.
‘A dog or a cat is different to other consumer goods. It isn’t fair to say that the owner should accept a refund or a trade-in. You can’t replace a loved pet. We say that the Australian Consumer Law allows owners to claim vet fees from breeders and pet suppliers, in some circumstances,’ said Amanda Richman, Senior Lawyer at the Animal Law Institute.
On 12 April 2017, VCAT Member Ms Linda Rowland rejected the pet shop’s and breeder’s applications to dismiss Beams’ case. Member Rowland held that the case, and the question of whether Beams’ owner should be compensated for veterinary expenses, were of ‘sufficient importance’ and the case should be heard by a senior VCAT member at a full hearing.
The allegations made by Beams’ owner included that both the pet shop and the breeder failed to comply with the consumer guarantees, including the guarantee that goods be of acceptable quality. Beams’ owner also made allegations against the pet shop for misleading and deceptive conduct and breach of contract.
The case ultimately settled privately and confidentially.
Lawyers are increasingly using consumer protection law as a way to protect the interests of animals. Earlier this year, the Animal Law Institute similarly relied on consumer protection law in a lawsuit about dolphin captivity against a Coffs Harbour marine park. In recent years, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has prosecuted several Australian egg and meat chicken producers alleging that they engaged in misleading conduct by making certain animal welfare claims in marketing their products.
The Animal Law Institute is a national non-profit community legal centre that is dedicated to protecting animals and advocating for their interests through the Australian legal system. Partial funding for this project was received via a 2016 Grant from Voiceless, the animal protection institute.
Contact: Amanda Richman, Lawyer, email@example.com, 0425 233 649