Mediation: A Great Legal Option (Especially for Pet Lovers)

Debra HamiltonIf you are a pet lover, considering a dispute with your significant other over your pet would probably not be in the forefront of your mind. Most families today view their pets as a family member; often times, even like one of their own children and couldn’t fathom ending up in a lawsuit over their beloved pet.  The truth is, it happens all the time.  I was fortunate to have a “casual conversation” with  Debra Vey.  I found her practice to be one of the more interesting practices that I’ve ever seen.  Debra’s work concentrates not only in mediation, but she has a very specialized concentration.  She resolves conflicts between people and animals.

Arbitration vs. Mediation

There are several differences between arbitration, litigation and mediation.  Debra shared of few of the most common differences.

  • Arbitration is where the people present all their information, and then the arbitrator decides who wins what, and it’s not appealable to a court or a higher authority.
  • The arbitrator’s decision is usually almost always final.
  • In mediation, a good mediator will enable the parties to talk through them to the other party, and then finally if the mediator is really good, they can get the parties to talk to each other because they feel heard, respected, understood and appreciated for their view of the facts.
  • A mediator holds that really safe space so that you will tell your story to the mediator, they’ll reflect it back to you, you’ll feel like somebody in the room gets why you’re so angry, and then after you’re done telling your story, and the other side gets to do the same thing. And for the first time, they hear the other side, because they’re not busy trying to answer each other.
  • Mediation times can vary.  Debra has worked on mediation cases that lasted an hour or two and some have lasted a year and a half until the trust and understanding of the people in the room are developed.
  • Mediation costs can vary but the great thing is that they are split equally between all parties involved and are a least expensive option to litigation.
  • If there is no resolution reached in mediation, the parties are able to move forward with litigation.  With arbitration the decision will be final and binding and there is no additional recourse for the issue.

Mediation with Animals

Legal issues with pets can vary.  It can be anything from a veterinarian malpractice where someone brings  a pet in for a procedure and the pet ends up dying.  The pet owner will be looking to determine a course of action.  Debra has been working with insurance companies for vets to help them try to proceed with mediation first before allowing a law suit to be filed against the vet.

There could be a boyfriend/girlfriend  who says, ‘Well he/she has my dog, I want my dog back, what can I do about it?’ This can be quite a place of conflict for a litigator.  The question then becomes   ‘How much money do you really want to spend to get that dog back?’  Debra shared that a guy once spent $60,000 in litigation over his dog.  It can be quite expensive to move forward with a litigation case.  Under the law animals are viewed as property.  In order to have an animal seen as as member of your family or your best friend rather than property, it may be best to mediate before litigation.

While these cases are common, it may be a great idea to contact an attorney with Debra’s experience for a consultation about your specific situation.

To reach Debra, visit her website


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