It is always a challenge for me to explain to people what I do.  It’s
not because I don’t know what I do; rather it is because what I do is
so simple to comprehend.  It mystifies people.  The usual retort is either; people pay you to do that? or boy could I have used you a few years ago when I was involved in a dispute with_________.  Fill in the blank from neighbor to divorce to veterinarian.

I am a mediator.  Not the usual kind, who helps people resolve their conflicts over property lines or proceed with an amicable divorce.  I help people in disputes involving an animal.  I use the alternative dispute resolution processes, mediation and collaborative practice, to bring the parties together.  Once they come together they can work on a solution to their disagreement while retaining their relationship
going forward.  

I am the person you are looking for when you have a problem involving animals and don’t know how to broach the subject with the animal’s owner.  I‘m the person you area call when your unreasonable spouse or neighbor is making life with your pet or their pet untenable.  I help you find resolution so you will not have to resort
to or defend yourself in litigation.  
Litigation of animal conflicts face their own hurdles.  They are often ham strung by the laws created to enforce behaviors.  These laws have not kept pace with the changing place of animals in our lives and culture.  If we could find a way to speak to each other in a safe environment, with all the passion and dedication each side has to it’s position, we may find we have enough in common to proceed to
resolution.

Mediation and Collaborative process have found their niche in
employment, HR, family and divorce law.  Due to the underlying desire
to retain a future relationship in these areas, the choice to proceed via mediation or
collaborative practice, makes it easier for the parties to work their way amicably out of their current dynamic and into their future dynamic with the least amount of animosity.  The parties in divorce decide how their family will look post divorce and
the mediator helps them write an agreement, reviewed by an attorney,
that the court will accept recognizing their desire to remain cordial
going forward.

In animal conflicts, as in divorce, emotions run very high.  Don’t
tell a dog/cat owner, who’s pet died due to the negligence of another,
it was just a dog/cat.  However, this is just what the law does.  By
statute and case law an animal is property and only has the value of
property, (ie a chair).  However, in mediation or collaborative, the
value of the pet can be addressed and respectfully discussed to acknowledge the value of a pet to all parties concerned.

These discussions enable the pet owner to grieve and speak freely
about their feelings involving the loss of their pet.  The person(s)
who they hold responsible for the loss can speak to their part in the
conflict.  The discussion and acknowledgement of positions and
feelings enables the parties to move from position to acknowledgement of feelings and ultimately toward solutions.  

It is important for a pet owner to realize the animal’s caregiver did all they could to save the pet.  Maybe their ‘bedside manner’, and/or his staff’s bedside manner needs work, yet everyone involved is truly sorry.  All the parties are able to express their disappointment, guilt and feelings of negligence in being unable to save the pet. It gives the caregiver the opportunity to react in a way the pet owner feels they should.  It is not an admission of guilt or responsibility, rather it is an
acknowledgement of the their humanity and the importance of the pet to
both these parties.  The fact that everyone wanted the pet to live is
usually lost in translation when it dies and parties start positioning
out of anger and emotion.  To be able to acknowledge this in a neutral
setting does wonders toward diffusing a highly conflicted situation.

Animal law practitioners have not yet embraced the benefits of alternative
dispute resolution in any meaningful way.  In fact some law schools,
deeply committed to the advancement of the practice of animal issue
law, eschew the use of ADR in any animal conflict.  They feel the use
of ADR, to resolve a conflict, portends a loss of one more opportunity
to make law protecting future animal.

Opening a dialogue for conflict resolution, on the parties’ own terms, gives an animal, its owner and the party in conflict with them an infinite number of solutions to this crisis.  Requiring a court to find the solution in a particular conflict
diminishes the variety of outcomes the parties could have found on their own.  A court-mandated solution, may in the end, serve neither the animal, its owner nor the animal activist.

Who among us know how a court will decide?  Are we willing to take that risk in lieu of a mediated settlement, which may be palatable to all sides and benefit the animal in the present.  We often lose site of the real victims as we champion the cause and solution as we see it.