Many readers have bristled at the fact that the law sees the value of your pet the same as that of a chair — paying no attention to the special value a pet brings into our lives. Any pet owners can tell you that a pet is far more valuable than a piece of furniture or any other property. The question is, does the law see it that way too?
The recent pet food recalls have brought out many questions on the legalities of pets as property. Many states already recognized — or are considering the fact — that pets are worth more than face value. No court sees pets as anything more than property, but pet owners are asking them to see beyond the adoption fee or the price paid to the breeder.
An attorney on the Federal Bar Association addresses her feelings about the issue:
These terrible tragedies may serve as a catalyst for upping the ante. Even though the law has been reluctant to recognize pets as more than personal property, you can be sure that the lawsuits pending against Menu Foods will ask for more. Surely the value of a dog or cat in an animal shelter should not be limited to $60, the adoption fee Hawaiiâ€™s Humane Society charges. On the other hand, I have never advocated that awards for emotional distress should break the bank.
I am not an animal law attorney and am certainly no activist. I just love my dog. I grieve for all the dogs and cats that died because they ate their dinner.
More after the jump.
From the Federal Bar Association:
The number of deaths … could be as low as the teens or as high as the thousands. But the likelihood of the public ever knowing the true death toll is slim, because the FDA has stated that there is no surveillance network like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help keep track of and confirm cases of contamination for dogs and cats.
Lawsuits have already been filed, and with liability all but certain, U.S. courts must again answer the question: How much is that doggie in the window? Historically, U.S. courts have viewed pets as personal property and therefore have limited damages to the value of the pet and to veterinariansâ€™ bills. Labeling pets as property fails to recognize the emotional bond people can have with their cats or dogs. In a few cases, courts have awarded damages for emotional distress. In Knowles Animal Hosp. Inc. v. Wills, 360 So.2d 37 (Fla. App. 1978), a dog owner was entitled to collect emotional damages for â€œneglectful conductâ€ in a veterinary malpractice case. In Campbell v. Animal Quarantine Station, 632 P.2d 1066 (Haw. 1981), a family was awarded damages for emotional distress brought about by the negligence of the Animal Quarantine Station, which caused the death of the familyâ€™s dog. Recently, in Womack v. Von Rardon, 135 P.3d 542 (Wash. App. 2006), a cat owner whose pet had been intentionally set on fire was awarded damages for the emotional distress caused by malicious injury to a pet.
Thanks to Pet Connection.