How Do You Assign A Price On A Pet?

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 Hawaii’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 veterinarians’ 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 “neglectful conduct” 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 family’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.

21 Responses to “How Do You Assign A Price On A Pet?”

  1. Johann says:

    Very sad - we found out a lot about that when I got my broken paw! We devoted an entire site to helping the cause:

    http://www.aimpages.com/gracieatjtd/profile.html

    Thanks for shedding light on this.

  2. Lynne says:

    I’m glad this issue is finally being raised. When I worked for the police department in Wichita, KS back in the 1980s I was appalled to find that someone who killed a pet would be charged with a misdemeanor. Had they destroyed a fine painting of that same pet, they would have been charged with a felony. That is just beyond all logic.

  3. Dana says:

    How does one put a price on emotion and feeling, the heart that attaches and loves? No amount of money can take away the pain of watching a loved one die or suffer-human or furry. As has been said many times, this should never have happened.

  4. mittens says:

    i think at the least those responsible for the death of the pet through willful negligience need to pay you every damn cent you EVER paid for the animal and it’s recreation and care- original cost to acquire, all the food bought, the toys, any boarding through it’s life, any vet care, all the shots, all hospitializations including every penny directly associated with the final loss including any time you missed from work to care for and go to hospital/vet appointments. this represents your economic investment through the pet’s lifetime to assure its health and well being.the health and wellbeing of your pet have been violated. they need to make good on that lifetime investment.

    if some loser dingbat fool has the gall to ask for 53 million dollars because he lost one damn pair of pants at the cleaners, pet owners should demand every cent they laid out for their friend. i think it’s fair given that there’s no way money itself could compensate for the emotional toll, what we really need is firm punishment and most people only respond to loss of freedom and loss of significant amounts of money.

  5. Rolf says:

    it’s one of those questions that is impossible to answer definitively, but I’m sure all pet owners (and many non-pet owners) would agree that valuing a pet at nothing more than the cost of acquisition is an insult to the amount of time and care that goes into adopting an animal. This logic would surely make the value of a rescued animal exactly 0!!

    The law certainly needs a revamp, whatever form that may take.

  6. Elaine Vigneault says:

    No amount of money can replace a pet. None. The lost of a pet is like the loss of a loved one; no financial equation can “compensate” people for their loss. Some money is comforting, but the real comfort is justice.

    People who are negligent regarding the safety of pet food should pay a price for their irresponsibility. The pet food industry should have to pay high punitive damages for this recent poison pet food scandal.

  7. Carolyn says:

    I agree with you, Elaine. If any good is to come from the pet food scandal it will be the recognition of pets as beyond monetary value. IMHO the pet food scandal is just the tip of the iceberg regarding our unsafe food and drug supplies — I hope the momentum on these issues snowballs. It bothers me to no end that people trustingly buy a can of petfood, a toothpaste or cough syrup…and it could kill them or at the least make a loved one very sick. Again, I agree with you, Elaine, “the real comfort is justice”…and change!

  8. Lynne says:

    I like Mittens’s idea.

  9. Elaine says:

    Articles at World Net Daily about unsafe tires from China and tainted honey.

    http://www.http://www.worldnet.....E_ID=56372

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/n.....E_ID=56372

  10. Elaine says:

    This website has a report on the recent global trade conference in Ames, Iowa by the Coalition for a Prosperous Americe.

    http://www.dailyyonder.com:80/

  11. JJ 2 says:

    I find it heartening to know that although we aren’t quite there yet…some countries in the EU have made wonderful progress in animal welfare. In Germany and Switzerland, for example, animals are written into the constitution as living beings with a right to humane treatment and intrinsic worth as living beings. It’s encouraging, anyway.

  12. Anonymous says:

    “the real comfort is justice”…and change!

    Isn’t this they idea behind “laws” ? A concept of “justice” responsible to the largest possible concept of good, instead of whore to the biggest purse?

  13. Lorie says:

    Mittens:

    I totally agree with everything you said. Well done.

  14. kelly says:

    IT IS A SHAME THAT THIS SITUATION WITH THE PET FOOD HAD TO HAPPEN BEFORE LAWMAKERS RELIZED THAT SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE FOR THE SAFETY OF OUR PETS.I FEEL SO SORRY FOR ALL THE PEOPLE WHO LOST THEIR BABIES (PETS). BUT I AM AFRAID THAT AS WITH MOST ISSUES THAT ARISE WITH OUR GOVERMENT AND COURTS THIS ALSO WILL BE PUT ON THE BACK BURNER BECAUSE (THEY ARE ONLY DOGS AND CATS)THIS IS WHAT WE WILL HEAR ALOT I AM VERY SURE OF IT.TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. ALL MY CATS WHERE SAVED FROM A DOOMED LIFE.AND THIS IS HOW I WILL REPAY THEM FOR GIVING SO MUCH LOVE AND AFFECTION. A WONDERFUL CAN OF POISON. NO THIS IS NOT HOW WE SHOULD TAKE CARE OF OUR WONDERFUL ANIMALS WE OWE THEM AS MUCH RESPECT AND LOVE THAT THEY GIVE US I DO NOT KNOW IF ANYONE WILL EVEN READ THIS THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE LAWS OF OUR PET FOOD COMPANYS BUT HEAR THIS THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE DEPEND ON A PET JUST TO GET THEM THROUGH A DAY. NURSING HOMES USE PETS TO ENLIGHTEN THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO RESIDE THERE. MILLIONS OF PEOPLE USE GUIDE DOGS. KIDS LEARN HOW TO LOVE AND TAKE RESPOSIBILITY FOR THE PETS THEY OWN THIS IN TURN TEACHES THEM HOW TO CARE AND LOVE OTHERS. WHY HAS THIS HAPPENED? WHY HAVE THOUSANDS OF PET OWNERS HAD TO SUFFER BECAUSE OF THIS TERRIBLE TRAGEDY? WHEN AND WHERE WILL IT STOP? AND THE BIGGEST QUESTION. ARE YOU GOING TO DO SOMETHING OR IS THE FINGER JUST GOING TO POINT IN AN ENDLESS CYCLE

  15. Donna says:

    I encourage every pet owner to ask at kennels, dog day cares, etc. what happens if your pet is injured or dies while at their facility. Many states allow businesses to set a limit on liability for a pet. In my state pets are viewed as property and I know dog-related businesses who limit the value of a pet at $200. Be sure to read any agreements you have to sign and ask questions if it is not clearly stated.

  16. Anonymous says:

    From the blog, the Consumerist

    News From The Swamp
    The FDA Wants To Fire 196 Food Safety Analysts
    Congress has questions about an internal FDA memo calling for the sacking of 196 food safety analysts. The memo, titled “New Organization Staffing,” was released to the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of an ongoing investigation into the contamination of spinach, peanut butter, and other assorted items. The FDA currently inspects less than 1% of regulated imports. Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Bart Stupak (D-MI) sent a letter to the FDA expressing their displeasure with the cuts.

    “This number represents 37 percent of the total number of lab analysts currently working in the Office of Regulatory Affairs laboratories,” the letter states. “This slashing of analysts comes after an already 24 percent reduction in lab analysts between 2003 and 2007. To say the least, these numbers are deeply disturbing.”
    The analyst cuts are part of a larger FDA plan to close 7 of the 13 labs that test samples from inspections. The FDA is willing to reconsider its position, but it first wants Congress to pony-up more cash. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

    Food safety agency asked to explain proposed analyst cuts [Government Executive]
    (Photo: philentropist)
    SAT JUN 23 2007
    BY CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER
    AT 4:15 pm
    695 views

  17. Jenny Bark says:

    Mittens
    I agree with everything you said. I pray from your lips to God’s ears. Our babies are his too. Their will come a day when everyone of those bas!!!!! will have to answer and I hope pay.

  18. Lisa Allison says:

    For those of us who either have no family, or live alone, our pets are OUR FAMILIES. I have known MANY older people, by themselves who had furry children. They devoted their lives to the care of these “children” and they have as much value to those people as real children do to their parents. I know most parents will NOT see it this way. I am not de-valuing the importance of their children, but am trying to make them understand how a pet owner feels when their pets are their only family.

    When I watch the news, I cry for the loss of people, children, and pets during a tragedy. If there is a fire in the news, I want to know everyone survived - humans and animals alike.

  19. HighNote says:

    No Our pets are not chairs or material objects that when hurt can be mended or thrown away.. They are living things. They are like small children and when we started keeping them as our pets and part of the family we found out that they have to depend on us for their food, affection, and care. Some pets have many more needs then others. When they say they are a piece of property it makes me sick. They have hunger. thirst, love and pain just as we do.. But yet our government and other federal agencies want to treat them like they are not a live at all but only a piece of merchandice. I guess sort of like the Chinese do except they don’t eat them. But they seem to be just as cruel! They don’t try to make laws to protect their food supply. They have let greed be put before life. Our life and our pets lives! This pet food recall did some harm and made some people wake up a little to things but they are already going back to their every day life and have started feeding pets store bought food again. yes we hurt the industry some but not enough to change them. I sure hope I am wrong. I hope the damage is far worse then I think and that it will bring about big changes in our food and our pets food too.

  20. Thel Josenhans says:

    I think a fair sentence , for PET FOOD CO’S that sold us poison food , not to give us , ” money “, because , that can , never replace , the lose of our , Beloved pets , but , they claim there , pet food is so good , people could eat it , which , some poor souls have , ” I THINK , THE PET FOOD CO.’S should be ordered to eat only , there pet food , for three months , so , we can see , there hair fall out , itch , all over , there liver inlarge , lose control of there body , as our animals have , I lost our Beloved cat , “Pudden “, white , male , He suffered so much , when His soul left His body , I prayed , God will take care of the greed , money making , destroy them , as they have done to our animals , I am faced , with our other cat , very ill , nursing Him , with pill , when , I know , the damage , has been done to His body , His Pride , His soul , & I will lose Him . two other cats , not at his illness stage , two dogs , biting , itching , doing better , on home cooked food , We should never trust them again, we don’t want there money , for the death of our animals , we ……… want …..JUSTICE ……. Thel

  21. Anonymous says:

    Justice first and foremost - Criminal/willful negligence, breach of contract, fraud, punitive damages, and recovery from economic loss of investment past, present, future - the law must allow for these, at the very least - regardless of the “pet as property alone” argument. Properly framed, lawyers need not lose the fight for justice and compensation. A mistake would be to get bogged down in the “pet as property” argument for the current tainted pet food cases. That should be a separate case all together. If not, there is a possibility for recovering less than is hoped for.

    These companies whose products were and still are tainted have a corporate responsibility to assure that their ingredients and their purchasable products are safe enough to eat or use, as recommended. That MF and others have passed the buck of responsibility on to the US suppliers and the US suppliers have pointed the finger at the Chinese is ludricrous. At the end of the day, the entity that sells to the public has the final responsibility to the public. That is what QA, QC, contracts, testing, supervision, etc…are all about. Health, safety, and production standards -either they are in place or they are not.


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