What Is Your Dead, Used Pet Worth?

Dog in a BoxTo many of us, they are our kids, our baby, and worth everything. Sorry for the crude, insensitive title, but that is how the law sees your pain and suffering. It’s how the law calculates the damage owed to you as a parent when your pet, companion, and baby dies due to someone else’s negligence. As far as most of America is concerned, pets are property. Losing a pet is “like the loss of a chair,” according to Paul Waldau, Tufts University’s director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy.

A few states actually acknowledge the important role pets play in the life of the New America where pets outnumber children. In fact, there are just as many dogs in the US as there are children. If you count cats, the ratio of pets to kids are actually 2.2 to 1. That’s right, there are more than twice as many pets than there are children under the age of 18.

Washington state is one of a few that compensates pet parents for more than the cost of the animal. The Animal Legal and Historical Center has excellent resources for researching the topic of intrinsic value and punitive damages. The states they list for awarding more than the market value of the pet are: Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, New York and New Jersey, as well as D.C. This Seattle Times article (link fixed) talks about what it’s like to bring a pet-related damage and suffering case to court. Based on precedents, it may be wise for Washington residents harmed by Menu Foods to sue in state.

More resources after the jump.

From the Seattle Times:

Some states, including Tennessee, have passed laws defining the value of a pet. But in those without, courts have begun setting standards.

In 2006, a jury in Oregon awarded a family whose dog, Grizz, was intentionally run over by a neighbor, $50,000 in punitive damages and $6,000 for emotional distress. Grizz was valued at $400.

Adam Karp, a Bellingham attorney who specializes in animal law, said courts in Washington are beginning to recognize the “intrinsic value” of a pet.

That legal theory, he said, is rooted in a 1976 case in which a family was compensated for 32 rolls of movie film — weddings, vacations and Little League games — that were destroyed during processing.

Karp cited that case during a 2004 lawsuit against the owner of two Rottweilers who mauled a Chihuahua named Buddy. He lost, but the appellate ruling led the Court of Appeals in Spokane last year to expand animal law further by creating “malicious injury to a pet” as a source of emotional distress.

Pets, like family heirlooms, hold unique value, said Karp. “You can’t just pick up another off the shelf.” said.

Additional resources on damages awarded for the loss of pets.



9 Responses to “What Is Your Dead, Used Pet Worth?”

  1. BC says:

    Well I have a problem with this story, not so much for the contents per se, but what ideas it might give to a few sickos out there. If some sadistic jerk gets an idea that there’s money to be made this way what’s going to stop him from trying to fake a death and make a claim? I hear that in China some heinous companies decided to make fur coats and dog hair products from dogs. Some humans can be terribly evil.

  2. BC says:

    Take this post off the site! I’m serious

  3. itchmo!seattle » Blog Archive » Oregon Couple Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Menu Foods says:

    […] attorney, Michael Myers, to file a class action lawsuit against Menu Foods for financial and emotional loss. At least 20 more pet owners will be added to the civil suit, as more pet owners that have lost […]

  4. paula montgomery says:

    I too agree that you cannot just simply replace an animal that was part of a persons life. Like a “chair ” there is a price on it in every store. You dont see “broken-heart” on a shelf tagged with a price. Because I have lost my kitty boy who was 5 years old to the cat food recall, I like many others are suffering a broken heart that no one can ever pay me to get over. I live in New Baden,Illinois.

  5. itchmo! » Blog Archive » Why Menu Foods May Not Be Going Away says:

    […] minds of consumers. Coupled with the fact that many deaths will go unreported and unverifiable, and “replacement value” laws in most states, it’s unlikely to be a […]

  6. Jonathan says:

    Personally I think they should be in a criminal court more than a civil court.

    Hopefully a Attorney General sees it the same way. I recommend people also notify their States respective AGs.

    I consider this animal cruelty more than anything. These bastards knew about this way ahead of time and did nothing.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Ya I agree with BC, there are alot of people out there who lost thier pets and are upset. You may want to change the title at least.

  8. Stefani says:

    It is really a) difficult to find a lawyer who will take your case when you lose a pet — EVEN if you are willing to pay out of pocket market rates . . . b) it costs a lot of money to pay that lawyer to actually get this case to court, and c) little can actually be recovered EVEN WHEN unique value is accepted.

    So, if such sadistic jerks are out there, they will fast learn that this is not a good money making scheme. It is sad to think that they would kill a pet just to pursue such a losing strategy. Everyone who participates in these suits will put into it — in spirit, time, energy, emotion — much more than they get out of it financially. The reason to do it is the PRINCIPLE of the thing, and to set precedent. It will never pay off financially in any significant way — but that’s not the point.

  9. Itchmo: News, humor and product reviews for cats, dogs and pet owners. » How Do You Assign A Price On A Pet? says:

    […] 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 […]

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