To 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 â€” weddings, vacations and Little League games â€” 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.