Word is spreading about a ruling back in November by a Texas appeals court, concerning the legal standing of pets, as more than property.
The ruling centers on a lawsuit filed because a family dog was euthanized at a city shelter. The dog went missing during a thunderstorm and picked up by an animal-control officer. Before the family could return to the shelter with the cash to pull him, he was euthanized.
The appeals court has ruled pets have sentimental value, beyond their value as a piece of property.
A Star-Telegram article included this statement from the court – “” “Dogs are unconditionally devoted to their owners,” says the ruling from the Texas 2nd Court of Appeals. “We interpret timeworn Supreme Court law … to acknowledge that the special value of ‘man’s best friend’ should be protected.” “”
On the Maria Goodavage’s For the Love of the Dog Blog on Dogster.com, she reports a number of entities are speaking out against the ruling and have briefs asking the court to reconsider its ruling, among them the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Kennel Club, the Cat Fanciers’ Association, Animal Health Institute, American Pet Products Association, and Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.
The fear from these groups is prices will rise, thus the costs of having pets will rise if pets are given higher legal standing, leading to increases in awards for damages in cases where pets are harmed or killed.
But what about our pets and what about the families? Our pets are family members and they are “worth” more than toasters. Does everything always have to be about money?
Even if this ruling went national, the courts won’t be equating a pet’s death to a person’s death in terms of monetary damages. I’m certainly not someone who looks for every chance to sue someone else. I’ve never filed a lawsuit in my life. But when a discussion such as this comes up, where one side wants to dismiss the pain and suffering of others in cases similar to the example above, I tend to believe that if the shoe was on the other foot, the other side would have a much different take on things.
It’s easy to take hard line when you’re not the family grieving from a loss such as this.
Goodavage rightfully points out there are times when personal property is given legal standing as having sentimental value. But when it comes to pets, historically our legal system gives them no more value than a piece of furniture purchased from a big box store.
I think we can also legally separate unfortunate mistakes or a misdiagnosis in a difficult case from egregious errors, criminal behavior or flagrant malpractice.
In cases where a veterinarian is found to have engaged in malpractice or if a criminal breaks into a home and kills the family cat or if a dog-fighting rings stills your dog, the punishment should be severe and the family’s pain and suffering should be considered.
And why is it that the AKC and other similar groups seem to always be against animal-welfare rulings such as this and against laws proposed to shut down puppy mills?