Should Courts Grant Money Damages for the Loss of a Family Pet?
A current case in the Texas Supreme Court addresses whether sentimental value should count toward an award damage for the owners of a dog mistakenly put down at an animal shelter. In 2009, a dog escaped from his home in Fort Worth and was taken to an animal shelter that promised to keep him until his owners found him. A worker at the shelter, however, mistakenly ordered the dog be put to sleep. The dog’s owners are now suing the employee and asking the court to compensate them for their emotional damages. Courts have long been split on whether to award damages for sentimental value of a pet, which is considered property in the eyes of the law. The attorney for the owners argued that the special value of a family pet is well-known and accepted, and should be protected by allowing for a higher damage award in a tragic case such as this. In cases involving lost property, such as family heirlooms, courts often award sentimental value damages. Where the “property” lost is a pet, the attorney argued that there should be just as much, if not more, value placed on that emotional loss. Opponents argue that allowing such damages would severely increase litigation costs and have a negative economic effect. The decision of the Texas Supreme Court could set precedent for other states to follow if it allows a high sentimental damage award in emotionally charged cases such as this one.
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