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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-08-2013, 04:59 PM Thread Starter
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What is your opinion on this?

On Thursday the Texas Supreme Court will hear argument in a case that will decide how much a dog is worth.
The No Kill Advocacy Center, in a brief filed by Texas appellate attorney Ryan Clinton, argued that a dog is worth
more to its owners than its mere market-value replacement cost. Their Opponents -- include AKC, the AMVA,
and the American Pet Products Association--argue that dogs are only worth what it would cost to replace them.
In other words, the AKC, AMVA, and the APPA think your dog is worth nothing!

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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-08-2013, 05:59 PM
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From a LEGAL perspective, I don't see how you can ever argue a dog (or cat) is worth more than it's replacement value... not without making significant changes to the legal system in this country.

For starters, LEGALLY speaking, a dog (or cat) is property. Obviously pet owners have a VERY strong emotional attachment. But from a legal perspective, that emotional attachement is a "sentimental value". To the best of my knowledge, the courts assign a $ value of ZERO for sentimental value.

So as an example, if a house guest destroys an object in your house, the court is only going to force the guest to pay you the replacement value of that object. It doesn't matter if the object was a treasured family heirloom (i.e. also had sentimental value).

Now rather than sueing someone for the "sentimental" value of your pet, I can see a lawsuit seeking compensation for "Emotional Distress" as it relates to ANYTHING that we own (loss of a pet, intentional destruction of a prized possesion).

Otherwise, the only ways I can see the law providing compensation above the replacement value of a pet requires a change in the law to do one of the following:
1. Assigning a dollar amount to "sentimental value"
(but how are you going to do that without making a mess of things).
2. Assigning some sort of Personhood (or other special classification) on pets... to legally recognize them as more than 'just property'.

But either solution would seem to need a change to existing law, and preferablly by a legislator. I would be terrified of judges effectively begin to make laws assigning personhood to pets on thier own.

Last edited by HooKooDooKu; 01-08-2013 at 06:01 PM.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-08-2013, 06:11 PM Thread Starter
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I'm not smart enough to read the briefs from both sides and understand their agruements. My question was if passed then would this affect insurance of vets and shelters. Would this make animal control insist on microchipping pets so they could make a better effort to hold or return a pet?

I did find it interesting that the AKC opposes this legislation and are putting money to get it stopped with their attorneys. But not surprised. The AKC friends I have only see the $$ for their dogs they breed and sell.

They think what I do with TNR and rescuing cats ridiculous. Yes these are good friends of mine. We just agree to disagree on the cat issue.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-08-2013, 06:53 PM
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Interesting issue, Merry! I recall reading about this case a while back. The issue is not really what a dog is worth…but whether or not a person should have the legal right to sue for the sentimental value of a pet, rather than just the market/replacement value. In some States, including Texas, people CAN sue for the sentimental value of property if the property has no (or a very low) market value. The dog owners in this case are arguing that a dog should not be treated differently from other property and, therefore, they should be able to sue for sentimental value.

It will be interesting to see how the case is decided, although it’s one of those “be careful what you wish for” situations. If the Supreme Court decides you can sue for sentimental value, here are some of the potential consequences:

a) Right now, people can only sue for replacement value, which is not worth suing for, considering all of the legal costs involved. If, in the future, people are able to sue for sentimental value, then you could see an increase in lawsuits. Of course, how much of an increase will depend on how much “sentimental value” is determined to be. An increase in litigation will increase malpractice insurance for vets, which will in turn increase vet costs for all.

b) The same can be said for the price of pet food, pet toys, etc., where liability could attach. Insurance could increase, resulting in an increase in the cost of the food, toys, etc.

c) In this particular case, the dog owners can’t sue the city that ran the shelter (since the city has immunity), so they’re suing the shelter worker personally. If shelter workers and/or volunteers could face substantial litigation risk, then you could see a decline in the number of people willing to volunteer and/or work for relatively low wages. If the “sentimental value” awards get out of hand, you could also see some shelters close due to the overly high cost/risk of litigation.

d) In some States, you can’t sue for the sentimental value of property. For example, in Texas you can, but in New York you can’t. So, a person would only be able to receive sentimental value for their pet in Texas and other States that allow sentimental awards, but not in New York and other States that don’t. What that will mean is that liability for vets, shelter workers, etc. in some States will be higher than in other States…and the potential consequence of that could be lots of vets in New York and similar states, with not so many vets in Texas and other “sentimental value” States.

e) In addition, organizations that provide free or low-cost care (such as low-cost spay/neuter surgeries) may no longer be willing to do so in the “sentimental value” states for fear of the litigation risk.

I’m not saying all of these things will happen, only that they’re possible. No doubt a lot will depend on how high “sentimental value” is set. I'll be interested in seeing the Court's decision.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-08-2013, 06:54 PM
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Valuing an animal is a strange thing. The one that broke
my heart was a German Shepherd called Bandit. He was
a working canine unit who was killed in the line of duty.
His handler left the canine unit after his death, and I don't
blame him. The man who shot Bandit was charged with
destruction of county property for killing that wonderful dog,
as though the dog was not worth any more than a park bench.

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.
And never regret anything that made you smile.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-09-2013, 01:26 AM
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I'm not familiar with the case, but it appears that technically, since a dog is considered property, the no-kill shelter has no legal leg to stand on.

However, I remember from working as a legal secretary that in virtually every lawsuit, the plaintiff asked not only for monetary compensation but compensation for intangible things - pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship. Emotional distress and loss of companionship could certainly be claimed, and I don't see how the concept of monetary replacement value has any relevance here.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-09-2013, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
I would be terrified of judges effectively begin to make laws assigning personhood to pets on thier own.
I agree! It is a slippery slope to assign personhood to pets. As much as I love mine, and they have significant worth to me, I could not support this. I can see an argument being made about killing a pet ant, or rat, or spider. Who's to say someone isn't emotionally attached to it? A good lawyer can make a convincing argument for that. Losing a pet through someone else's neglience would be devastating, but it is NOT a human life no matter how much it may be loved.

Cat owners' prayer: "Lord help me be the person my cat thinks I am"
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