The outdated legal view of dogs as easily-replaceable “property” — worth no more than you paid for them — is slowly beginning to catch up with the times.
The latest indication of a change in judicial thinking came last week when California’s Second District Court of Appeals ruled that pets are fundamentally different than other forms of property.
“Given . . . the reality that animals are living creatures, the usual standard of recovery for damaged personal property — market value — is inadequate when applied to injured pets,” Justice Kathryn Doi Todd wrote in her opinion.
She added, “Animals are special, sentient beings, (and) unlike other forms of property, animals feel pain, suffer and die.”
The Court of Appeals ruling came in the consolidated cases of two pet owners — one whose dog was shot by a neighbor, and one whose dog was injured by veterinary negligence. Lower courts had ruled they were entitled to no more than the market value of their pets.
The appeals court decision reversed both cases. The new ruling permits owners of wrongfully injured pets to recover the “reasonable and necessary costs” of treating and caring for an injured animal, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), which had filed amicus briefs in the case.
The first case involved a German Shepherd named Gunner, who was shot by a neighbor and whose leg had to be amputated, costing his family more than $20,000. The second case involved a Golden Retriever named Katie, whose intestine was nicked during a surgical procedure. The vet also left a piece of gauze in her body. The errors led to the dog having to receive emergency surgery that cost Katie’s family more than $37,000.
In both cases, the trial court limited the plaintiffs’ recovery to a fraction of what they spent to nurse them back to health — namely, their dogs’ market value.
“This decision is a significant step forward for companion animals and their guardians,” said Matthew Liebman, ALDF senior attorney. “The legal system is finally starting to catch up with how the majority of people feel about the animals with whom they share their lives.”
Posted by jwoestendiek October 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aldf, animal, animal legal defense fund, appeals, court, courts, dog, dogs, german shepherd, golden retriever, gunner, injuries, judicial, kathryn doi todd, katie, law, lawsuits, legal, market value, pets, property, ruling, value, view, wrongful
A state appeals court has upheld a California jury’s verdict requiring a man who struck a neighbor’s miniature Pinscher with a baseball bat to pay the dog’s owners $50,000 for emotional distress.
In what’s being described as the first ruling of its kind in California, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana said someone who deliberately injures or kills another person’s pet must — even though dogs are considered property — compensate the owner for emotional distress.
The ruling quoted an 1889 California Supreme Court ruling in which the justices observed that “there are no other domestic animals to which the owner or his family can become more keenly attached” than dogs.
The ruling upheld $52,800 in damages — $2,800 of it for medical bills — against John Meihaus, who struck his neighbors’ 12-inch-tall, 15-pound miniature pinscher, Romeo, with a baseball bat, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Meihaus’ next-door neighbor in Laguna Niguel, David Plotnik accidentally let Romeo enter Meihaus’ backyard, and later heard a squeal and saw Romeo stumble. He said Meihaus, who was holding a baseball bat, told him Romeo had been barking and growling at him, but denied striking the dog.
A jury ordered Meihaus to pay for a $2,600 operation to repair Romeo’s right rear leg and a $209 stroller the dog needed to get around while he recovered. It also awarded $50,000 to Plotnik and his wife, Joyce, for emotional distress.
Meihaus appealed the original verdict, but the appeals court upheld it. His lawyer said he may appeal the latest ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Donna Bader, the Plotniks’ lawyer, said the court recognized that people value their pets and suffer when they are harmed. “Every time your dog is in pain, I think it causes the homeowner pain,” she said.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 6th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animals, appeals, award, baseball bat, california, court, cruelty, dog, dogs, emotional distress, feud, jury, laguna niguel, min pin, miniature, miniature pinscher, neighbors, pets, pinscher, romeo, upheld, verdict
The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled today that Charles Jones, shown above kicking his State Highway Patrol dog in September 2007, and fired shortly thereafter, should be reinstated.
And with back pay.
Jones was fired after another trooper turned over two 15-second video clips of him suspending his K-9 partner, Ricoh, from a railing and repeatedly kicking him to force him to release a chew toy.
In 2008, the State Personnel Commission found Jones’ punishment too harsh and ordered that he be reinstated.
Tuesday’s ruling is the latest in a series, all of which agreed the Highway Patrol did not have cause to terminate Jones’ employment. (Ricoh didn’t get a vote.) You can find the full text of the ruling here.
Patrol leaders said they initially planned to discipline Jones but decided to fire him when then-Gov. Mike Easley’s office intervened.
In its ruling, the court noted testimony from Jones’ former supervisor, Lt. Col. Cecil Lockley, who said, “They want him gone … the decision regarding Sgt. Jones’ career was predetermined, not by the patrol’s disciplinary process but by an outside entity.”
Lockley called Jones’ method of disciplining Ricoh “ugly,” but said it did not fall outside the realm of patrol-accepted training techniques.
The appeals court agreed with a lower court ruling that ”the training method used by Jones on Ricoh in this matter, while appearing excessive and extreme to the general public, is not unreasonably outside of or substantially different from several of the training techniques that are tested, trained and approved for use by the Patrol.”
It concluded, “Jones acted consistently with his training, and used compliance techniques on Ricoh similar to those used by all Patrol members who were canine handlers.”
We’d hope that the highway patrol has redefined the boundaries of its realm of training techniques – as it stated it would after the case came to public attention.
A rebuilding of the K-9 unit was promised, and an end to the kind of rough training tactics — swinging, suspending and kicking of patrol dogs — that the video depicts. New training procedures, they said, would specifically prohibit punching, kicking, beating and choking of dogs.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 7th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, appeals, back pay, brutal, charles jones, court, courts, cruelty to animals, discipline, dismissed, dogs, fired, governor, highway patrol, K-9, kicked, law, law enforcement, mike easley, north carolina, pets, police, police dogs, political, pressure, procedures, reinstated, ricoh, rough, ruling, suspended, techniques, training, video
A Pennsylvania appeals court ruled Tuesday against a Bucks County man who had sought food stamps to help feed his dog.
James Douris, 55, a disabled and unemployed veteran who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Newtown, said he relies on his dog to pull his wheelchair and fetch items for him. Because of the dog’s work on his behalf, it should be considered a dependent member of his household, he argued.
The appeals court didn’t buy it, upholding a decision by the state welfare agency denying him additional support, the Associated Press reported.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 8th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appeals, benefits, bucks county, court, disabilities, disabled, dog, food stamps, james douris, news, newtown, ohmidog!, pennsylvania, pets, unemployed, veteran, welfare
Doreen Houseman is headed back to court to gain custody of Dexter, the pug that a New Jersey court awarded to her ex-husband, deeming the dog merely another piece of property.
Today, a second trial beings on the custody of the nearly six-year-old dog, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In March, a three-judge appeals panel ordered the new trial, saying Superior Court Judge John Tomasello should not have treated Dexter as just another piece of furniture during the first trial, in Gloucester County, in 2007.
Gina Calogero, Houseman’s attorney, said the appeals paned issued a “landmark decision” on pet custody.
Tomasello originally ruled Dexter was simply property and should go to the person possessing it. “Dogs are chairs; they’re furniture; they’re automobiles, they’re pensions. They’re not kids,” he said. “Canine affection” is irrelevant, he said.
Houseman’s ex, Eric Dare, a Williamstown police officer, was awarded the dog, and would compensate Houseman $1,500 – the pedigree dog’s purchase price – the judge said.
Houseman says she is happy she won another chance to prove she should be reunited with her dog.
“I hope he remembers me. I keep hearing that a dog never forgets your scent and your voice,” she said, with a nervous laugh.”
Posted by jwoestendiek July 29th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: appeals, custody, dexter, divorce, dogs, doreen houseman, eric dare, furniture, john tomasello, judge, marriage, new jersey, property, pug, superior court
A federal court will hear the case of a woman who claims her constitional rights were violated when police in Milwaukee shot her 7-year-old mutt four times in 2004.
The case of Bubba, a Labrador/springer spaniel mix, appears to be the first such case of its type to go to a federal civil rights trial in Milwaukee, where it is set to begin before a jury this week.
Bubba’s owner, Virginia Viilo, sued the city and two police officers in in 2005, claiming her constitutional rights were violated when an officer fired shots into her already-injured dog.
Over the past decade or so, Milwaukee police have shot more than 400 dogs in the line of duty, according to court records, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. About 25 of those, including the shooting of Bubba, were fatal.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 2nd, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: appeals, bubba, courts, dog, dogs, fatal, federal court, judge, law, legal, milwaukee, mutt, news, police, shoot, shooting, shotgun, viilo