A lawsuit headed to court next week in Arlington County, Virginia will take up the question of what a pet’s life is worth.
Jeffrey Nanni sued his former domestic partner, Maurice Kevin Smith, alleging that Smith killed their 12-pound Chihuahua, Buster. Smith was found guilty of assault and battery and cruelty to animals in connection with the incident. Since Buster’s death, the suit says, Nanni, 42, a paralegal, “continues to suffer severe emotional distress.”
The suit, according to a story in Monday’s Washington Post, asks that monetary damages be awarded on the basis of Buster’s worth to Nanni “as a companion animal.”
If he wins, the case would be groundbreaking one in Virginia, where state law says that dogs and cats are considered property, and that owners are entitled to recover only the value of a pet. In the past, that has been interpreted to mean the replacement value.
Nanni’s attorney, a White House counsel for President Bill Clinton, hopes to move the boundaries of Virginia law in asking a jury to award money for “Buster’s actual value” to Nanni, saying pets have “irreplaceable relationships” with their owners.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 19th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, arlington circuit court, arlington county, buster, chihuahua, dog, dogs, emotional distress, jeffrey nanni, killed, law, lawsuit, maurice kevin smith, monetary damages, pet, pets, pricetag, replacement, value, virginia, worth
A Wall Street Journal columnist posed that question recently after hearing from a “sizable” pack of angry readers who took him to task for lamenting how much of his paycheck was being gobbled up by medical care for his dogs.
Neal Templin, author of the Journal’s “Cheapskate” column, focused on his beagle in the original column, and recent vet visits that set him back more than $1,000 each — one of which was to treat his dog for injuries received after he escaped from home and was hit by a car.
“Your dog-owning incompetence is matched only by your lack of journalistic and personal integrity in not taking responsibility for … allowing the dog to escape in the first place,” one reader wrote Templin. “If your dog liked you he probably wouldn’t escape or howl.”
Templin noted that dogs are becoming family — not just backyard denizens.
“When I grew up in the 1960s, you took your dog to the vet for shots or perhaps to have a broken leg set. But if a dog got really sick, it died.
“It’s different today. Vets do aggressive cancer surgery and hip replacements. They pump dogs full of expensive drugs for various maladies. In short, dogs get many of the same procedures we humans get. But it’s not cheap, and if it’s anything like human medicine, it’s going to get more expensive as vets take increasingly sophisticated and heroic measures to keep dogs alive.”
So the answer to the question Templin poses in his aptly-named column depends not on the dog, but on the human that owns it — and on that human’s priorities.
“There are many who think burning 18 grand to keep a dog around for six or 12 extra months is madness,” a Massachusettshe man wrote. “Sometimes I think so, too. But my wife died from lymphoma two years ago, and I have no children. What am I going to do, buy a bigger television set?”