Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Companion Animals, Emotional Damages and the Judiciary’s Failure to Keep Pace
31 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2011 Last revised: 11 Jan 2013
Date Written: April 2012
What is the value of afternoon walks in the park? Evenings spent relaxing on a living room sofa? A wet face licking and wagging tail every day when you come home? If posed to a pet owner, the answer to these three questions will likely be one word: priceless. Recovery at law for the death or injury to a pet does, however, have a price and that price is measured solely by the pet's market value. The role companion animals serve in the American household has evolved. Once property used to derive an economic benefit, pets are now family members sharing a unique emotional bond with their human companions. Yet, the judiciary has not kept pace with society’s changing attitudes. As a result, many courts preclude pet owners from recovering for emotional damages following the injury or death of a companion animal. The courts are looking to legislatures to recognize this right of recovery. It is time for legislatures to enact legislation where there is none and improve the legislation that does exist to permit recovery of non-economic damages for the wrongful injury to or death of companion animals.
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