The Supreme Court of Texas in Austin began deliberating on Thursday to decide if a couple can sue for the "emotional value" of a dog after their dog was mistakenly euthanized by a Fort Worth animal shelter in 2009.
Jeremy and Katherine Medien's eight-year-old Labrador retriever mix Avery escaped from his family's backyard in Fort Worth. Avery was picked up by Chuck Silcox of Animal Care and Control. The next day the couple found their dog at the shelter, but didn't have the $80 with them to bail her out; the shelter agreed to hold Avery. A "hold for owner" tag was attached to Avery's cage. Tragically the next day when the couple returned for their dog, shelter worker Carla Strickland had not seen the tag and had accidentally euthanized Avery.
According to Texas law owners of irreplaceable property such as heirlooms and sentimental, one-of-a-kind jewelry can sue for sentimental value in cases of loss. In this case, the Medien family and their attorney Randy Turner contend their dog was part of their family since he was just a puppy, and they were devastated by the loss of Avery. In Texas dogs are considered personal property. The family has yet to adopt another dog.
According to the Dallas News .com, and the Associated Press, the answer may very well be a difficult uphill challenge.
"Where do we draw the line?" Justice Jeffrey S. Boyd asked from the bench. "Cats? Fish? Birds?"
Turner simply wants dogs to be classified the same as sentimental property and to be treated like all other personal property, however the shelter worker attorney argued that people don't bond to heirlooms, but do bond to their pets. He also stated that veterinarians would be facing expensive lawsuits if sued by pet owners.
Originally Tarrant County's civil district court dismissed the Medien's case, but the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth decided in favor.
Eyes are on Texas right now, and it could be several weeks before a decision is announced.
In 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court in the case McDougall v. Lamm ruled that emotional distress damages cannot be claimed by a pet owner. In that case, Plaintiff Joyce McDougall witnessed the death of her nine-year-old maltipoo named Angel when a large dog owned by Charlot Lamm grabbed her dog by the neck and killed it.
According to LexisNexis.com the ruling stated:
"Recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress by a bystander will continue to be limited to carefully defined intimate familial relationships and, at least for now, man's best friend is relegated to the dog house.
As domesticated animals take more important physical and emotional roles in the lives of American families, one day their lives will be regarded as more valuable by law.
If you would like to continue receiving the latest news on pet issues and how we can help those who cannot speak, please click the "Subscribe" icon.
Follow the National Pet Rescue Examiner on Facebook by clicking here. Please visit and "like" my page. You are welcome to submit story ideas by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.