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A Texas court has ruled that the owners of a wrongfully killed pet can recover “sentimental” or “intrinsic” damages.
The case stems from a lawsuit brought by Kathryn and Jeremy Medlen against Carla Strickland. Around June 2, 2009, the Medlen’s dog Avery escaped from their backyard and was picked up by animal control. Jeremy went to the animal shelter to retrieve Avery but didn’t have enough money with him to pay the fees. He was told he could return for the dog June 10, and a “hold for owner” tag was placed on Avery’s cage.
On June 6, Strickland, a shelter employee, made a list of animals that would be euthanized the following day. She put Avery on the list, despite the “hold for owner” tag, and the dog was euthanized the next day. When the Medlens returned to claim Avery, they learned what had happened.
I have no sympathy for the veterinary organizations that are opposing this ruling, claiming it will raise costs. From what I can gather, they face no risk if they simply do their job properly. In the case above, the dog was wrongfully killed, and thus the shelter should pay for that error.
A side note: If this precedent gets accepted, it will act as a deterrent to police departments who presently think the only way to handle a homeowner’s dog is to shoot it on sight. If you are a cop and you wrongfully kill a dog, this ruling will make you liable for a lot more than the dog’s mere market worth.