The Legal Value Of A Pet

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feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - If your pet is injured or killed wrongfully, can you get money damages for your emotional distress?

A New Jersey woman was walking her maltipoo when a neighbor’s large dog trotted out of its yard, and seeing what must have looked to it like a chew toy, picked up the maltipoo by the neck, shook it violently, then went back to its yard.

The maltipoo died and the owner sued for emotional distress. She asked the court to consider the value of the pet as her companion.

Under the law, pets have traditionally been treated like property, not like people. So while you can be compensated for more than just what it would cost you to get a new husband, for example, if your last one was harmed or killed, if you filed a lawsuit since a person is worth more than his replacement costs, the law doesn’t view pets the same way.

In general, a court will find a pet’s value to be only what it would cost to get a new one (even though many would find it more distressing to find a new dog than a new husband).

The maltipoo’s owner asked the court to take a fresh look at the matter and to treat a dog like a companion and award her emotional distress damages but the court said no. So, for now at least, the companionship of an animal may be invaluable, but it doesn’t have a court-recognized dollar value.

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