Texas Supreme Court weighs emotional value of pets, Avery the dog was euthanized by mistake

scales of justice

Those of you wearing your Averystrong wristbands, your dog is having its day. Before the Texas Supreme Court.

Justices Thursday began considering whether Avery’s unexpected and untimely demise in 2009, as we told you about in September, is reason enough to allow pet owners to seek damages in court based on emotional attachment.

From their queries, according to a story by Associated Press today, the high court judges weren’t much persuaded by the emotional value argument. Justice Don Willett asked, rhetorically of course, what emotional value might be assigned to a stuffed dog. Justice Jeffrey Boyd wondered if the law should also apply to pet cats, fish and fowl.

The 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth last  fall was less skeptical, deciding in favor of Avery’s owners, Kathryn and Jeremy Medlen, and overturning a Tarrant County civil district court that had originally dismissed the case.

The Medlens brought suit after their 8-year-old Labrador mix ran away and ended up in a Fort Worth animal shelter. The Medlens tracked down Avery but didn’t have the $80 to secure the dog’s release.

In spite of having put a tag on Avery’s cage holding her for the Medlens, when Jeremy returned with the cash the dog had been euthanized.

Texas law allows courts to award damages based on the emotional or sentimental value of property, but not live property like pets. Attorneys defending the animal shelter employee argue changing the law would cause jury damage awards and veterinary and animal handling insurance to skyrocket.

But the Medlens didn’t go to court for the money, Randall Turner, their attorney, told Associated Press. They want to change state law, Turner said, to insure that Avery didn’t die in vain.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of Lady Justice by flickr user kbjesq, used via a Creative Commons license.