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Owners Can Sue for the Sentimental Value of their Dog

The law treats pets as property. Therefore, the value of pets would normally be the "market price" for the animal. Unless a pet is a pure bred show animal, its market value is likely to be a very small sum.

The Fort Worth Court of Appeals ruled this month that owners should be able to recover the sentimental value of their pet, rather than the market price. The case, named Medlen v. Strickland, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2011), involved a dog picked up by animal control after it escaped from the family's backyard. The owner found the dog at the animal shelter, but did not have sufficient funds to pay the fees. So, a "hold for owner" tag was put on the dog's collar indicating that the owners would return for their animal. In the meantime, however, the shelter euthanized the dog.

The family sued for the "sentimental or intrinsic value" of the dog, and the trial judge ultimately dismissed the case. On appeal, however, the court of appeals ruled that the case could proceed. "Because of the special position pets hold in their family, we see no reason why existing law should not be interpreted to allow recovery in the loss of a pet at least to the same extent as any other personal property. . . . Today, we interpret timeworn supreme court law in light of subsequent supreme court law to acknowledge that the special value of 'man's best friend' should be protected."

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