Karen B. London
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Grieving Guardians Can’t Sue
Emotional damages not allowed

The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that guardians cannot sue for emotional damages when a pet’s death is the fault of someone else. The case concerned a challenge to the law by a family whose dog Avery had been euthanized in error by a shelter. A worker had tagged the dog with instructions not to euthanize her because the family was coming back with the money necessary to release her, but somehow those instructions were not followed.

Though the written opinion of the court acknowledged the human-animal bond, it stated that it is not worthy of financial compensation. Justice Don Willet wrote that although figuring out what a pet means to a family is an emotional consideration, that’s a separate issue from the legal determination of the financial value of a pet. That is why people can receive financial compensation for dogs who have value in the strict economic sense, such as a dog who appears in commercials or one who has been successful in the show ring, but not for a dog whose value comes from the family’s love alone.

Since dogs are legally considered property, the family’s attorney argued that financial compensation for their loss is legally comparable to the loss of family heirlooms due to negligence. The attorney called the decision a huge defeat for pets, and asserted that the family never cared about the money, but cared deeply about changing the law.

What do you think about the court’s unanimous decision not to allow people to sue for emotional damage resulting from a pet's death?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Jennifer Hahn | April 13 2013 |

My dog blue had stage 5 bone cancer; She was my reason for living . she was very tired , our bond so deep; i told my vet to take a full panel cancer blood draw. She claimed she was "fat". I saw "swelling".
I was right:each organ in her precious body was perfect' exept her bones that had filled with lymphoma, gone unseen and undiagnosed till i demanded it.Euthanasia when i saw her time was right to die, was my saving grace for Blue. Our right to put our dogs and pets to sleep is precious-i wish i could have done this for my dear 2 closest people who suffered horrifying end of life time. But to have this right of ours used by mistake is unthinkable. like a doctor who Cuts off the breasts of the wrong woman due to negligence-or worse, there is no easy answer. I am a quality of life and death advocate.
vets shelters nurses doctors all merely human. I feel that depending on the circumstances of the mistake, that the owners should have the right to sue for damages up to a point/cap amount of money. there is no financial value that is high enough i can set onthe quality and emotional bond for my dogs life or our love for each other. The pain of natural death is gruesome-but an error due to sheer not paying attention is unthinkably unbearable to even try to fathom.

The vet almost, by mistake,almost began a round of chemo for Blue.
The vet assumed i wanted to torture my dear dog (aged 12 & 98 pounds)with steroids and chemo. i live in NYC at the top of 4 flights of 16 steps each flight. Bone cancer pain and a sweltering summer, having to run up and down those stairs to pee....and she knew all of this.
she knew the agony that would ensue and still suggested that horror as an option.. I thankfully was spared Blue's misery by the fact that her Cancer spread so fast that she was put to rest , in my arms, my way, within 10 days of the diagnosis of bone cancer. it had spread to her sinus, her eyes, mast tumors on her head overnight cropped up. I just wanted an accurate dignosis of why she was sooooo tired and swollen; not fat , as the vet claimed. I had seen cancer swelling in my dead fiance prior to her death-i was an expert on the pain of seeing this disease full blown and how badly one can be cared for at end of life. My angel ; my Blue was to never suffer as my people did. So she died my way-in my arms with the love and grace and dignity that she deserved. I am grateful for euthanasia ;for sparing Blue the agony of cancer and the "treatment options". Had she been put to sleep by mistake, as the vet almost did, i would have sued the entire place for the ensuing agony i would have had to endure. Be it a shelter or a vet it is thier job to care for our animals and pay attention. medical numbness& malpractice runs rampent in the human population. It keeps the doctors awake and highly -insured finacially. Ifeel strongly that our animals status on paper needs to change. They have no rights to speak of.we are called crazy to love them too much or to humanize the love we feel for our animal family's.Had it not been for Blues devotion , humor and depth of love for me-i would have comitted suicide. she was my reason to live after the agony of loss so young to so many in my life. gruesome painful neglected by the doctors; deaths. i never sued them, i was too numb and too bent on killing myself to escape the mental hell that ensued thier neglectful medical care. for our devoted aware and very careful pets sake' I hope this "sue law" changes in my lifetime. I consider shelters to be death row. Kill holding pens. My deepest sympathy to the family and good for them for fighting what happened in a legal arena. So, thanks to the heartless new law, sheltersand vets can kill without fear of being sued in court.rapists of children have more rights than our guardian earth angels...our pets. jennifer Hahn nyc

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