Georgia’s Supreme Court Will Soon Decide the Value of This Dog
An 8-year-old dachshund mix named Lola was allegedly given the wrong medicine by an Atlanta kennel in 2012. After suffering kidney failure, Lola died nine months later.
Lola’s owners, Bob and Elizabeth Monyak, say Barking Hound Village gave Lola their other dog’s arthritis medication for 12 days, and then attempted to cover up the mistake by destroying its medicine log and erasing surveillance videotapes. The couple is suing the kennel for negligence, fraud and deceit. They want to recover the $67,000 in veterinary bills they spent trying to save Lola’s life.
But Barking Hound Village, which denies any responsibility for Lola’s death, is fighting the lawsuit. Pets are property, it says. And since the Monyaks had adopted Lola from an animal shelter free of charge, Barking Hound Village says the dog was worth nothing. Zip. Zilch.
The case has made its way to the Georgia Supreme Court, which will decide the value of a dog – specifically, how damages should legally be measured for the injury or death of a pet.
“This dog was a rescue dog. There was no purchase price. Lola, while very much beloved by the Monyaks, didn’t have any specialized, [monetary] value,” Barking Hound Village’s attorney, Joel McKie, argued before the Georgia Supreme Court Jan. 19, WMAZ reports.
McKie said the recovery of damages should be decided by the market value of a pet rather than the sentimental value.
“Their position is that a dog is like a toaster,” Elizabeth Monyak told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “When you break it, you throw it away and get a new one. A dog is indeed property under the law, but it’s a different kind of property.”
It’s rather disheartening that Barking Hound Village’s argument is supported by some major animal organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Kennel Club and Cat Fanciers Association.
In a friend-of-the-court brief submitted by these organizations to the Georgia Supreme Court, they said that if a pet’s sentimental value can be considered by a jury, the cost for veterinary care and boarding will rise. Services like free spaying and neutering could end. Because of the increased liability, shelters and rescues might be forced to turn away homeless pets.
The Monyaks are supported by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), which submitted its own friend-of-the-court brief stating that the intrinsic value of pets to their owners far exceeds their market value.
“Barking Hound Village obviously recognizes the value its clients place on their dogs,” Stephen Wells, executive director of the ALDF, said regarding the case. “Its website states that ‘your dog is part of our family.’ The company can’t have it both ways, capitalizing on its clients’ strong emotional attachment to their pets but refusing to pay damages that reflect their intrinsic value.”
The Georgia Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case in four to six months. Hopefully it will decide in favor of the Monyaks, and Georgia will join other states, including California, Illinois, Rhode Island and Tennessee, which already have laws recognizing the intrinsic value of pets.
Photo credit: ALDF