One family has gone through absolute heartbreak after their beloved family dog got lost in a thunderstorm.
The Medlen’s eight-year old Lab, Avery, escaped from their back yard in Fort Worth, Texas when he was frightened by a big storm. The Medlens searched frantically throughout the neighborhood for him, knocking on doors and finally calling animal control.
They were relieved that animal control had picked up Avery and were holding him at their kennels. But when Jeremy Medlen went to pick up the dog at the city shelter, he was told it would cost him $95, which Jeremy didn’t have in his wallet.
Animal control put a “hold for owner” tag on Avery’s crate. The next day, when the Medlens and their two children went to pick up Avery, they were told that he had been euthanized by accident.
Can you imagine being told that a member of your family had been put to sleep because someone in charge was not paying attention?
The Medlens filed a lawsuit against Carla Strickland, the city employee who put down Avery. Here is the tricky part – dogs are considered property, and as such if property is wrongly destroyed by another person, the owner can sue only for market value.
It sounds callous, but it is the law where pets are concerned.
If the property has little or no market value but has sentimental value, a jury may award the owner the amount it considers to be reasonable compensation. Over the years, Texas courts have assigned sentimental value to everything from a grandmother’s wedding dress to a pistol holster – but never to a pet.
The trial court judge dismissed the case based on a Texas Supreme Court decision from 1891, which states that the owner of a dog that is unlawfully killed may only sue for monetary value.
The Medlens appealed, saying that the attitude towards peoples’ pets has changed since 1891. The appeals court ruled in the Medlen’s favor and reversed the trial court’s judgement, noting the “companionship” that dogs provide.
Strickland’s attorney filed a petition asking the state Supreme Court to review the case, which the court agreed to do.
The court sided with Strickland, saying, “We acknowledge the grief of those whose companions were negligently killed. Relational attachment is unquestionable. But it is also uncompensable.”