How much is your rescued dog worth? In the eyes of the law, it may not be much.
Dog parents know their pup’s worth can be measured by far more than his or her monetary value; after all, how can one put a price tag on the comfort of cuddles and (at times stinky) kisses? But the mysterious pedigree makes determining the “market value” of an adopted dog all the more difficult in the event that tragedy strikes.
That’s the case for Lola, an eight year-old Dachshund mix who passed away from renal failure after allegedly being given a medication she wasn’t supposed to receive by an upscale dog boarding facility in Georgia. Her family is seeking $68,000 to cover veterinary expenses they undertook to try to save her life and compensate for the loss of their pet, but the kennel is asking the courts to dismiss the case on the grounds that the dog’s life was only worth the “purchase price”, which amounts to nothing as mixed breed dog.
The Monyaks boarded their two dogs – Lola and Callie, a larger ten year-old Lab mix – at “The Inn”, a Barking Hound Village kennel, while on vacation in 2012. Lola purportedly received Callie’s dose of Rimadyl for arthritis. Rather than alert the family to the mistake, a brief filed in support of the Monyaks by the Animal Legal Defense Fund alleges that the facility tried to cover it up, losing the medicine logs and erasing surveillance tape.
Upon picking up their dogs, the Monyaks immediately noticed a change in Lola. The food-loving pup showed no interest in her meals, then began trembling and vomiting. Her vets determined that her kidneys were failing, likely being caused by an overdose of Rimadyl. Their vet told them they received a phone call from the boarding facility stating that Lola had run out of her prescription for pills, which confused them since she was only prescribed heartworm medication. The tiny dog had to transferred to the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital for dialysis, returning home to Georgia for periods of time when she recovered. But in March of 2013, she stopped responding to treatment and passed away before her family could make it there to say goodbye.
Lola joined the Monyak family in 2005, when their 10-year-old daughter Suzanne wanted to adopt a dog of her own. She was a smart, fun dog who brought her family joy. Watching a dog suffer through extreme pain and ultimately losing them is understandably devastating to anyone who’s ever loved a pet.
The kennel’s response
However, Barking Hound Village’s lawyers bring up court precedents stating that a the amount that can be recovered for a pet only applies to the market value, removing any sentimental value from consideration. In that case, Lola would be worth nothing. Their filing states, “The purchase price of the Dachshund was zero dollars, the rescue dog never generated revenue and nothing occurred during the Monyaks’ ownership of the dog that would have increased her market value,” the company’s filing said. “The mixed-breed Dachshund had no special training or unique characteristics other than that of ‘family dog.’” They argue the pets are property and therefore the Monyaks could only recover the market value of that property before it was destroyed.
But the ALDF’s brief on Lola’s case argued that it was hypocritical of the business to “exploit the value of the human-companion bond, while simultaneously arguing that the same should be unrecoverable” in the event of a case like wrongful death. That line of reasoning makes sense to Michael Wells, a University of Georgia law school professor specializing in insurance and tort law. “I assume (the Monyaks) paid a substantial amount of money to the kennel to take care of their dog,” Wells said. “To then say the dog has no market value doesn’t seem to square with the commitment the kennel made and the money it made from the transaction itself.”
Other veterinary and kennel organizations support Barking Hound Village’s position, saying that the costs for care will rise as a result. Says their friend-of-the-court brief: “Concerns over expanded liability may cause some services, such as free clinics for spaying and neutering, to close,” the groups said. “Shelters, rescues and other services may no longer afford to take in dogs and other pets…Fewer people will get pets, leaving more pets abandoned in shelters to die.”
Elizabeth Monyak believes that Lola’s market value isn’t the only way to assign worth to her family’s beloved pet. “Their position is that a dog is like a toaster,” Elizabeth Monyak said. “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.”
Now it’s up to the Georgia Supreme Court to decide: how much is Lola worth?
What do you think, readers? Is this the face of an object, worth no more than “market value”? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Featured image and H/T via MyAJC