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A Texas family devastated by the tragic accidental euthanization of their beloved dog by Fort Worth Animal Control are asking the Texas Supreme Court, in a groundbreaking case, to rule on the sentimental value of companion animals and if they can sue for the emotional damages caused by their dog’s death.
Three years ago, the Medlen’s family dog, Avery, escaped their backyard during a thunderstorm. Just days later, they learned that Avery had been picked up by Fort Worth Animal Control and was being held for the family. When the family arrived at the shelter to retrieve him, they were told that Avery had been accidentally euthanized a day earlier.
Avery’s cage had been labeled with a sign reading, “hold for owner,” but an officer in charge of selecting dogs for euthanization had chosen him anyway.
Local attorney, Randy Turner, took the case free of charge and helped the Medlens bring suit against shelter worker, Carla Strickland, for the negligence and accidental killing of their dog. The original case was dismissed, but an appeals court ruled in the Medlen’s favor, bringing the case to the Texas Supreme Court.
You see, the value of a dog’s life sits square in the middle of a gray area of the law. As Texas laws stand now, dogs are viewed as property, holding a value equal to the cost of replacing them. For example, the “value” of a purebred dog is the same as purchasing a new puppy of the same breed from a breeder, roughly in the range of $500-$2000. For a mutt, the value would be the cost to adopt another mutt.
However, in 1963, Texas adopted a “sentimental value rule” that states if property is wrongfully destroyed and that property had little or no market value, then the parties involved could sue.
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