Dog owners can sue for sentimental value of pet

Print
Email
|

by CHRIS HAWES

WFAA

Posted on November 7, 2011 at 11:51 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 8 at 10:07 AM

FORT WORTH — Kathryn Medlen adopted Avery as a puppy. As he grew, so did Kathryn. She became a wife, and then a mother, and then a mother again.

Avery was there for it all.

“We would have to take Jeremiah off Avery, he would pull on his ears,” remembered Kathryn’s husband, Jeremy.

During a thunderstorm in June of 2009, Avery escaped from the yard. The Medlens found him at Fort Worth Animal Care and Control, but were told to come back the next Monday, so he could be microchipped. “The thought of the last couple of days of his life is very hard for us,” said Kathryn.

The Medlens say a shelter employee mistakenly put Avery on a euthanasia list. They've sued the technician, saying they want to prevent the same thing from happening to someone else.

Paul Boudloche represents that now-former employee, who has denied it was her fault. “My client was devastated,” he said.

Under Texas law, judges in the past only allowed a plaintiff to collect a dog's market value. As a mixed breed, Avery was legally worth next to nothing.

Attorney Randy Turner took the case at no cost. “For 20 years I've said before I die or retire, I want to change that law.”

This month, the Fort Worth Second District Court of Appeals ruled in the Medlens' favor, saying: “…the special value of man's best friend should be protected."

That means dog owners in the western portion of the Dallas-Fort Worth area can now sue for thousands if their dogs are hurt or killed.

“It even has significance for the neighborhood kid who is watching the dog for one of the people in the neighborhood," Boudloche said. "If that dog gets out and gets injured because that child forgets to close the gate."

Unless an appeal is filed, the case will continue toward trial. Boudloche says his client should still be protected by governmental immunity.

E-mail chawes@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|