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Court Limits Damages for Loss of Family Pet to $155

(CN) - A family whose dog was gunned down by a neighbor cannot collect for emotional damages, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled.

Sarah and Dennis Scheele were visiting from Maryland when they stopped in a church parking lot. Their dog, Shadow, wandered onto the property of Lewis Dustin, who was looking for squirrels to shoot with his pellet gun.

Dustin blasted Shadow with the gun, and the Scheeles watched their dog die of an aortic hemorrhage.

The Scheeles sued Dustin, and the trial court awarded them the monetary value of the dog: $155. The couple appealed, seeking compensation for emotional distress and loss of companionship.

Justice Marilyn Skoglund ruled that Vermont law does not allow for non-economic compensation for the loss of a pet, and that the Scheeles would be best served by seeking a change in the law.

"Pets occupy a legal realm between chattel and children," Skoglund wrote.

"We do not doubt plaintiffs had a strong emotional bond with their dog and have suffered by Shadow's untimely death. That said, we adhere to our long-standing precedents in affirming the trial court's ruling."

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