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Dog’s Value Is in|the Eye of the Owner

(CN) - Citing the emotional value of family pets, an Illinois appeals court allowed the owners of an injured dog to collect the dog's full vet bill of $4,784, instead of the $200 value of the dog.

In April 2006, plaintiffs Mark and Mindy Leith sued their neighbor, the owner of a husky named Cosmo, after the dog jumped a six-foot fence and attacked their dog. The Leiths' dog, a dachshund named Molly, was badly injured. Although the Leiths didn't see the attack, they suspected Cosmo, who had gotten into their yard before.

The total cost of Molly's vet bills was $4,784.

Under Illinois law, a dog is considered personal property. Repairs to personal property are usually limited to the value of the property. In Molly's case, she was valued at about $200, which is what the trial court awarded.

The Leiths filed a motion to reconsider the amount of damages, and the defendant filed a motion to reconsider liability. The court did not change its decision.

The 4th Appellate District Court of Appeal found that the value of a pet is demonstrated in how much the pet is worth to the owners.

"A reasonable person in defendant's position should have reasonably foreseen that if his dogs escaped from their enclosure and injured plaintiffs' family pet, plaintiffs would feel compelled to pay considerably more than a nominal amount for veterinary care," Justice Paul Lawrence wrote. "It is common knowledge that people are prepared to make great sacrifices for the well-being and continued existence of their household pets, to which they have become deeply attached. They feel a moral obligation toward these animals. Emotionally, they have no choice but to lay out great expenditures when these animals suffer a serious physical injury."

The decision was unanimous.

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