Monday, December 3, 2007

New Pastures for Animal-Rights Lawyers

An article from the New Jersey Law Journal details the recent boost that animal law has received in the state from legislation, caselaw, and the Internet. Demonstrating the last of these categories, the article links to a website that deals with pet trusts. There's also an interesting passage on how the predominate, yet increasingly challenged, legal view of "animals as property" is being argued in the state:

Animal-rights lawyers are also pushing the boundaries of what damages can be recovered for the death or injury of an animal. Historically, animals were treated like other personal property, with market value used to measure damages, but lawyers are seeking to apply the concept of "intrinsic value," which usually applies to items like heirlooms.

In 2004, in Small Dog Rescue v. McKenney, SOM-L-864-04, New Brunswick, N.J., personal injury lawyer Linda Sinuk won a ruling allowing a rescue group to try to prove that a Cairn terrier, named Baxter, had an intrinsic value above the $200 paid to adopt him. The defendant had Baxter euthanized over his tendency to bite rather than returning him, as the parties allegedly agreed.

Superior Court Judge Victor Ashrafi, denying a motion to dismiss for lack of cognizable damages, held the jury could look at what the plaintiffs would have been willing to pay for the dog and its care and maintenance had it been returned. The case then settled for $25,000.


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