This Judge Got It Wrong On What The Dogs Mean To Us

The recent court ruling claiming dogs do not generate the same emotional attachment as family members is a mistake and a disappointment:

‘You may consider your pets to be part of the family, but the New Jersey Supreme Court does not.

The high court has ruled Joyce McDougall of Morris Plains is not entitled to emotional damages after witnessing the death of her dog Angel, a Maltese-poodle mix who was mauled by a neighbor’s dog running loose five years ago.

The decision, written by Justice Helen Hoens, upheld lower courts, which found that McDougall was entitled to $5,000, more than the cost of a replacement dog, because Angel was “a well-trained pet.” But the ruling noted that courts historically have awarded emotional damages only when a plaintiff had “a marital or intimate, familial relationship” with a victim.’

I am not trying to argue that dogs equate to human family members. But then, that’s not what the judge was asked to rule on either. The issue at stake is not weather dogs are the same as people but what kind of impact the loss of a dog causes to a person. Many dog owners would tell you that for them the loss of a dog was no less traumatic then the loss of a loved one. And what makes it harder is society’s refusal to acknowledge the gravity of that loss. With this ruling the judge has added to that refusal. I have long argued that there is an unmet need to address pet loss in the same way as human death and berievement. I hope in time the views axpressed in this ruling will give way to greater understanding.

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About Dr Vadim Chelom

Dr Vadim Chelom is a Registered Veterinarian, a writer and an educator

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