Family or property? Times when puppies proved they were more than just prized possessions

Family or property? Times when puppies proved they were more than just prized possessions

Celebrity pets have lifestyles that many humans could only dream of. You read that right: animals have lifestyles. Regardless, by law, pets are considered properties that have no rights even if their owners treat them more like family.

In a divorce case, pets like dogs and cats may even be used as a bargaining chip by one party against the other party, which would be difficult to do with one’s human children.

The bottom line is that animals are considered assets as far as the law is concerned. But in the following cases, puppies suffering from human-like experiences make their legal status as property seem even more dubious.

The accidental death of a property named Chloe

If someone damages your property, e.g., your car named Barney, you can file a lawsuit seeking financial damages as a result of a person’s conduct or because that person didn’t act with reasonable care. You can go to a small claims court to seek reimbursement for Barney’s damage.

You might do the same if someone damages your pet puppy Precious (i.e., your property) that may have been hurt by an erring veterinary doctor. You may also file a veterinary malpractice suit. Note, however, that filing a veterinary malpractice lawsuit can be extremely challenging, and the costs of going to court usually exceed the amount of the reward.

Things may be vastly different if your pet is a celebrity and is making you, the owner, tons of money. This is what happened to Loni Edwards, whose famously tiny French bulldog Chloe died due to an error by the pet hospital BluePearl.

For Ms. Edwards, Chloe was not just a pet but also a source of income; Chloe was earning $3,000 to $15,000 for every sponsored post on Instagram and appearing on several big-brand ads. When Chloe died of cardiac arrest because of a hospital staff’s fault, so did many lucrative brand partnerships.

It remains unclear whether the pet hospital was able to resolve their mistake. Meanwhile, Ms. Edwards is one of many pet owners pushing for change in animals’ status from property to that of a family member or something close. To date, pet owners with a similar case can only be legally entitled to the cost of acquiring another pet.

Frauds of Bel Air

Puppy mills are indiscriminate breeders of puppies and are notorious for treating pups like lifeless commodities. They are essentially a factory with a poor living environment, and puppies are likely to suffer from illnesses and other inhumane conditions in these places. That is why it’s not ideal to buy pets from them and why pet shops don’t associate with them.

And yet, some purportedly legitimate pet stores engage in business with puppy mills, like the now-defunct Pets of Bel Air in Los Angeles, which claimed to be sourcing puppies from private breeders. In 2007, Mr. Wayne S. Kreger sued the store for selling him and his wife a chihuahua that died 12 days later due to a virus in the dog’s digestive system. The Kregers suffered from trauma and emotional devastation caused by the early death of their newly bought pup. They and other customers of the shop filed suit for fraud and false advertising.

Her dogs’ biggest fans?

In February, two armed men attempted to dognap Lady Gaga’s (real name: Stefani Germanotta) pups Koji, Gustave, and Miss Asia while they were being walked by dog walker Ryan Fischer. Fortunately, Miss Asia managed to evade the dognappers while Koji and Gustave were returned later on by a woman who was reportedly uninvolved in the dognapping. Mr. Fischer suffered from serious injuries but managed to slowly recover.

Lady Gaga regards her pooches as family members and imposed a $500,000 award for their safe return. To date, suspects have not been identified and no lawsuit has been filed.

“Mother Monster” is no stranger to deranged fans (called Little Monsters), but the motives of the dognappers of her French bulldogs remain undetermined. Were they fans of Gaga or was it a case of random criminals going gaga over the thick coats of the pop star’s Frenchies and deciding to steal them away? Were they plain criminals in need of a payout or were they a bunch of lunatic Little Monsters?

Animals, particularly dogs and similar mammals, could sense wrongdoing, whereas a piece of jewelry being stolen off someone’s hand couldn’t. If anything, the case of Gaga’s pooches shows the difference between stealing a non-living property and a living one.

Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams is the legal team to call for dog bite injuries in Washington state. Contact us or leave us a message.