I was sent an especially touching photo last night. Unfortunately, since it was one of those forwarded mass emails, I don’t know its origin, attribution or much beyond that I was moved by its tender poignancy.
It reminded me of what lawyer and senator George Graham Vest once argued in a famous case involving a dog. Vest memorably declaimed, “The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.
“A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side.
The sole issue before the Court was “whether a party can recover intrinsic or sentimental damages for the loss of a dog.”
Amazingly, despite the weight of existing law inadequately determining the value of companion animals, the court answered ‘yes.’
In Kathryn and Jeremy Medlen’s case, though, when the shelter euthanized their dog, they did something about the outrage. A wee but important exception under Texas law allows “that where personal property has little or no market value, and its main value is in sentiment, damages may be awarded based on this intrinsic or sentimental value.” 
The Texas Appeals Court applied this exception to Avery’s case. Now this goes against decades and decades of legal precedent in all jurisdictions – – – not only in Texas where “dogs are personal property” . Companion animals are chattel i.e., movable articles of personal property like an inanimate dinner plate or a hairbrush. And this despite that even in a recession, Americans spent $55 billion on companion pets last year and that the veterinary costs of pet care are well over $12 billion annually. Thousands of dollars, for example, are spent on treating canine cancer. When was the last time, anyone spent such sums on a hairbrush, a power tool or a Wedgwood saucer?
So to its inestimable credit, the Texas Appeals Court made national news by distinguishing prior longstanding Texas case authority, Heiligmann v. Rose, which placed a dog’s value on either its market value or some special or pecuniary value to the owner based on the usefulness and services of the dog. 
“Heiligmann does not say that special value is derived ―solely from usefulness or services and that it does not include companionship or sentimental value. Heiligmann says that the value of a dog ―may be ascertained from usefulness or services. 16 S.W. at 932. And nowhere does Heiligmann state what should be considered in assessing the usefulness or services of a dog. It certainly did not rule out companionship or sentimental value. The Heiligmann opinion never uses the term ―intrinsic value or ―sentimental value; therefore, the opinion cannot preclude an award of damages never specifically discussed.”
Although animal shelters, veterinarians, kennel owners and other industry types are decrying the ruling in Texas, claiming it will raise ownership costs, it’s worthy of applause. AND its about time.
It’s long been absurd for the pet industry to feign concern for pet ownership costs while making money on their sentiments – – – that is, until negligent acts are committed. Then they disregard those very sentiments and argue instead that the mutt is like a hairbrush with only fair market value.
“The law should reflect society’s recognition that animals are sentient and emotive beings that are capable of providing companionship to the humans with whom they live.”).
“Dogs are unconditionally devoted to their owners. Today, we interpret timeworn supreme court law in light of subsequent supreme court law to acknowledge that the special value of “man’s best friend” should be protected.”
 City of Tyler v. Likes, 962 S.W.2d 489, 497 (Tex., 1998) and Brown v. Frontier Theatres, Inc., 369 S.W.2d 299, 304-05 (Tex.1963)
 Arrington v. Arrington, 613 S.W.2d 565, 569 (Tex. Civ. App. – Forth Worth 1981, no writ).
 Heiligmann v. Rose, 16 S.W. 931 (Tex.,1891)
Credits: “kisses in the rain (264/365.2),” by Eunice, sleepyneko, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution and share alike distribution; “homeless man and two dogs,” by Simon Aughton, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content for noncommercial use requiring attribution and share alike distribution.