We have discussed on many occasions the evolution of the status of pets and companion animals.
They originally were clearly identified as the “personal property” of their owners in the eyes of the Court.
We discussed here that a Naples,Florida couple filed a legal action against their veterinarian for a “writ of replevin” for the return of their dog.
A writ of replevin is a prejudgment process ordering the seizure or attachment of an alleged illegal taking or wrongfully withheld property, goods or chattel (any kind of personal property).
The action of replevin dates all the way back to the common laws of old England and was first used in the thirteenth century. This type of writ is commonly used to take property from an individual wrongfully in possession of that specific property and return it to its rightful owner.
Well, recently a Florida court has provided an expansion of actions for pet owners. (Loli v. Mitvalski)
A Tampa court has held that although the Courts have historically held that pets are mere chattel or personal property, there may be exceptions.
In this case, the owner of a dog incurred over $4,000.00 in vet bills when her dog was attacked by another dog. The Trial Court awarded her the damages for the payment of the bills and the defendant argued that the amount of the award was excessive, as the total value of the injured dog was only $1,200.00.
The Appellate Court agreed with the lower court, upheld the judgment amount and wrote:
"However, as Appellee makes abundantly clear, we are not just talking about a car, a piece of land, or a database. Here, the subject "property" is a pet dog. (We acknowledge that it is not a seeing-eye dog or other specially useful dog). None of the case law submitted takes the instant facts into account. Given the emotional attachment that humans have with their pets, many feel that pets should not be viewed strictly as "chattel," and emerging case law supports a reevaluation of the traditional view...
We do not feel our decision here will open the floodgates of lawsuits seeking excessive damages for injured dogs..."
The legal world of pet owners is changing.
Even in old Florida.