Doreen Houseman and Eric Dane lived together for over 13 years. They bought a house, became engaged and then purchased a pug named Dexter.
Then like many couples do, they split.
Their oral agreement was that Dexter would go with Doreen when she left the residence.
After one occasion when Eric was taking care of the pug, he refused to return the dog to Doreen.
When she sued for specific performance*, the lower court denied her claim and instead, awarded her $1,500.00 or the original purchase price of the pug.
On appeal, the New Jersey court reversed the lower ruling and wrote that Doreen would have the right to pursue specific performance for the return of her dog.
In reaching its decision, the Court relied on case law that recognizes that animals have a subjective value to their owners. This value is more than the purchase price or replacement cost.
However, that same Court declined to adopt a best-interests-of-the-pet standard as urged by The Animal Legal Defense Fund in the case.
I have seen cases where a guardian has been appointed for animals and custody cases involving dissolutions where pets are involved, in fact, I wrote about one custody case in North Carolina,just last month.
And although I am aware of at leaset one case involving a pet dispute and a writ of replevin, I believe that this is one of the few cases where specific performance is involved.
*Specific performance is a specialized remedy used by courts when no other remedy (such as money) will adequately compensate the other party. If a legal remedy will put the injured party in the position he or she would have enjoyed had the contract been fully performed, then the court will use that option instead. The most common reason courts grant specific performance is that the subject of the contract is unique. When a contract is for the sale of a unique property, mere money damages will not remedy the purchaser's situation.
We are considering the purchase of a horse for our daughter, Katie. She wants to learn to ride, however we are concerned about possibly liability issues? Any help
Susan Cody, Wyoming
Susan, keeping a horse as a pet will present some unique problems. Although, I will add that many owners have done extensive estate planning for their horses.
Many states ( I believe all but CA, MD, NY and NV) have adopted specific statutes regarding equine (horse) activities as they recognize… that persons who participate in or observe equine activities may incur injuries as a result of the numerous inherent risks involved in such activities. The legislature also finds that the state and its citizens derive numerous personal and economic benefits from such activities. It is the purpose of the legislature to encourage owners, trainers, operators and promoters to sponsor or engage in equine activities by providing that no person shall recover for injuries resulting from the risks related to the behavior of equine animals while engaged in any equine activities.
Your state, Wyoming, has a specific statue regarding the liability which severely limits the rights of recovery from those who allege that they have sustained injury as a result of the equine activity.
The full Statute is here, under Wyoming , TITLE 1. CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE. CHAPTER 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS AS TO CIVIL ACTIONS. 1-1-122 -123
But ,The Michigan State University Center for Animal Law states that essentially, the Wyoming equine liability provisions immunize equine professionals by declaring that... those who engage in equine activities or any recreational activities assume the inherent risks in the sport or recreational opportunity. However, actions based upon negligence of the provider wherein the damage, injury or death is not the result of an inherent risk of the sport or recreational opportunity shall be preserved pursuant to W.S. 1-1-109.
Therefore, if you ride or jump a horse and get hurt, you are probably not going to be able to recover from the animal owner or property owner, unless there is some specific negligence that can be attributed to those individuals.
If you are a horse owner, this added statutory protection can be very important.
As always, consult your local attorney and in this case, probably your insurance agent, before you act.
But, many have found that horses makes great pets and are wonderful source of recreation, for you and your children.