Court: Owners of brutish dogs that maul smaller pets are liable for the cost of veterinary care

The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled today that the owners of a German Shepherd have to pay the $8,000 veterinary bill incurred by the owners of the tiny bichon frise their pet ripped up in Newton in 2008.

The large-breed owners argued that state law should have limited their liability to the "replacement cost" of the smaller dog, which they said was far less than $8,000.

The court, however, said that common law in Massachusetts has long held that "reasonable" veterinary costs are allowable when blame for the injuries is clear, even if they amount to more than the cost of just putting the injured animal down and buying a new one.

The defendants in this case mount no challenge to the reasonableness of the costs incurred other than to argue that it is unreasonable to spend more to treat a dog than it would cost to replace it. Although the market value of the dog is a factor that may be considered, it alone does not demonstrate that the judge erred in awarding the full veterinary costs. The owner of the emergency veterinary facility, an experienced veterinarian, testified that the attack left the dog in profound hypovolemic shock with wounds to the head, neck, abdomen, and chest. Diagnostic tests showed that the dog "was bleeding quite profusely from the abdomen." Blunt crushing wounds to the dog's chest and abdomen had caused one of the dog's liver lobes to bleed and the lobe needed to be surgically removed. Surgery was performed within an hour of the dog's arrival at the facility, and the dog remained there for a few days after the operation. The rest of the dog's recovery took place at home. It was the veterinarian's opinion that the dog would have died without the treatment it received.

The veterinarian also testified that the facility is a twenty-four-hour emergency specialty practice with pricing that is competitive with that of similar facilities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The facility's prices are "based on the American Animal Hospital Association pricing guidelines." Because overhead is high, the facility's profit margin is not. The bills were introduced in evidence, and the veterinarian testified that the costs reflected in them were necessary, fair, and reasonable. In short, the judge's finding that the veterinary costs were reasonable was amply supported by the evidence.

The court added that, unlike with spouses and children, pet owners cannot recover any costs for the emotional pain of watching their pet suffer, because pets are considered property.

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    Comments

    This judgment seems to be

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    This judgment seems to be ridiculous. It's just a dog. Get a new one, get over it.

    Oh, come on now!!

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    This:

    This judgment seems to be ridiculous. It's just a dog. Get a new one, get over it.

    is a rather insensitive remark on your part, Daniel. No matter what kind of a pet one owns, whether it be a dog, a cat, a bird, or any other pet(s), pets are important to people in providing companionship, lessening stress, and they're a wonderful thing to have around. As a pet owner myself (I own a pet Congo African Grey Parrot), I know firsthand the greatness of having pets, and the kind of void that the loss of a pet (which I've also experienced first hand) leaves in one's heart that (.while getting another pet to start another loving relationship with after a period of mourning, and doing research before getting the bird I presently own,) can never be totally filled, no matter what, because memories of the lost pet still linger. That being said, your phrase kind of shows a lack of understanding of what people who've lost pets go through, because pets are not only important to people, but pets become so like and so part of the family.

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    My take on this:

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    What's so ridiculous about making a pet owner whose dog attacks and kills another person's dog or other pet take responsibility for the actions of their pet's behavior? Nothing, as far as I'm concerned. Anybody whose dog attacks and injures or kills somebody else's dog should make restitutions to the aggrieved dog owner and pay the veterinarian bills, and/or to pay for the cremation/burial of the dead pet, and be made to foot at least 50% of the bill if the aggrieved owner decides to get another dog. That's my take on it.

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    Replacement Cost?!?!

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    That actually might be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

    This also sets a good precedent. No matter what size, keep your dogs under control and on a leash.

    Dogs, or any pet for that matter, should never be treated as "property" with a "reasonable market value". Just because you can buy a Bichon Frise for less than $8,000 doesn't mean the animal wasn't worth the cost of medical attention. Ridiculous.

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    Yeah, regardless of the size

    Yeah, regardless of the size of a dog, your dog attacked another. Isn't it just reasonable to expect that you should need to cover the medical costs associated with that attack?

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    36

    When my brother's bichon was attacked ...

    By a Great Dane that had a bad history of jumping the fence and attacking, the owner bent over backwards to pay the vet bills and other expenses to make amends - even showed up at the vet to hand over a credit card.

    Why? Because he knew that he was in serious trouble for not corralling a dog with a history of such behaviour, and was hoping to not get the RCMP involved this time ... Lucky for the Great Dane, my brother and his wife didn't want the attack dog destroyed, just securely fenced, and that got done too.

    Shows exactly what level of a douchebag this German Shepherd owner is for fighting this ... and for not training and controlling his dog properly.

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    I agree 100%. I had a rescue

    By on

    I agree 100%. I had a rescue lab mix that was very agressive towards other dogs. He did get into a tangle with another dog at one point and I fully expected to pay all vet bills and sent flowers to the family as an apology. I don't care who started the fight, but I knew my dog and I wasn't about to make any excuses for him as he quickly turned on this other dog. He was accidently let out of the house by a guest.

    All pet owners need to take responsibility for their pets, they are animals after all.

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    I'm surprised

    I'm surprised they didn't argue for part of the cost of a new Bichon, to account for betterment.

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