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Texas court to hear wrongful death involving animal shelter

When the term wrongful death is heard, many Texas residents may assume it applies only to humans. However, an interesting case is making headlines in Texas about a wrongful death case involving an animal mistakenly put down at a local animal shelter. The state's Supreme Court has agreed to hear the arguments surrounding this case in order to decide whether the couple involved could receive damages due to the death of their pet.

This trial is being closely watched by those in the legal and veterinarian fields because it could become a precedent in animal law. If the Supreme Court allows the couple to receive damages, it could potentially overhaul the law allowing grieving pet owners the opportunity to be awarded greater damages than allowed even for the death of close relatives.

This wrongful death occurred when the Texas couple's animal managed to escape their back yard and was taken by animal control. When the man went to get his dog back, he couldn't afford to pay the required fee. He was told he could return with the money later and that the animal would be held at the shelter with an order to not euthanize. However, when he returned again, his pet had been put down. The man and his wife sued the shelter worker, but when the case headed to trial the judge dismissed the case. They appealed that ruling and the judge overturned the prior verdict and sent the case back to the trial court. The shelter employee appealed that verdict and requested the case be dismissed entirely. Oral arguments in this case are scheduled to be heard in January of next year.

Although wrongful death is something that most people equate with family members, but it is understandable that pet owners consider their animals as a part of their family. If the case proceeds, the Texas couple could very well receive negligence related damages and change the entire field of law. Any time someone loses a person or even an animal they are close to due to the potential negligence of someone else, it can be difficult to accept. Fortunately civil action can be a legal avenue that people turn to when they wish to hold someone accountable for actions harming their loved ones.

Source: DVM360.com, "Texas Supreme Court agrees to hear emotional damages case," Sept. 26, 2012

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