The Price of Love: Are Dogs Just Property?

Dog's death causing emotional distress, says Va. man

How much is your dog worth to you? We're not talking about adoption fees or breeder prices -- but can you put a price on love?

This is the question facing an Arlington County jury, which may inadvertently redefine Virginia property law next week, reports The Washington Post.

A Virginia man is suing his former domestic partner for severe emotional distress after the death of their dog, Buster. Jeffrey Nanni alleges that as he held the 12-pound Chihuahua, Maurice Smith hit them both with a wooden board. Buster died as Nanni was rushing him to the vet.

Virginia law considers pets to be personal property, meaning their owners can only recoup the financial value of the animal if it's injured or killed. The court will have to decide whether family pets and livestock on a farm should continue to be considered essentially the same thing.

Reports the Post:

"If you ask somebody if their animal companion is worth only the cost of the animal, people will look at you like you're crazy," said [Nanni's attorney, Lanny] Davis, a partner with the firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe who has taken the case pro bono.

Nanni filed his lawsuit in the Arlington Circuit Court in May. He accuses Smith of assault and battery, unlawful killing of a dog and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Nanni is suing Smith for no less than $15,000 in damages.

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