An Atlanta man’s dog was attacked in Piedmont Park recently and his Chau died as a result. As detailed in this article, Dog Dies After Being Attacked At Piedmont Park by a local Atlanta TV Station, this dog was viciously attacked and ultimately died of its bite wounds. This issue has received a lot of press recently and there are strong arguments to be made by dog lovers who claim that it is unfair that all that can be sought under Georgia Law is the value of the animal.
Georgia Property law has long held that animals are chattels or property and when they are injured or killed, the value of the property is what the tortfeasor owes. Over the past month, several lawsuits have brought the issue to the forefront including ones regarding owners whose pets died as a result of melamine poisoning from Chinese dog food. These owners legitimately ask, how will will dissuade this type of behavior by manufacturers when the damages are $800 at worst.
When I represented Liberty Mutual Insurance, we defended several cases involving injuries to animals and I saw the other side of the issue too. If you accidentally run over the neighbors cat, do we want these cases going to suit over the “pain and suffering” of an animal that is impossible to know because they cannot talk? Do we as a society want lawsuits in our courts with multi-thousand dollar hip operations to fix animals injured in car accidents in Atlanta?
I feel badly for the families of these animals, but I don’t think the Court’s can provide the solace these families seek and for now at least I do not advocate the undoing of the property status of animals.