But the question that has made its way to the state’s highest court is not about whether the kennel caused Lola’s death. It’s about what damages the Monyaks are owed. Barking Hound Village argues that Lola was property, and the Monyaks are entitled only to her “market value” — which, because she was a free rescue mutt, is nothing. The Monyaks want to recover the $67,000 in veterinary and other expenses they say they spent, and they also want a jury to be able to consider Lola’s “actual value” to their family, such as their feelings for her.
“Our position is a dog is not fungible. It’s not like you throw it in the trash can and get another dog,” Elizabeth Monyak said. “We didn’t want another 8-year-old dachshund. We wanted Lola.”
The case is a classic example of the divide between the public’s beliefs about the value of pets and the law’s colder view of them as property, said David Favre, a law professor and expert on animal law at Michigan State University. A few legal changes have chipped at the edges of this boundary, he said, noting that people can now create trust provisions for their pets, which is an acknowledgement that they aren’t the same kind of property as a table or lawnmower.