There is an interesting lawsuit filed by a military contractor, American K-9 Detection Services, against Indian Creek Enterprises Inc. and Live Animal Transportation Services for the death of 14 bomb-sniffing dogs being shipped to Afghanistan.
The dogs died at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport on Dec. 21, 2010 after being kept in a sealed, unventilated truck.
Helping the negligence claim is a certification by a veterinarian that the dogs were in good health when delivered. When the dogs could not be put on a flight, the company was assured that they would be boarded in the terminal’s kennel and warehouse overnight. When the company employees, however, arrived the next morning, they found the dogs dead and blood on the cages — a sign that they had struggled to get out of their cages.
A standard problem for pet owners is that pets are often valued for their market rather than their personal value. In the case of these dogs, the market value would include intensive training and breeding. However, as a business enterprise, the company would not likely secure the alternative form of damages — emotional distress of the owner. The latter form of damages is often the greatest form of relief in such cases.
The status of pets or animals as a form of chattel or property is often a barrier to recovery — and adds insult to injury for victims. For example in the Gluckman case (GluckmanVAA1994) a New York court followed an earlier ruling that “New York law does not permit recovery for mental suffering and emotional disturbance as an element of damages for loss of a passenger’s property.” Unfortunately, that status of pets as chattel could reduce the incentive for airlines in taking greater levels of protection for the animals.