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38 Cap. U. L. Rev. 187 (2009-2010)
Not Your Coffee Table: An Evaluation of Companion Animals as Personal Property

handle is hein.journals/capulr38 and id is 189 raw text is: NOT YOUR COFFEE TABLE: AN EVALUATION OF
Often when a chair or coffee table gets too old or out of style, we toss
it to the curb or give it away, glad that we had made good use of it. We
then run down to our local Pottery Barn and get a new one, with that old
table long forgotten. It is only property after all. Why is it then, when our
pets get too old we do not toss them to the curb and replace them without
second thought? As many state laws and many courts have stated, animals
are merely personal property, and thus, should be treated no differently
than a coffee table.' Yet to most people, their pets are much more than
personal property.2 People have willed their estates to their pets upon
Copyright © 2009, Casey Chapman
* I chose to write this comment based on a personal experience involving a defective
product that injured my animal. Luckily, my animal was fine, but after further research I
discovered that many animals have died or been seriously injured due to this product, and
yet it is still on the shelves. Because there are virtually no damages available to animal
owners whose pets are injured or killed by third parties, culpable offenders often go
unpunished and animal owners uncompensated. Although a defective product prompted me
to write on this topic, the article itself is more general and broader in scope. I hope to
reflect my sincere belief that animals occupy a special place somewhere between humans
and personal property, and that societal values support an expansion of rights for animal
1 See, e.g., CAL. PENAL CODE § 491 (West 1997); MD. ANN. CODE art. 24, § 11-506
(2005); OHio REv. CODE ANN. § 955.03 (West 1994); W. VA. CODE ANN. § 19-20-11
(LexisNexis 2007); Gluckman v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 844 F. Supp. 151, 158 (S.D.N.Y. 1994)
(holding there is no independent cause of action for loss of the companionship of a pet,
which is personal property); Mitchell v. Heinrichs, 27 P.3d 309, 313-14 (Alaska 2001)
(holding dogs have the legal status of personal property and recovery for the wrongful death
of a dog is limited to its market value); Pantelopoulos v. Pantelopoulos, 869 A.2d 280, 284
(Conn. Super. Ct. 2005) (holding the owner of an intentionally killed animal could not
recover for emotional distress); Lockett v. Hill, 51 P.3d 5, 7-8 (Or. Ct. App. 2002) (holding
the owner of a negligently killed animal could not recover for emotional distress); Carbasho
v. Musulin, 618 S.E.2d 368, 371 (W. Va. 2005) (holding sentimental value and emotional
distress are not recoverable when a pet is killed because pets are personally property).
2 See, e.g., Carbasho, 618 S.E.2d at 371 (recognizing the emotional attachment people
have to their pets).

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