It’s usually (if not always) an uphill battle for pet owners to collect anything more than the “market value” of a pet that’s been injured due to someone’s negligence, incompetence, or intentional acts. Think about trying to calculate the market value of a pet: How much is that senior mutt you adopted for $60 from the shelter 6 years ago worth today? Should we account for depreciation, like we do when calculating the market value of a car?
Under the law, when personal property is damaged by someone the owner of the property can recover either the difference in market value immediately before and after the injury, or the cost of repairs, whichever is less. If property can’t be completely repaired, the owner of the property will get the difference between its value before the harm and its value after the repairs have been made, plus the reasonable cost of making the repairs.
Obviously, market value doesn’t take into account the intrinsic value an animal holds for its owners (which, if you ask most pet owners, is “priceless”) but that’s what pet owners have often been stuck with until now. Thanks to a recent ruling by a California Appellate Court, pet owners are now going to have a much easier time collecting the money they spent trying to put their pets back together again after someone injured them.
In an opinion filed on October 23, 2012,
the California Court of Appeal held that a pet’s owner is not
limited to the market value of the pet but instead, may recover the reasonable and necessary costs incurred for the treatment and care of the pet attributable to the injury.
What’s remarkable about this ruling is that while animals are still considered personal property under the law, the Court recognized that pets’ value cannot be calculated the same way the value of a pullout sofa can.
In explaining its reasoning the Court pointed out that a California Evidence Code section allows a court to determine the value of property “for which there is no relevant, comparable market, by “any method of valuation that is just and equitable.”
The Court also said that laws criminalizing animal abuse “underscore the Legislature’s view that animals are a distinct and specially protected form of property.” The Court concluded that “given the Legislature’s solicitude for the property care and treatment of animals, and the array of criminal penalties for the mistreatment of animals, as well as the reality that animals are living creatures, the usual standard of recovery for damaged personal property – market value – is inadequate when applied to injured pets.”
Siding with the pet owner plaintiffs in the case, the Court agreed that an injured pet’s owner should be able to recover the reasonable and necessary costs they incurred treating and caring for the pet after it was injured. A defendant, of course, is always free to present evidence that the costs weren’t
reasonable or necessary. So what do you think? If I choose to spend $37, 766 to save my dog’s life should the person who caused the injury be forced to reimburse me for the costs? Should there be a limit, or a cap, to how much the person who injured a pet should be forced to pay? Leave A Comment Below & Share Your Thoughts Now! 
2012 Cal.App. Lexis 1098; Eliseo Martinez Jr. v. Enrique Robledo and Margaret Workman v. Stephen Klause.
In a recent California case, a court held that intentionally beating and/or killing an opossum doesn’t constitute animal cruelty.
In March 2008 officers were called to the home of a man and the man’s son after someone called to report that a man and his son had beaten a mother opossum with a shovel. When they arrived, officers found a seriously injured adult mother opossum and 3 dead baby opossums (joeys). According to statements taken at the scene, the mother opossum was fighting with the suspects’ dogs in the backyard of the suspects’ home. At some point one of the suspects placed a laundry basket over the opossum and pushed/dragged the opossum from the backyard to the front yard and driveway.
One of the two suspects used a shovel to flip the basket over. Someone touched the opossum with the shovel and the opossum, which had been “playing dead,” jumped up and began hissing and running around in circles. The opossum then crossed the street. A witness told the police that one of the suspects struck the opossum in the head with a shovel 3 times, while the other suspected aided him.
The suspect(s) denied hitting the opossum with a shovel.
The police officers arrested the suspects for cruelty to animals. The suspects sued the city and the arresting officers for false arrest, saying that while they didn’t beat the opossum(s), even if they had
, beating an opossum with a shovel doesn’t constitute cruelty to animals and, therefore, they should never have been arrested.
The court acknowledged that in California the law prohibits the intentional and malicious wounding or killing of animals, and that the word “animal” is defined as being “any dumb creature.” In its unpublished opinion
, however, the court said that while the law in California prohibits intentionally and maliciously killing animals, that law doesn’t apply to opossums because another law gives people the right to destroy animals “known as dangerous to life, limb, or property” and opossums fall into that category.
The court said that the officers “had no probable cause to arrest the suspects because the act the officers believed they had committed – trying to kill the opossum by hitting it with a shovel – isn’t a crime.” Because “a reasonable officer could not have believed the arrests of the suspects were lawful
,” the arrests “violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights.” Since the court held that the officers had no right to the immunity, which is afforded to officers who are lawfully acting within the course and scope of their duties, the officers can be personally sued.
There are people who believe that, published or unpublished, when law enforcement hears about this case they will be reluctant – even afraid – to arrest someone for animal cruelty if the victim animal in the case is something other than the typical animals people have as pets, like cats and dogs.
The case raises other issues: Are possums more dangerous to life, limb, or property than feral cats that may kill birds and destroy flowerbeds and cars they climb on? Are opossums more dangerous to life, limb, or property than raccoons? Than pigeons? How about rabbits? Will it become open season on opossums and other not-so-cute animals like rats, or pigeons as a result of this case?
And for the record, people HAVE
been charged and prosecuted for animal cruelty where the victim was an opossum. How do YOU feel about this case? Do you think the court made the right decision? Should the officers lose their immunity? Should the suspects get off so easily (or at all)?
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK NOW… 
An unpublished opinion cannot be cited to or mentioned by attorneys in court.
As a result of undercover video shot by an investigator with the group Mercy For Animals the Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford, California was shut down by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pending an investigation into images of employees engaging in what has been called severe abuse.
According to a recent report by CNN U.S.
, three U.S. Congressman are lobbying the Department of Agriculture to reopen the Central Valley Meat Co., citing the economic stress they say the closure would place on the local community. In a letter written to the Secretary of Agriculture, the three Congressmen said that the USDA had inspectors at the plant during the time the video was shot yet, according to them, none of the inspectors noted any non-compliance with USDA laws during the time the inspectors were present.
One of the Congressmen who supports reopening the facility, Devin Nunes, was asked what he thought of the images in the video. His response was, “It's a tough business. Killing animals is not an easy business. The key point here is to make sure that everything is investigated and if any laws were broken." 
While Congressman Nunes’ statement seems suggest that the acts seen in the undercover video may be part of the normal day-to-day business of slaughtering animals, the question is, should those interested in filming and publicizing activities in animal facilities have a right to do so without fear they may be prosecuted?  Congressmen call on USDA to reopen slaughterhouse - CNN.com http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/24/us/california-slaughterhouse-video/index.html
In 2008 the Humane Society of the United States secretly videotaped employees at a Chino, California slaughterhouse using forklifts to pick up and roll cows, repeatedly shocking cows with electricity, and using high-pressure water hoses to shoot water into the cows’ nostrils. This was all done in an effort to get cows - too weak or too sick to stand or walk - past inspectors so they could be slaughtered. One of the employees seen in the tape later said that throughout the 23 years he worked at the slaughterhouse, the company regularly used forklifts and other “improper techniques” to forcibly move cows.1The undercover video led to a massive beef recall and the prosecution of two employees and a supervisor for animal cruelty. The slaughterhouse, which supplied meat for the National School Lunch Program, lost its contract with the government and, after the USDA withdrew inspection of the facility, was forced to close its doors. Just today another animal welfare group, Compassion Over Killing, released a video reminiscent of the Humane Society’s video, showing employees at a Central Valley California slaughterhouse repeatedly beating, shocking, and shooting “downed” cows before they were slaughtered. The video was filmed over a two-week period this past June by a Compassion Over Killing undercover investigator, who was employed by the slaughterhouse. Since the video was presented to authorities federal regulators have suspended operations at the facility and prosecutors are deciding whether to file criminal charges against the people are seen in the video abusing the cows.If the undercover videotaping of the abuses in these slaughterhouses had taken place in another state, it’s possible the people behind the camera would have been prosecuted instead of the abusive employees. It is a growing trend to pass laws that make it a crime to enter an agricultural operation or an animal facility, such as a slaughterhouse, and take unauthorized, or undercover, images. Known by their opponents as “Ag-Gag” laws, these statutes are intended to prevent whistleblowers from documenting – and then publicizing – abuses that take place in facilities where animals are raised and killed for food.Should whistleblowers, some of whom purposely take jobs in animal facilities using false credentials for the sole purpose of photographing animal abuse, face criminal charges? Those who support “Ag-Gag” laws insist the laws are necessary in order to fight a politically-motivated agenda waged by activists who are trying to disrupt, or destroy, agriculture businesses. It can be said that vetting and training sham “employees” is a waste of a business’ resources, and filming employees who are abusing animals is actually nothing more than vigilantism. It can also be argued that taking pictures or videos without permission should be prohibited because what’s seen on videotape can’t necessarily be trusted; the images could be edited or taken out of context in order to make a facility – or its employees – look bad. Proponents of “AG-Gag” laws have also argued that videotaping by activists is unnecessary because animal facilities are regularly inspected, which prevents abuses from occurring, and if someone suspects abuse is taking place, he/she should contact local authorities.Those who oppose “Ag-Gag” laws say that such laws impede free speech and by making it a crime to photograph or videotape abuses, it gives those who work in animal facilities carte blanche to do what they want to animals without fear of being exposed. Countering the argument that regular inspections of animal facilities prevent abuses from taking place, some opponents of “Ag-Gag” laws hold that inspections of animal facilities are ineffective. The investigator who secretly videotaped the abuses that took place at the Chino slaughterhouse was quoted as saying that the inspection system is an easy one to circumvent2 and there are those who assert that inspectors who have forged relationships with managements or supervisors in facilities they inspect, may alert the facilities to upcoming inspections. And even if people were to report their suspicions that abuse is taking place at a particular facility, local authorities – and the law itself – would require actual evidence to corroborate the suspicions. What better evidence is there, they say, than photographs or videotape?Another concern raised by opponents of the “Ag-Gag” laws involves food safety issues. There’s a reason that “downed” animals, animals too weak or too ill to stand, aren’t allowed to be slaughtered and consumed; if it’s the common practice of a facility to do whatever it takes to get a sick animal to stand up – no matter how cruel or inhumane that practice may be – to get the “okay for slaughter” from an inspector, everyone should be interested in having that practice exposed. At the base of it, many who oppose “Ag-Gag” laws are simply interested in seeing to it that those who harm animals not be in a position where they can hurt and abuse them day after day. Regardless of whether those animals sleep in front of a hearth in someone’s living room, or end up on someone’s dinner plate. So what do you think? Should people who secretly videotape and expose animal cruelty without permission be charged with a crime? Write in with your comments and let us know where you stand. To read more about this issue and the articles referred to here, go to the links below:1 http://www.insidesocal.com/sb/iecourts/2008/09/westlandhallmark-slaughterhous.html2 http://www.pe.com/local-news/reports/beef-recall/beef-recall-headlines/20080202-undercover-investigator-behind-chino-slaughterhouse-video-wont-forget-sights.ecehttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0822-slaughterhouse-20120822,0,1444137.storyhttp://www.animalpeoplenews.org/08/3/slaughterhousecruelty0308.htmhttp://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/26/who-protects-the-animals/http://rt.com/usa/news/ag-gag-iowa-law-872/http://www.pe.com/local-news/reports/beef-recall/beef-recall-headlines/20080202-undercover-investigator-behind-chino-slaughterhouse-video-wont-forget-sights.ecehttp://animalrights.about.com/od/animallaw/a/What-Are-Ag-Gag-Laws-And-Why-Are-They-Dangerous.htm