For almost 30 years, it has been legal practice for people to be given some sort of financial dowry for emotional concepts such as "loss of companionship" and "emotional distress" when their human companions have been killed. But in the eyes of the court, pets have never held the same value.
"There has always been a way to value human life through the jury," says Geordie Duckler, the attorney representing Brock. "I don't see the difference between human and animal value." This past June, an Oregon judge agreed and allowed the novel concept to stand. For the first time in the nation, a case recognizing the emotional value between owner and pet is going to trial.
Slowly, the concept of animal torts is gaining legal footing. Last May, Tennessee passed the legislation to provide for non-economic damage. In Oregon, The Animal Legal Defense Fund proposed a similar bill (SB 166), but it failed.
Even so, Duckler, who testified on behalf of the bill, believes that Oregon can become a leader for animal torts and is optimistic about future changes to the law here. "The community, public, and even the judges are very sympathetic to animal owners because many of them can understand the bond that develops between an animal and its owner from their own experiences as pet owners," he says.
On Friday and Saturday, Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark will host its annual Animal Law Conference. Lectures will include information about compensation for killed pets as well as a variety of topics from humane slaughter to the animal rights movement.