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May-23-2006 23:01printcomments

Judge Rejects Part of Dog Lawsuit Claim

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(PORTLAND AP) - An Estacada family seeking $1.6 million for the death of their dog cannot be compensated for loss of companionship, a Clackamas County judge decided Tuesday.

The judge threw out the claim but will allow the jury to decide if the family should be paid for punitive damages and intentional infliction of emotional stress, The Oregonian reported on its web site Tuesday.

Circuit Judge Eve Miller said loss of animal companionship was not "a viable theory under Oregon law." She said there is no precedent for loss of companionship and that it was up to other courts or the state legislature to establish the concept.

The issue ended up in court after a 2004 incident in which a neighbor ran over Grizz, a 14-year-old cocker spaniel-Labrador retriever mix owned by Mark Greenup and his family.

The event injured the dog so badly that the family decided it would be best to euthanize the animal.

Raymond E. Weaver, the neighbor, was convicted of first-degree animal abuse.

The family sued him for $1.625 million under a number of claims, including loss of companionship.

If the family had been successful in pursuing the loss of companionship claim, animal law experts said it could have radically changed the definition of the relationship between owners and their pets.

But the judge's decision is consistent with the centuries-old legal tradition of defining pets as property and measuring their economic worth by market value, instead of by emotional value.

Pet owners and animal law experts have argued for years that killing a pet is different from destroying property, but courts have been not been receptive to that argument.

The trial is expected to last up to four days.

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