Can You Put a Price Tag on Your Dog’s Life?

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Readers, dog owners, can I ask you a question? Or, actually, a few related questions:

If you had to put a dollar figure on it, what would your dog’s life be worth to you? How would you justify that figure?

And, for those of you who have actually HAD TO put a dollar figure on your dog’s life in a lawsuit, or who received compensation after your dog’s life was taken by another – whether through negligence or cruelty or whatever: How much compensation were you able to receive?

Another dog lost his life unnecessarily

I’m asking these questions as I ponder the story of a friend’s pup, who was killed as he lay, on leash, at a public park, by two off-leash dogs, in front of my friend, his nine-year-old daughter, her friend, and other children and parents. I just can’t fully fathom the emotional damage done to my friend and especially his daughter, who had just completed a “puppy kindergarten” training class with her beloved dog. My friend’s daughter, an active, athletic girl, has told her dad she doesn’t want to play at the park anymore, it hurts too much. Is there a price you can put on this pain?

The owner of the attacking dog had released his dogs to run off-leash, in violation of the local leash laws. In my mind, that makes him liable for a bit more in damages, should a suit find him responsible for the loss of my friend’s pup and damages for the bites my friend sustained as he tried to save his pup from the aggressors. But the owner of those dogs stayed at the scene and took responsibility for the dogs, and, in fact, surrendered the dog most responsible for the puppy’s death to the responding animal control officer and requested that the dog be euthanized. Should that act reduce his legal liability?

What does the law say about this?

It’s my understanding that, in this country, dogs are legal property, and their loss is not treated or compensated-for as the loss of a human family member would be. But, as I sit here looking at photos my friend sent me of his happy daughter and her puppy at Christmas, and of the slain puppy and his attackers at the park a few weeks later, waiting for an animal control officer to arrive, I just can’t square the price of a puppy’s purchase with the loss my friend’s family has suffered.

I don’t even know if my friend will pursue a lawsuit or settlement, and of course there is no way of knowing how a judge might rule on such a case, or whether the marauding dogs’ owner feels any responsibility or has a homeowner’s insurance policy or some other way to attempt to compensate my friend for his family’s loss and suffering. I’m just so sad, thinking about it. What is a dog’s life actually worth today?

*A note from Nancy Kerns

In response to the many comments left by our readers, I wanted to state the following:

This is a really upsetting story, I know; I had not yet even met my friend’s puppy, but had seen pictures of his daughter and the pup together, and yet, as I have been discussing the tragedy with my friend and thinking about it – imagining it – I have been in tears several times a day. Awful!

However, I really am hoping to get more answers to the questions at the outset of the post. If you *could* name the price that you would accept for the loss of your dog, how would you set a value on his life? And, more reality-based, if you or someone you know had a dog who was killed through no fault of your own, and if you sought or received compensation for your loss, how was that compensation determined?

Also, I would like it to be known that the attacking dogs were not pit bulls – and their breed is beside the point. I have removed a post or two that was targeting pit bulls, as the breed was in no way relevant in this case. These dogs had been let off leash in a public park that has a leash law, near a children’s playground – that is the point here.

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Nancy Kerns has edited horse and dog magazines since graduating the San Francisco State University Journalism program in 1990. The founding editor of Whole Dog Journal in 1998, Nancy regularly attends cutting-edge dog-training conferences including those for the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Pet Professional Guild, Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and Clicker Expo. To stay on top of industry developments, she also attends pet industry trade shows such as Global Pet and SuperZoo, educational conferences of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and Pet Food Industry’s Pet Food Forum. As a regular volunteer for her local animal shelter, the Northwest SPCA in Oroville, CA, she fosters large litters of puppies and helps train wayward adolescent dogs in order to increase their chances of adoption. Nancy shares her life with her husband and two canine alumni of the NWSPCA, mixed-breed Otto (whose adorably fuzzy visage was incorporated into WDJ’s masthead some years ago) and Pit/Lab-mix Woody. 

127 COMMENTS

  1. FIRST…this is the very reason I don’t go to dog parks. We have a membership at one, however they have 3 LARGE, fenced areas that are “Private” in that if you are signed in, ONLY you and your dog(s) are allowed in.
    That said, I cannot even fathom the experience of what your friend witnessed! I would be distraught and inconsolable. I’ve been in the legal field for over 30 years, but I couldn’t begin to guess or put a number on what my dog is worth to me. She’s priceless. My soul would be so damaged. I’ll be interested to see what others have to say.

    • I agree Christina. I have never faced this problem but thinking how I would put a value on my beloved Callie who I waited 30 years to have a pet dog. Having kept all her Vet records and statements over the years, that would be considered. In other words what has it taken to keep her healthy and well. I might even consider the expense of all the obedience, therapy, and Canine Good Citizen trainings that I paid for to help make her the companion she is today. Then of course the price paid for her. You see where I am going with this, her monetary value is going to be very high.
      Any owner who breaks the law by unleashing his/her dogs that kills another dog is, in my book, liable for all damages. Period!

  2. I believe the owner should be held liable. First, the animals should not have been allowed off leash if they were in the least bit aggressive. Possibly not be allowed at the park at all without proper training.
    Second, not only did your friend lose a cherished member of the family (yes, I count my dog as family), but those dogs will possibly/probably lose their lives due to his negligence. even worse, unless this person decides to take steps to ensure this never happens again, this will, quite possibly, happen again. 🙁

    • I just want to elaborate that whether they were “the least bit aggressive” or not ever aggressive, leash laws are supposed to be adhered to, yet too many people feel their dog is not “aggressive” and listens to them, etc. . . . truth is, dogs are pack animals and sometimes for no apparent reason, with no past history, can suddenly become aggressive to another animal (dog, human, etc.), and in packs, they often get into a frenzy. My point is that, dogs, unless they are in their own back yard with appropriate fencing, or somewhere they are allowed to be off leash, should be leashed and therefore their owner needs to be held accountable. A stop light and/or stop sign mean stop, it’s a way to protect our lives, would that person go through a stop sign, kill someone and think that simply by handing over their car keys, that is the end of it?

  3. I agree, I don’t go to dog parks, not worth taking a chance. My dog is priceless to me and no amount of money would ever be sufficient. She is a therapy dog and priceless to many others as well. Thankfully, the owner took responsibility but he/she was reckless in letting the dogs loose in the first place.

    • I can’t see where to comment at top blog, but agree with being cautious about one’s dog. I don’t walk mine or take to any park. Let them play in back yard and inside house instead. I am not sure what I’d do if were in apartment setting? Have seen few cases on tv news where dogs were attacked on leash walking with family member by off leash or loose lost dogs on walks. I do wish they could interact with other dogs, but area I love in doesn’t have that without added risks. I feel our dogs are far worth more than any adoption fees or money spent on them too. We are also careful to always supervise outdoor yard breaks, so as to avoid pet theft. Pet theft has grown even in US, but become epidemic in certain parts of world. I even went so far as to have dogs DNA test done in case I ever need to prove they’re mine in case of being lost and not returned, as microchips are not always helpful. They are family and no money in work paid back from any incident could ever compensate for loss of our loved pet family member. We love our dog so much, and they make us smile every day, I never take chances on their safety.

      • Yes! We are going to move to a situation where we will not have a back yard. We will have a patio area and the rest of the grounds are common area. So walking on a leash will be my dogs’ only serious exercise. Which is fine. But I am hyper vigilant about other dogs and quickly move to the opposite side of the street if approached by people and large dogs. Mine are small Boston terriers. I find that even nice people can be quite stupid about allowing their dogs and/or small children to approach without asking. I love my dogs with all my heart. They are not replaceable at any price.

  4. Oh man. I can’t put a number on my dogs’ lives, just can’t. I mean, I did pay their shelter adoption fees, and maybe that’d be the legal worth, but no… Dogs are part of your life in ways that can’t be paid for in money. My sincere condolences to your friend and his daughter and all the other children who were there. I am relieved that the other dogs’ owner took responsibility and didn’t try to blame the puppy or your friend. That seems like such a low bar, but so many stories are of aggressive dogs and their irresponsible owners.

    • I can’t even think of an amount I could accept as compensation for either of my dogs. That said I would make the criminal (yes I said criminal) owner of the responsible dog pay as much as legally allowed and then donate it to a responsible pet agency.

  5. That experience (especially for the young girl) was taumatizing to say the least. I am not a lawyer, but anyone can sue for anything, and I believe that emotional distress is soemthing to be considered. In 1997, I lost a 4 year old AKC Obedience titled dog, therapy dog and beloved companion to a botched neutering by an incompetent veterinarian. He was healthy, with no underlying problems prior to surgery. That vet was very quick to hand over cash in the hopes that I would not sue. Since I was pregnant at the time, I chose not to sue but in honor of my lost dog, I told everyone I knew to stay away from that vet hospital! That was pre-social media, it would have been a much more effective tactic today! More recently, one of my dogs needed surgery in both knees for fully torn ligaments-it was very expensive ($12,000), so I suppose I did put a dollar amount on his life. Consider, age, health status, and ability to pay as decision making. I hope o have at least another 6 years with him!

  6. Appears this did not occur at a dog park, but a public park. That said, it becomes less about about the compensation for the dog who was killed and more about psychological damage to those who witnessed it and risked/incurred injury as a result of the incident. Our dogs are priceless emotionally but everything has a value, esp in the legal world and I’m sure a reputable personal injury attorney would not hesitate to get hold of this case.

  7. I would NEVER take my dog to a dog park. She’s a tiny 9 pound Shichon. I’m afraid to let her loose at my house off leash, in the case there is another loose dog roaming the neighborhood who could attack her. Just the thought of her being at a park with many off leash dogs makes me shiver. I see these types of cases on judge shows almost everyday, which deepens my fear. If the dog survives the attack, the owner is usually compensated for vet bills only. People are awarded an amount as well if the dog does not survive. People who own large dogs and let them off leash should be sued, period. Negligence at the highest!

    • Angela…just an FYI…I have a 77 lb working line, Black German Shepherd. We were at a public park (and in our State and County there are leash laws) one day for a walk when a Papillon mix OFF LEASH came barreling at my dog. Being a well trained dog, mine sat, at my side without budging. Even after I yelled at the owner to “GET YOUR DOG” she nonchalantly walked toward us. I reiterated “YOU BETTER GET YOUR DOG” and then I stood between my dog and the path her’s was taking and firmly shouted “NO!” The little dog stopped dead in its tracks, but my point is little dogs can be just as aggressive as big dogs and having had large black dogs my whole life, it’s always the Shepherd or Lab or Pit’s fault. I would expect ANY dog to defend itself if being attacked. ANYone who lets ANY dog (little breeds included) off leash in a public area should be held accountable. Its NOT the dog’s fault and size shouldn’t matter.

      • I absolutely agree. I too have a large dog on leash where the owner let their “little” dog off leash and it came barreling after my dog. I am a very responsible pet owner and my dogs are always trained. I cringe seeing dogs off leash by unsuspecting and non-responsible owners. The ones whose dog charges after mine are given an earful of their stupidity and lack of responsibility. 😣

      • Deb, Wonderfully expressed 100% valid point: Letting any dog off leash in on-leash areas where the assumption is that no dogs will be running up to one’s dog or person is reckless due to the potential consequence for all involved, including that of the small off-leash dog. As well, you are correct about the undue blame and consequence falling on a larger, leashed dog defending itself. All around, the scenario reminds me of the dynamic of a parent blithely letting a small child run freely in an area with traveling cars with the rationale that a child may not put much of a dent in a car were he/she to run in front of one. Just doesn’t make sense.

        Many years ago, when walking a friend’s pregnant Rottweiler and their other dog on their private community beach which allowed leashed dogs, a fellow member let her big dog and small dog run up to us saying “They’re friendly!” She ignored my exclamation “She is NOT!” As I write this three decades later, I still shake at the memory of the Rottie biting into that poor little dog while I focused on her larger dog. Not knowing what to do, I ended up repeatedly kicking the beloved Rottie whom I devotedly cared for and was walking responsibly.
        The injured little dog lived and the woman took us to court. After weeks of intense worry and the woman missing the first court date, our hearing lasted about a minute: once the judge asked which dogs were on leash and which were not, the case was dismissed. Thankfully the woman was honest about the leashing. Legal proceedings aside, all involved suffered due to the woman’s reckless decision.

        That such reckless endangerment of dogs big and small continues to this day is mind-boggling to me.
        (PS The Rottie was impregnated by an off-leash hormone driven male who had fixated on the house during the Rottie’s heat and broke in through a cellar window (And yes if the were Rottie were mine, she would have been spayed!))

        • Lily, Talk about wonderfully expressed! I really appreciate your reply. You strike me as an honest, educated lady with a truck load of common sense. Thank you again, that was very interesting. Sorry you had your day ruined because some idiot thought since my dogs are friendly I do not have to obey the leash laws. And I’m sorry you had to go through the stress and aggravation of court. But I’m glad you went before a Judge that also had good common sense.

      • I agree 100%. My 6 yo female is medium sized (45 lbs) and is aggressive to other dogs because she got attacked as a 2yo. I’ve worked with her non-stop to tone down the aggression. She’s better and I never take her off leash unless in our home or in our fenced yard. However, I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to a public park and I’ve gone the opposite way of an off-leash dog and had that dog run towards mine. I’ve politely asked the owners to ‘please restrain your dog’ to no avail. My dog is pretty agile and quick and when she’s been attacked (since that initial encounter at 2) she’s usually had the attacking dog on the ground in 15 seconds. I’ve stepped in and separated them (got bit once) and no dogs have actually been hurt, but I imagine if she killed another dog who was off leash in a leash required area who attacked my dog, I would be sued. Too many irresponsible dog owners I say!!

      • Deb, I agree completely with your comment that the dogs size should not matter. When people talk about size of the dog, too often they are using that to make their decision about the dog’s behavior rather than the dog’s actual behavior.

    • The other thing people forget about is that mixing on-leash and off-leash dogs can most often create an aggressive situation in the fact that the leashed dog feels at a disadvantage to even greet in the same way let alone defend itself. There are leash laws for a reason. Not all people feel comfortable around strange dogs and some dogs feel that way too. These laws are for everyone’s safety. We have a lot of trouble on hiking trails that have leash laws. Our dog likes other dogs, but does not like to be surprised by an off-leash dog coming around a corner out of nowhere, so he barks and then we get accused of having an aggressive dog. He is a herding dog and is doing his job to alert us. Most of the time he would roll over or walk away, but if the dog gets pushy he will snarl. Not to mention that he is always on leash and is not the one breaking the law. Sorry for the rant. That is horrible what happened to your friend and his family. I don’t know if I could put a price on my dog. I know the courts wouldn’t understand how much my dog means to me in order to properly compensate for the loss and trauma, especially if I had to witness his death.

    • I think I’ve said this before, but it’s very pertinent here. This has been years ago and the dogs involved are no longer with us. My husband took two of our Danes out for a walk around the neighborhood. All of the sudden, a very small mix-breed dog rushed out of his unfenced yard, ran across the street, and attacked our male Dane. My husband tried to pull the dog off and the dog turned and bit my husband. That is when our male Dane picked the little dog up and then dropped him. Needless to say, the little dog was severely hurt (and later died). We felt just awful, even though this was not our nor our dogs’ fault. The little dogs’ owner was not at home and we took both our male Dane and the little dog to the vet (where the little dog died). My husband had to go to the emergency room for his bite. It was a mess. Then the little dog’s owner tried to sue us and have our dogs taken away saying that they were “dangerous dogs”. Fortunately, two neighbors were out and saw exactly what happened and he decided not to sue. Animal control paid a visit, spoke to the eye witnesses and our dogs were deemed not dangerous and animal control cited the man for breaking the leash laws. BTW, we paid for the little dog’s vet bill. I do not believe our Dane meant to harm the little dog, but he certainly wasn’t going to let the little dog attack him and my husband without doing anything. I think our Dane was well within his right to get the little dog to break off his attack. I think it was just a terrible situation of very huge dog tells very little dog that what very little dog is doing is totally unacceptable. We did have a very small dog at home at that time, and she and our male Dane were best buds–he never tried to harm her in any way (and she could do just about anything–steal his food, steal his toy, and he’d let her). Upshot: don’t let your dog run loose, you can be attacked just walking down the street (our dogs were on a leash, by the way), and socialize your dogs to other dogs. If you have a large dog, be sure to socialize them to small dogs. If you have small dogs, be certain you socialized them to large dogs. In rescue, we have issues all the time with little dogs that aren’t socialized to large dogs that then become aggressive toward the larger dogs. We’ve not had another incident where a little dog was hurt, but if you fail to socialize your small dog to larger ones, be prepared for problems if you happen to see a large dog out on a walk, in a pet supply store, at the vet’s office, etc. If your little dog displays aggression and the larger dog says “stop it”, your little dog may be hurt badly.

    • another fear with a small dog is being snatched up by hawks and eagles -it happens. As for dog parks – NEVER, EVER, EVER is there a reason to take your dog to a dog park. I realize this happened in a public park and the big dogs’ owner was negligent but having his aggressive dog put down does not begin to cover the loss this family suffered. Unfortunately in most places dogs are simply property, as would be a bicycle, wagon, etc. Courts will award the purchase price and MAYBE any vet expenses/medical bills from the attack but that’s all. Sort of keeping with courts for humans……the aggressor is treated with kid gloves while the victim gets nothing but harassment.

    • Angela, I have had German Shepherds for over 20 years, six were permanent residents in my home and over 50 were foster dogs who were also German Shepherds. The ONE TIME I was bitten by a dog was when I was attempting to help a stray Chihuahua. I was badly bitten on both hands. The size of the dog isn’t as relevant as the temperament of the dog, and whether or not the dog is being adequately supervised by an attentive, responsible person.

  8. The sole cause of this tragedy was the owner. First of all, he disobeyed the law. Second, his dog or dogs were likely not properly socialized , what training did theses dogs ever receive? Again a likely poor judgement call on the part of the owner. It seems unlikely that this was a first offense by the dog or dogs.
    The city or county ought to have a training program which is required mandatory attendance which educates these owners as a consequence of their offense . Perhaps Animal Control could specialize in this training.
    This training should include education on dog behavior in packs (2 or more) , the value of professional obedience training , on leash training and recalls. Finally your responsibilities as a dog owner, why off leash is a no-no in all public , the dangers of an off leash dog.
    It is not as simple as putting a price on your dogs life, anymore than you can a human life.

  9. Things like this is why I carry a can of bear spray and, if I can, a walking stick on walks with my dogs. At least we will all have a chance, should things go bad. I started this after one of my dogs was attacked and injured at a dog park. My dog crawled under a bench and I grabbed a poop shovel and started beating the attacker until it’s owner got him or it might have been worse. Luckily the owner was a good person and helped and paid the vet bill.

  10. Oh my gosh, how sad! I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that child suffered, watching her pup be attacked and killed. I too no longer go to dog parks, just not willing to take a chance. Far too many out of control dogs and clueless owners. How much IS a dog’s life worth? There is no amount of money that will be enough for that family.

  11. I never got to dog parks either. Even if they are empty of other dogs, you have no idea what some twisted individual left there. I’ve read about dogs dying from poisoned food, balls with razor blades and nails in them, all kinds of things. What I don’t understand is how all of these people were there and this happened. If something or someone threatened my dog, I’d use whatever means necessary to save my dog be it a rock, my purse, a branch whatever. Granted I wasn’t there and don’t know the circumstances and agree the most important thing was to keep the daughter safe but my God how awful. I also question the motive behind letting the dogs loose and if he loved his dogs so much he wanted to give them a free, feel good romp in the park, how could he so readily hand one over and tell AC to kill it? I couldn’t put a price tag on any of my six dogs or any dog I’ve ever owned. That is a tough scenario for an adult to get past, nevermind a child. She may be tainted from ever loving an animal. So sad.

    • Not to mention you don’t know what kind of health issues a dog can pick up at a dog park, from parasites to other communicable diseases. Not everyone is responsible about vaccinations or having their dog’s titer tested.

  12. I too would not go to dog parks and I never have. From what I understand, owners stand and drink coffee and talk while not even keeping an eye on the dogs. Be that aside, I cannot fathom the trauma to the family and dog for the experience you mention. How can you put a value on your dog t hat has been stolen and sold as a training dog for dog fighting? How can you put a value on a dog sold to drug and cosmetic companies for testing their products when there are perfectly reliable other sources for testing various ingredients in a product? How can you put a dollar value on dogs or animal from animals shelters that are sold to universities for vivisection when there are other models that can be used?
    No amount of money can compensate for the loss of a friend and member of the family. Pet Insurance companies put the value of the dog as the amount you paid for the dog. Nothing could be more inadequate. Many dogs are not sold but are rescued. Many dogs are given away.
    Money is not the answer to such a loss. Amounts of money mean different things to different people. What one person considers a lot of money or the value of his dog could be $100 or to another $1,000,000.
    I had a dog that died because of the negligence and of the veterinarians at the emergency clinic where I took my dog. Yes, I could have sued for money but the dog was gone. He was invaluable. Nothing could make up for that loss and receiving monetary compensation would never replace the loss in my heart.

  13. I had an experience at a dog park with my Bernese Mountain Dog years ago which, thankfully didn’t end as badly, but I would never go to another dog park based on the outcome. My 3 year old dog, who was a working therapy dog certified through Deltla Society and Therapy Dogs International, was at the park behaving appropriately with the other dogs when a man came in with his Springer Spaniel. The dog proceeded to mount all the dogs at the park. He was of course met with growls. He was fixated on my dog and mounted him two or three times before my dog flipped him on his back and stood over him. He was not growling but the man who owned the Springer grabbed my dogs collar to pull him away and in the process his own dog bit him in the wrist. He was unable to get the dog to come to him and he explained that the dog had been turned into Springer rescue because it had bitten a child. They placed it with he and his wife because they had no children and no other pets, as they explained it didn’t like other dogs. We asked him why he brought him to a dog park and he explained that he thought it would help him get along with other dogs. He clearly had no experience owning a dog, much less one that had behavior issues. We helped him coral his dog and he left. The dog officer arrived shortly after and interviewed the four people who witnessed the event. The officer said the man was claiming that my dog bit him. He took the names of the four other people and my name. Because all of us saw the Springer bite his owner, I thought it was over. My vet got a call for verification of my dog’s vaccination status and a few weeks later I received a letter from his attorney that I was being sued. My homeowner’s policy paid him 10500 dollars even though they accepted the facts as they were presented in the police report. They felt it was cheaper to pay him, even if my dog did not bite him, than to go to court. I felt obligated to report the incident to the therapy dog organizations I was working through, as being a part of them provides us with insurance when we visit facilities.
    They allowed him to continue to visit, and he went on to work at Kosair Childeren’s Hospital for three years along with many other facilities. Interestingly, his specialty was working with children who were being treated for dog bites, as the hospital provided therapy sessions to help alleviate the fear these children experience following a bite.

    I just attended a seminar and there was a presenter from the No-Kill Shelter movement, and she said there has been a spike in dog bite incidents because in order to remain a certified no kill shelter, the percentage of dogs deemed unplaceable must remain below a certain percentage, so unfortunately, dogs are placed that would not have been it the past, leading to more dog bites.

    • Like Erin said. Dog bites are an ongoing topic on Nextdoor. A recent case involved a beautiful Game of Thrones type dog. This dogs was adopted out to novice guardians, there were no training classes required. The humans let it off leash on their second day, and it almost killed a smaller dog. The humans promptly returned the dog to the small shelter. As far as I know, it was up for adoption again, with no restrictions.
      In my city, our no-kill shelter (where I volunteered for years) has discontinued its training classes. This may be because they feel they can no longer pay their trainers as independent contractors, and don’t have the budget to pay them as employees. Some small shelters are run by people with good hearts but not enough sense/experience.

      • That is so sad. The rescue group I work with tries very hard to tell a potential adoptor everything we know about the dog–the good, the bad, and the ugly. We don’t want any kind of situation like this to happen. If we know a dog has behavioral issues (whether it’s aggression toward other dogs, aggression toward cats, resource guarding, etc.) we always tell the potential adoptor. We also try to work with dogs that display behavioral issues, but we would never fail to mention to a future adoptor that the dog had these issues in the past. We are very selective about where we place dogs that have demonstrated any kind of behavioral issue. That means, sometimes, that dog stays “in rescue” for the rest of his or her life. We have one of those dogs right now–she is just fine in a managed situation and with people she knows well. Otherwise, she’s not so okay. It was us or euthanasia for her, so we took her and have never regretted it. But we do manage her environment very carefully so that no mistakes happen and she doesn’t feel the need to behave in a manner that would be considered problematic. But sometimes, people say nasty things about us because of this. We had a person that wanted to adopt a particular dog. This was a great home, but just one little problem. The dog the home wanted was known to dislike cats (and had killed a cat). This home had a cat. We refused to adopt that particular dog to this home–we’d have happily adopted this person a dog who got along fine with cats, but he didn’t want any dog–just that particular one and we still wouldn’t adopt him the dog. We got bad-mouthed for it.

  14. The thought of whether a home owners insurance would possibly cover something like this? I know from reading mine that far too many breeds of dogs are specified in it as not covered by the policy if they bite someone. And I wonder whether an ins.company would cancel a homeowner policy if I even owned one of those specific breeds. Its NOT only pit breeds, its german shepherds, dobermans, rotweilers & others.
    This breed specific issue – which I realize isnt the issue here – but I have to say, this is why we have far too many dogs living in rescues or humane organizations because people cant take a chance on them. In too many cases, when they are adopted, if there is no back story or if the rules of the rescue, etc., dont specify some time spent on getting to know a particular dog & how they react in situations – they may end up in a home not able to handle them.
    And no I dont “do” dog parks – I live in the country and my chocolate lab mix (rescue) is and has been on a run or on a leash all the time shes been with me. I’ve had several German Shepherds and a Doberman – all of which were more trustful of strangers than my lab. She had been abused & came from a bad place.

      • We have a special insurance police for just such an occurrence. If someone (persona or animal) comes on our property and is injured by one of our dog, insurance will pay. Luckily, we’ve never had to use it.

      • I’m not sure this is accurate, Susan. Individuals would have to check their own policies. I know all insurance companies will cover one bite and then the odds of your policy being cancelled or restricted is high. But, to cover vet bills and such, I just don’t know.

    • My first dog was a Doberman/Labrador mix. Sweetest dog there ever was. The neighborhood children would come over and ask if Caesar could come out to play with them in my (fenced in) front yard. I would always supervise but for the children’s behavior, not my dog’s. My current dog is a wide DNA mix of Golden Retriever, German Shepherd and other breeds with some small (less than 4% parts of Collie, American bully and Rottweiler. ) She’s big (87lbs) but as sweet as my Caesar was and I’m planning on having her go through therapy dog training when she reaches 2 years old as I think she’d be outstanding. That said she’s big and black and for some that’s all it takes to strike fear into someone.

      While I understand the thinking behind insurance company’s breed specific liabilities, if they really want to avoid costs they should simply deny any pets. Any dog can bite and many of the small ones are worse that the big breeds. Cats can bite and scratch for no reason and their wounds are just as likely to become infected. Plus there is the added danger of the litter boxes for pregnant women. Parrots and birds are known to bite. But what insurance company is going to stay in business if they deny policies to anyone that owns any type of pet?

  15. I am so very sorry to hear about this truly heart-breaking story. I will admit, I am not sure what I would do. First of all, there is probably no money amount that even remotely can make up for the emotional pain your friend and her family have gone and are going through and that will affect them for quite some time. I will say that I respect the other owner for staying and acting responsibly. I think there are too many unknowns for me to judge what has to happen. Maybe he did not know his dogs would react like this (a neighbor of mine had a similar experience where her dog ran out of the house to pick up and shake a little dog outside; she had never expected this and was therefore not prepared)? Maybe he had looked around and just not seen the little pup? I am not trying to excuse, but I also don’t want to rush to a quick judgment that may be based on assumptions.

    One note: I see in the responses that some readers are assuming this tragedy happened in a dog park, but your post just says “public park”. Was it a dog park or a regular park?

    • This happened at a public park. My friend was sitting at the edge of the children’s playground, with his daughter 10 feet away on the monkey bars. His puppy was lying down at his feet, on leash. There is a posted leash law in the park. The loose dogs came running from behind my friend, and the aggressor dog immediately grabbed the puppy by his tummy.

  16. My dog is priceless to me. Unfortunately, judges don’t think so. I will never go to a dog park, even though separated, I’ve seen people let their big dog into the little dog area just because “My big dog and little dog go together”. I was actually in Walmart the other day when a guy came in with an Aussie NOT ON LEASH, NO ID FOR SERVICE, NOTHING! I can’t fathom why they didn’t remove it. It actually approached a dog that was on leash and serving. People always let their dogs off leash. Too many littles like my Papillon have been attacked and killed.

    • But please ensure that your Papillon is socialized to larger dogs. As the owner of large dogs, we’ve seen way too many little dogs see our dogs and become aggressive (when our dogs have don absolutely nothing to deserve such aggression; the little dog is just afraid). With one exception, no incident has occurred, but if a little dog becomes aggressive to a larger dog and the larger dog defends him- or herself, a smaller dog may receive serious injuries or die. I’m certainly not accusing you of not socializing your dog well, but so many owners of small dogs don’t make the effort to socialize the little dog to larger dogs and it can create real problems. And I certainly don’t want to excuse larger dogs that attack smaller dogs (perhaps their owner didn’t ensure their dog was properly socialized to small dogs). But I don’t want large dogs blamed unnecessarily for “attacking” a small dog when the small dog actually incited the incident.

    • Walmart and dogs… long story shortened, Walmart used to ban all animals including service dogs. They were sued by a class action, and they lost. So Walmart as a corporation has signage saying service dogs are welcome, but very rarely ban any dogs. And, there can be some pretty unruly pets in Walmart on occasion.

      • They need only allow service dogs to remain within the law and can and certainly should require all dogs to be on leash. They are making themselves liable to suit for any harm that comes to customers, their dogs and employees by not doing so. I don’t know why their legal staff permit them to allow other than service dogs into the store.

  17. Some people are saying it is always the large dog at fault. Large dogs are not the problem. It is the OWNERS of ANY dog large or small to train and manage their dogs.
    Many small dogs come rushing up to my large dog yapping and nipping all the while and the owners think it is “cute” that their little dog is ready to take on a large dog. One snap from my dog’s mouth and and that little dog or dogs would be GONE. But the large dog is blamed. Once at a dog show I saw a class of very large large dogs waiting to go into the ring. When the small dogs came out of that ring, one actually jumped into the open mouth of a large dog. It got slimed, but there was no damage. If the big dog had closed his mouth, there would have been damage. Whose fault is it?
    There are far too many scenarios that can occur so there is no answer to the question of who is right and who is wrong but stop blaming the large dogs. Most of them are far gentler than little dogs that bite and nip all the time, but big dog teeth usually do more damage, although I know of several people who have had tendons in their ankles torn by very tiny dogs with needle sharp teeth.

    • Funny story… Years ago at my club, an older lady with a small breed would bring two or three or four of them into the club at a time. She paid zero attention to any other dogs while she was walking them. She often walked those dogs under the noses of some pretty big dogs! Often HER dogs would snarl and bark at the dogs in front or beside them, and the woman would start screaming at the big dog owner for attacking her dogs. It was kind of funny at first, and then became a serious situation. Almost all of the large dogs were docile, but curious. It was that one reactive dog that made the woman change here ways despite being told ad nauseaum for years to pay attention.

  18. I have to agree with Deb, concerning dog parks. I work for the National Park Service and receive my housing through my job. Where I live the park is adjacent to a city park , that is identified has a dog park. I know most of the folks and their dogs who utilize this area and who have invited me and my dog Hunter to come in and play with their dogs. What stopped me recently was that a neighbor who also uses the park has a small feisty dog, but who was recently injured by one of the must larger dogs in the park. He had to receive several stitches on his left front leg.

    This made me think twice about taking Hunter in there to play with them. Now Hunter is no small dog, but in my eyes if your dog is off the leash and you do not have TOTAL control with voice commands, then to me you don’t have any control over your dog. The majority of the owners I hear constantly calling for their dogs who are pretty much ignoring until they are done doing what they want. I grew up with dogs and you can never put a price on their life,as stated it’s priceless. I can’t even imagine the pain, that the little girl is going through. If it was my daughter she would truly be inconsolable. Some dog owners look at the leash law as something that they feel is unreasonable and cruel to their dog. Being a former law enforcement officer and actually enforcing the leash law in my State of NY, I tried to educate the owner the reason behind the law and who it protects.

    Even though the owner of the dog that attacked your friends puppy, should till take more responsibility for his actions for letting the dogs off the leash in the first place knowing that there is s leash law, in knowing that they are aggressive and in my opinion not properly socialized to interact with other dogs. As you can see I am very passionate person concerning dogs and cats, that are abused, injured or killed because of a irresponsible owner . I am in tears writing these comments because that little girl will remember this for the rest of her life, something no child should ever see happen to a beloved pet. Her father, in my opinion should pursue matters concerning this further.

  19. There is no excuse for this. No matter where you are. Your dog is your companion. My dogs are my family. The dogs responsible need to be killed. And the humans that were so stupid as to allow this to happen need to be held responsible to the point where they will never be so stupid, again. $$$ ??? I cannot even imagine the pain and terror. Those that killed that dog, including the humans need to pay dearly. 500K is not even enough to compensate for the terror, pain and suffering for those who have lost a family member.

  20. Could I just remind/bring to attention that this family was NOT in a dog park but a PUBLIC Park with leash laws! This makes the incident also a legal matter that should have been pursued by police or by the animal control officer who came to he incident.

  21. In Tennessee, there is a law regarding uncontrolled dogs causing harm to a person or person’s animals that can be held liable up to $5,000. A TN senator got this passed years ago after the same thing happened to his dog. It’s called the T-Bo Bill (named after his dog). I actually took someone to court after their unleashed dog attacked one of mine while I was walking (leashed) through our neighborhood. The owner would not even pay for the vet bills – never even apologized. And the owner tried to intimidate me on other occasions as I walked the neighborhood. Took him to court and received $4,000 (total one could receive at the time).

  22. Does nobody read?! This was NOT a dog park

    Horrifying and sad but sadly no recourse. The owner handed the dog over for euthanization. I believe that’s the end of the story 🙁

  23. Does nobody read?! This was NOT a dog park

    Horrifying and sad but sadly no recourse. The owner handed the dog over for euthanization. I believe that’s the end of the story 🙁

  24. As I am reading other comments, it doesn’t the size of your dog or whether you are in a dog park or a public park, it all comes down to have again TOTAL control over your dog. A true responsible owner will keep track of where their dog is and what it is doing and will come back to them on command. If a dog(s) is well socialize and trained there should never be any problems. I own a pit mixed dog. Now pits have a bad, rep, but it is not through any fault of their own, but the fault of their irresponsible owners. Pits in general are very loving, very loyal companions and my mine is no different. Any dog, no matter what the breed, if taught to be aggressive is going to be just that.

  25. My shih-tzu/terrier mix was killed last summer by a neighbor’s mastiff who came onto my property. It was traumatic, to say the least. But the neighbors were beyond apologetic. Since my dog was still alive after I scared off the mastiff, we took her to the vet, who said she was not savable. We put her down. There was a big vet bill, that the neighbors quickly paid. They got training for their dog. They put up an electronic fence (I feel obliged to state my objection to them. In this case, I cared not!) . They called me for at least 2 weeks to find out how I was doing and to offer help finding another dog. Their dog never appeared on my property again. I feel no antipathy towards the dog or owner. The owner acted in a text book perfect way. I miss my little girl. Now I have a new rescue. The cycle of life continues.

  26. Have never been an advocate of Dog Parks or parks in general for exercising my dogs. As a breeder for 15 years I always warned my clients about using them as well. What a horrible thing for a family to witness, poor fur baby makes me sick inside. Way to many unresponsible dog owners. There should be a huge fine or something for owners who think the laws of parks are for everyone else.

  27. This is the first time for me on this blog, but it is such an important question on a matter of growing importance in our dog oriented society, I feel compelled to chime in. We have laws that don’t sufficiently address the worth of a dog as long as they are considered “property” and not a living being. That said, I also agree with the sentiments of all who replied; such a tragedy for the family and all who witnessed the horrible event.

    And since all who replied for good reasons have stated a dogs life is priceless, I want to say I also agree, however, that doesn’t address the real question, which I believe is, how should this loss be compensated, if it could somehow be measured? I would think any readers who have a legal background should be able to offer a better answer than I. But for what it may be worth, I’ll start by listing all of the ways one might arrive at a “price”, which perhaps should be established in some legal code.
    Things to consider beyond the actual price paid for the puppy could include: the cost of the attacking dogs, shelter fees and euthanization, cost of injuries sustained and therapy for the family, cost for time off work, cost for a new pup and training sessions, just as a start. But what also comes to my mind are the costs for rehabilitation of the offending dog owner so there is some reparation that goes beyond a bandaid for this one incident. What would punitive costs look like? If you could add up the costs of fines, hours for local agencies to enforce leash laws, and possible community service imposed on the offending owner, one might be able to arrive at a number.

    It seems that a dogs life could be measured in the same imperfect way as current laws attempt for loss of human life. This question truly calls out for a broader solution to change laws so that the consequences for taking a dogs life are paid forward in a way that will have a positive influence on the safety and well being of all dogs and their families.

  28. I experienced this exact thing at the age of 10. My toy poodle leashed a neighbor’s dog let off leash to run around the neighborhood with dog sitter The owners were on vacation. Black lab picked up the poodle and shook it until his little neck broke. I have never EVER taken a dog out in public since (except for school training)
    And that was in 1970! No you don’t get over the sight and the child will have nightmares for years to come. I won’t walk my dogs either I run them in backyard. My dad sued and win the cost of replacing the dog.
    That being said—in the public park scenario it is the owner’s negligence and he should have to pay for therapy for the children if necessary regardless of whether he put the dog down or not.

  29. You kidding! I would NEVER trust peoples instincts, let alone actual research, on the best care for a dog. DOG PARKS, no way. I learned a lot, over the years, about the proper care for my GSD and blessedly, almost twelve, and still with us. I took him once, early on, to a “dog park” and no thank you. People on cell phones and distracted and not connecting with dog body language. Simply puts me and my dog in jeopardy because I would jump in middle and we’d both get hurt. Goodness knows if dogs are all up to date on shots. . I pay for daycare where I know dogs are vetted and he is well cared for. We walk almost two miles every morning. I have learned a lot just reading Whole Dog Journal. I am now learning about acupuncture and probably effective (very expensive) and doing further research on moist heating pads and my learning to massage my dogs knees. Almost painful to love my dog so much. I work my day around him. Retired so I can do this. Jean

  30. So sorry for your friend and his family, especially the young children who witnessed the attack. Heartbreaking. I shudder to think what might have happened if the dogs had attacked any of the children present.

    I won’t opine on the price of a life – legal minds can figure that out.

    What I can comment on is the obvious: laws are there for a reason. Follow them. Period. Accidents happen, yes, but this was no accident. A law was broken with horrible consequences, and the whole thing was preventable had the owner simply abided by the posted ordinance.

  31. It cost me $15000.00 when a Bull Mastiff got out of its collar turned after we (me and my Standard Poodles) passed by it and the owner and her dog pinned my male on the ground going for his neck, throat and ear on the right side. It was an on leash public walking park, out of panic I went in and tried to pull the dog off, it turned and bit me and then resumed the attack. Then I remembered what I had learned in a dog class – picked it up by its hind legs and raised the dog as high as I could – it let go and my dog took off – severe bleeding. Seven days at emergency and as I said $15000.00 – the owner did not have home insurance. For me I had to obtain counselling because all I could hear was my dog screaming…

  32. The moment the owner unsnapped the dogs’ leashes for them to run about unleashed, he violated the law that led to the death of this puppy and the physical and emotional damage to this family. It doesn’t matter if he knew he had aggressive or unsocialized animals or any other information about them. His violation of the law caused this tragedy. Unfortunately, this law is handled by an animal control officer and not a police officer. Meaning his violation of the law will be interpreted to be “softer.” Add to that the interpretation of a pet being an object and not a thing of value beyond its purchase price, and you will have a situation that will not get real justice. If there is anything to see positive in this situation, it is that the dogs killed the puppy and not a small child which realistically could have happened. It makes me shudder to write that… My golden is a service dog, and in my state my disability rights protect me from financial loss if he were to be intentionally irreversably injured or killed by someone. I will be purchasing a replacement puppy soon, and I get very anxious when I think of the training process that will put my puppy in situations with ignorant and stupid people that could very easily cause great harm or death to the pup and/or me. I’m so sorry this happened to this puppy and his family and friends. It will be something very traumatic that will be very difficult to recover.

  33. If I had my way, all dogs would be licensed. Dog adoption would require a 6 session beginning dog class. You’d have to pass the Canine Good Citizenship test before letting your dog off leash. So there!

    • In a huge majority of parishes, counties, and cities, dog registration is a legal requirement. Most ignore it. Our state has moved animal registratiions into the vet’s office, and when the dog receives its rabies vaccination, it is registered and the fee is paid at that time.

    • This was the “attack dogs” owners fault not the dogs. Now there are 2 or 3 dead dogs because of this idiot. Control your dogs OR you should not be allowed to have dogs. Too late for the poor child and her dog so fine this idiot heavily and make him not be allowed to have ANY animals .

    • Absolutely horrible for anyone to go through, but I don’t like to hear so many people wanting the attacking dogs euthanized. I would blame their owner totally. He was responsible for letting the dogs off leash in an on-leash park, but even worse, had not bothered to train/socialize his dogs. If they attacked others more than once, maybe euthanasia was the only answer. If he didn’t care enough for his own dogs to train and love them, he should never be allowed to have dogs. I love my dog so much, I cannot imagine going through such trauma, and would want the owner’s punishment to outweigh all else. I live in an apartment and the only time my little guy is allowed to run is after our walk, (if there is no-one else in the hall), he runs to our door; occasionally I can visit a friend with an enclosed yard where he can run, but keeping him safe is of the utmost importance.

  34. I would hope that the person who owns the two dogs will pay for everything that he should and even more since you cannot take away the pain that the child went thru or any one who saw this. Poor child–poor dog. My dogs are every thing to me and I don’t know what I would do if this happened to me. Poor dog is all I can say.

  35. I do not understand all the generalizations here about dog parks. (As others noted, this was a public park, not an off-leash play space). Dog parks can be wonderful, and an asset to a community, but they have to have regulations and conscientious oversight. And, they are not appropriate for all dogs. Dogs need socialization and play time. At our local dog park, many of us watch the dogs very closely and any owner whose dog shows signs of aggression is asked to take him away. (So far, in my experience, owners have been cooperative but, if one is not, I would report that individual to Animal Control.) This tragedy had nothing to do with a dog park, and is deeply heartbreaking. It shows how much people need to understand their own dogs and act accordingly. Even if off-leash recreation were allowed (it sounds like it was not legal in this situation), nobody should let their dog off-leash if the dog is not well socialized, to people and to other dogs. There is no money that can compensate the family for this trauma. But, if a punitive award serves as a lesson to the owners of the attacking dogs, who were not under control and were not reliably socialized, maybe it is worth pursuing.

    • I agree. We’ve been going to dog parks for more than 10 years. We watch closely. If there’s a dog who is not behaving appropriately, and the owner won’t leave, we leave. My dogs love going and it’s enriching for them.

  36. Hi! First and foremost, please give my and my doggie’s (Merle’s) condolences to the family involved in this horror show.

    Second, if this happened in an off leash dog park it would still be horrible; BUT it happened in a public park which required all dogs to be on leash (am I correct here?).

    I WOULD LIKE TO SEE A CRIMINAL CASE FOR SOME TYPE OF ENDANGERMENT AGAINST THE OWNER OF THE OFF LEASH DOG. NOT ONLY DID THIS SELFISH IDIOT ENDANGER DOGS, SOME OF WHOM COULD TRY TO DEFEND THEMSELVES, S/HE ENDANGERED HUMANS, INCLUDING LITTLE CHILDREN WHO WOULD HAVE NO IDEA IN THIS WORLD HOW TO DEFEND THEMSELVES.

    We all need stricter laws to protect us from the selfish, self centered idiots who think their dogs are perfectly behaved and don’t understand that the most perfectly behaved dog is maybe 99% perfect. There is ALWAYS something that any dog could not resist and a prey instinct could kick in. If that 1% comes up in my or my doggie’s face, it becomes 100%!

    However, laws only protect in damages after the fact, until they society realizes the laws exist. WHAT WE REALLY NEED IS MORE MONEY FOR ANIMAL CONTROL AND HAVE ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS PATROL THE DOG PARKS, THE PUBLIC PARKS AND DRIVE AROUND NEIGHBORHOODS. HMMMMMMMM. ……. . Lets siphon off some money from the Useless Border Wall fund, or how about contacting Bloomberg and/or Steyer, perhaps they can put together a foundation that would educate private Animal Control “Officers” who do report to the County and City Animal Control Departments….or, simply, the foundation could get in touch with Animal Control offices all over the country and give them grants for hiring, training and “deploying” the additional officers. There is money for this….we just have to get the people who have the money to see it is an issue worth their gettting into! Love to All, Jessica and Merle

  37. This is so horrifying! And I feel we all run this risk all the time–unleashed dogs are everywhere despite leash laws. And those retractable leads are also scary. My dog is my baby girl . . . .no amount of money could compensate for her loss. And I think I would always feel guilty, that I had not protected her.

  38. Loose dogs were NOT responsible for their incredibly irresponsible and stupid behavior of their owner. This owner should not be allowed to have dogs period. Now we have 2 dead dogs maybe 3 because the owner was stupid. This jerk should be heavily fined and should have to do community service at the ASPCA or another like facility. My dogs are my children. There would be hell to pay if this happened to me!!!

  39. This is heartbreaking for all. Many relatively inexperienced dog owners would not even understand that their beloved dogs who seem so friendly and clownish could ever be killers or bullies, until after the fact. Dogs have aggressive genes that can be expressed under the right circumstances, we have breed them for this. I do not frequent crowded public areas for this reason. It would be good if there were temperament screening for dogs periodically (maybe during liscencing) and owners were educated about this possibility. This is almost as tragic for the owner of the killer dogs as for the killed dog and its owners (assuming their first knowledge was when the incident happened). I can not put a price on a dog, and it is much easier to be awarded damages than collect them. When I am out with my dogs, we do carry legal persuaders to avert or interrupt any aggression, from man or beast, which is better avoided than suffered.

  40. I don’t go to dog parks for this very reason, it is just not worth it! In my neighborhood most of the dog owners like to let their dog run off-lead in large field but 99% of them do not have proper off-leash control of their dog and often my dog and I have been charged at by the dog as they holler at it to come back to them over and over. Even if the charging dog just wants to play, some dogs are reactive and do not like strange dogs. My large lab was like this and I had control of him on his lead however having another off-leash dog charging us or reacting because my dog is growling is both scary and unnecessary. Luckily we both came out of these encounters unscathed but it is completely frustrating!

  41. I heard that story regarding the puppy that was killed. I started to cry so hard that I had to turn off the news. All I could think of was that precious little girl, her puppy and father. I almost lost my dog off leash at a dog park. Two dogs from the same owner started to bury her. When I screamed at him to get his dogs he stated that they were just playing. Two men ran and picked up each pit bull and threw them off my dog and then the man stood up. Fortunately for me other dog owners circled him while my Shiba Inu and I were taken to my car. My dog was being buried and would have died. She is my support dog. The police gave him two tickets but I was told he went back to the park. After speaking with my veterinarian he gave me a list of what he had seen over the years happen to dogs on and off leash at dog parks. We walk now and she has play time with dogs I know. I was hoping that a fund had been set up for that family but never heard anything. That little girl probably needed some therapy and perhaps when she is ready another loving puppy can come into her life. The story still saddens me. If Whole-Dog Journal knows anything regarding this story please post it. No one except another dog owner understands the immense heartbreak of losing your best friend. You say to yourself, never again because another piece of your heart breaks off. Then one day, when you’re ready you open up your soul and home for another life that gives you unconditional love. When you think of what those little eyes watched that day my heart still breaks for her and her family. My hope for her is that “one day” will touch her soul and she is ready to take that step to open up for a new life to enter her life. The laws need to change. My seven German Shepherds, Greyhound, Calico Cat, were living beings with feelings, love, compassion, and support. They were not property. My question to WDJ is what can we do to change the law?

  42. How AWFUL, that poor family and that poor little girl. I do not do parks dog amd limit my use of parks with my dogs because there are FAR to many STUPID dog owners. As for a price tag on my dogs….there is none their lives are PRICELESS. I do hope the owner of the unleaded dogs is Sued and that poor little girl and her family can get compensated for their emotional pain. How heartbreaking.

  43. I’ve thought about this a few times before — my dog means so much to me I can’t put a number on his worth. At a park we used to go to every afternoon, where the center-field is where kids play sports in the summer, a group of people used to walk around with their mid-sized dogs off-leash. At our first encounter, I was initially confused seeing this group of people with at least 5 mid-size dogs sniffing/walking, but not by their owner’s side. My small breed dog and I were approaching them from the opposite direction, and as soon as I realized they were off-leash (!), I was shocked and quickly stepped way into the field and planted myself between their dogs and mine, ready to pick up my dog if I had to. And, of course, they said their dogs are friendly, to which I responded, what if mine isn’t?! Thankfully, their dogs did seem mild-mannered and they called to them and promptly leashed them up … and again, when we passed each other the 2nd time (so they leashed them only for my sake). This happened several more times on different occasions, but they now seemed annoyed/amused every time we bumped into each other; like it’s too bad my pup is over-stimulated every time he sees their pack of dogs approaching.
    Btw, I have a spunky mini schnauzer, and we are constantly “working” on controlling his tendency to get excited. Regardless, it is the law to leash up your dog, for SAFETY reasons. Some people are even afraid of dogs, so it’s not fair to have them worry about dogs approaching them, just because you feel like giving your dogs freedom. Good for you, if your dog is well-behaved, but perhaps you may want to consider other dog owners and their pups who are working on polite walking — having their dogs be approached by off-leash dogs (not one, but several of them, and larger than him) while he is on-leash, is a bad situation. Don’t make us feel bad you have to call your dog to leash them up. They should be leashed up in the first place — the park is for everyone to enjoy and feel safe. At the very least, just obey the signs posted to leash your dogs.

  44. I never take my dogs to public or private parks where there are other dogs. My neighborhood has a significant population of pit bull dogs, all of which I enjoy petting, but I don’t trust them with my dogs and they are never out of my fenced yard.
    There is no way I could put a price on my dog’s life and importance to me, nor would I be able to enjoy anything purchased with such money. As well, I’m certain that if I had to endure court proceedings that I would not only lose my dog but my freedom as well and, since dogs are not allowed in prison that is not an option.

  45. I don’t recall offhand where, but at least one U.S. jurisdiction has awarded damages above loss of property for injury to a family pet. Possibly more. I’m thinking maybe Maryland? Really not sure.

  46. The issue isn’t what the “value” of a lost family member is; domestic animals are viewed as property under the law, so someone whose negligence or wilful conduct causes the loss of a dog, TECHNICALLY they are liable to make the owners whole for any costs associated with replacing the lost ‘property’, as if they’d burned your house down, or wrecked your car beyond repair.

    So, a loved one who was rescued from the local breed chapter, or shelter, would create only a liability for whatever a subsequent rescue fee might be, plus any vet bills or other consequential costs associated with the event that led to the loss in the first place.

    But, practically, the civil courts need to assess damages that will discourage reasonable people from engaging in the behavior that caused the loss in the first place, not merely the monetary value associated with “replacing” the lost “property”. A bereaved family might think $1 million would be fitting, but the punishment ought to be felt by the offender, and it is unlikely a one-percenter will be letting their untrained Pitties loose in a public park, to prey on other families’ pets. But an award that the owner would be able to afford, with sacrifices, in preference to the costs and sanctions associated with a bankruptcy, would be something of a deterrent. Maybe a $5,000 or $10,000 damage award to the bereaved would be a better decision, than an eye-popping number that will never be fulfilled.

    I cite Pitties because they’re the poster child breed for this sort of behavior, but years ago, our male Airedale, aged 4 or five, was attacked on a leash walk by two Golden Retrievers whose owners’ son had seen fit to let run loose in our neighborhood, rather than walking them. Inter-canine dynamics are not totally breed-dependent. In that case, the family paid our considerable vet expenses to have Ralph’s wounds stitched up, and we chose not to pursue punitives (the father was a lawyer, was quite contrite, and I think their teenage son probably found his recreational opportunities severely curtailed for a good stretch in the wake of the incident).

  47. In too many states and municipalities, dogs are considered as property. As such the emotional toll of such a loss isn’t taken into consideration. That said, you can sue for compensation for every penny your dog cost you, plus “replacement” costs. I’ll use some or my local costs and what it cost me for my puppy.

    If that puppy was from a breeder, you’re staring with $1500-$3000 or more. I’m sure there would be receipts for that payment.

    Spay/neuter? $500.

    Vet visit and shots. $100-$150 for each visit. If just shots from the technician, $40-$60 depending on how many. $50 deworming. Rabies $35. Etc. It adds up.

    Each class my puppy took at our local Humane Society was $150. Pre-Kindergarten (6 weeks), Puppy Kindergarten (6 weeks). Etc. My Dog is 15 months and has attended 5 classes. She also attended 6 Puppy Play sessions at $20 each.

    Other training. My dog has taken numerous Nosework/Scentwork classes since she was 14 weeks old. $150 per 3 week class. Well, over $1,000 in the last year. $60 to register with NACSW. I’ve spent money for her to pass her ORT which included gas and hotel stays at it was out of town. I’m paying for her to pass her level 1 nosework in both NACSW (two attempts so far) and AKC (one pass, two to go).

    Then there is gear.

    Cost of license (and rabies) $35. Twice so far.
    Coolaroo beds. ($120)
    Inside bed. ($60)
    Leashes, collars, harnesses, etc. Probably about $300 as she has many.
    Toys. Probably another $300 as she has MANY toys.
    Food and treats. About $120 a month. My girl weighs 87lbs now and I don’t buy cheap dog food.

    These are all “investments” I have made in a dog that I hope will become a therapy dog once she reaches 2 years old.

    I have receipts for everything I have bought for her and it adds up. She is a rescue so was only $575 dollars (yes, I know) but if she were pedigreed she would be more like $3,000.

    Add it all up.

    The loss in my “investment” would top $5,000.

    Yes, I’d take them to court. I can sue in small claims for up to $15,000 and that’s what I would sue for as I would not have just loss the cost of my “investment” but also future losses due to our goal of being both a therapy dog and her continuation in her Scentwork.

    I applaud the owner of the attacking dogs for being responsible enough for staying and surrendering the offending dog. However that does not bring back a life or “make right” the emotional injury sustained by the little girl. That will be with her the rest of her life. I would hope the judge would take that into consideration also.

    Money doesn’t fix this. That is an ancient concept. In truth, nothing can fix this. No amount of therapy will erase this from the memory of those that witnessed it. Wounds will heal but scars will remain forever. I know, as I still have the scars of a dog bite and vividly remember the attack. Money can only serve as a deterrent and to do so it much really hurt, hurt so much that people who own dogs act as responsibly as possibly to avoid the bankruptcy that might result in such carelessness and neglect. As long as dogs are treated as property, there is no deterrent.

    The only thing that prevents this responsible dog ownership. Unfortunately you cannot legally force people to act responsibly any more than you can legally force them to be compassionate or courteous. You can only punish them after the fact. The might change the behavior of one person at a time, but that isn’t very effective. Especially since a life must be loss for each occurrence.

  48. It is sad and unfortunate how common this problem of negligent dog owners is, as it is a weekly if not daily topic of the Judge Judy show.

  49. I am very sorry to hear about your friend’s pup being killed is such a horrific manner. I have read the posts and am in agreement with aspects of most. Being a companion and legally responsible for my dog, I am her provider and protector. I entered into a relationship with a being that needs total care, guidance, discipline, and love throughout her life. Having said that, before I was blessed with my first dog, Treeing Walker Coonhound, I researched the breed and learned all that I could about for what I was in for and to properly care for her. Did the same with my Labrador Retriever. I don’t understand people who have dogs and have not a clue to their care, training, socialization. They get mad at the dog, mistreat them and dump them off on the roadside or “the dog pound”. Just as I think some people have no business having children! I do not trust other people or their dogs that I do not personally know. I always have my dog on her leash and she is well behaved. I do not go to dog parks or city parks where a spontaneous encounter may occur. Don’t even know if other dog’s have been properly vaccinated. I don’t take her to dog stores either. There have been a few unfortunate encounters of dog attacks there as well. I go to Home Depot, Lowes, etc where dogs are allowed. If we go hiking or on neighborhood walks, I carry Mace and a pistol. This person who was so irresponsible should be held accountable and go to jail for at least a year, do community service at an animal shelter, and have a monetary fine of a substantial amount payable to either the family of the dog or to the local shelter. Value of a canine companion: PRICELESS.

  50. I was camping this summer in a nice rv resort and there was a local who would let his pit bull run loose despite the resort owner’s warning him, so we took to carrying bear spray and yes, that pit bull got a huge snoutful when he rushed my small dogs.

    • Again – the blame rests on the owner who allows this – not the dog. And its not just pitbulls – read the rest of these comments!
      Golden retrievers, labs, LITTLE dogs – it is not breed specific. Its human-specific.
      And no, I dont have a pit bull – my dog is a chocolate lab mix. I’m just really tired of people putting all the blame on one particular type of dog.
      And there are already far too many “bans” on specific breeds. All it takes is a damaged human who gets his jollies out of cruelty.
      As someone else said – before someone gets a dog – they should have to actually LEARN what it takes to care for one.

  51. I am truly horrified to read this story. I cannot even imagine what that family is going through. I stopped going to dog parks when a man showed up with a half-wolf/half-dog female who was in heat. I had two intact male Beagles at the time, so needless to say i promptly leashed my dogs and left. Even now when I walk on leash I find there are way too many people who let their dogs run loose so I always carry spray which I had to use once as a German Shepherd was running toward me with my two leashed dogs in a local park. The owner was mad I sprayed her dog, I didn’t even respond to her I was so upset. My dogs are family, and as such I protect them from whatever threats there are. To me there is no price I can place on my dog’s life. I am fortunate in that I can care medically for my dogs even when the costs of care run into the thousands, which I have done 3 times. And I won’t hesitate to do it again as long as I am able.

  52. I want to bring the focus back to the girl and the help she needs to get through this in a healthy way. If you know this family, I’d step in there and talk with the dad, the girl, her friends… this needs to be a wise council that builds resilience. When I was nine my pregnant cat got hit by a car–not killed, but hip sort of displaced. She limped, she seemed okay. When she tried to have her kittens, they couldn’t get out the squished birth canal. My father and I together euthanized her, then did a c-section in the garage to try and save a kitten for me… This was in 1955, the whole vet business very different then, but I still remember his reverence for life, how he talked me through what needed to be done, let me be part of it, be curious about the kittens (we could not save them) and then we buried them in the back yard and he helped me grieve. THIS experience was priceless!!! I hope this family can find ways to recover and make that experience part of this little girl’s lifelong understanding of life/death, responsibility, etc.

  53. Spo sorry to hear of this tragic story-that poor little girl. Sadly my Sister was telling me a similar story a few days ago. Her friend had 3 Daxies but had to have one put to sleep recently due to old age and back problems. She was walking the other 2 at a quiet location in Norfolk when she was approached by an off-lead Staffie. SHe patted the dog thinking it must be friendly as it was off-lead then it grabbed one of her dogs and killed it. Owner said she thought there was no one else at the location so she let her dog off-lead. She was manipulative saying she would lose her best friend if dog had to be put to sleep. Daxie owner said if dog was put to sleep she wouldn’t press charges. She later checked with Staffy owner’s vets and dog had been put to sleep later that day. Two dogs lost their lives unnecessarily because someone did not keep their dog on a leash when it should have been.

  54. There is no amount of money in the world that would replace the years of love and devotion of any of my dogs. It is very hard going anywhere walking your dog and not run into an off leash dog that is supposed to be on leash. I always tell the owner they are supposed to be leashed but they don’t care. I really don’t know how you could enforce the law either. The fine would be too cheap. There are way too many dog owners now days that think leash laws do not apply to them.

  55. I can’t put a price on the life of a beloved animal or person. But the pain and suffering endured by this child and her family are SIGNIFICANT. Even though the laws may regard dogs as “property,” this child endured a huge trauma that will leave a scar. This was completely preventable and only happened because a very stupid and selfish individual decided that the rules don’t apply to him.

  56. The original post was asking about a price one would put on his/her dog. Here’s a question. I had a sweet cocker spaniel that required several surgeries and other medical care. Over his lifetime, I spent well over $30,000 on his medical care. If he had been killed by another dog, or any human action, would my expenditures play any part in determining restitution?

  57. Because of the leash law, there should be some legal consequences. In addition to this, the victim puppy was young and hopefully had a full life ahead, as do the children…. knowing the care we give our beloved rescues, I would be looking for some tens of thousands of dollars….. our pets are family members!

  58. It strikes me as odd that the attacking dog’s owner immediately surrendered the dog for euthanasia. It makes me wonder if the dog had a history of issues, the owner had a history of irresponsibility, or both. Who goes to a public park and takes their dogs off leash? Especially a public place with lots of people and activities going on. This had to be something the dog owner had done before, without consequence. I can’t imagine ever doing something so illogical, thoughtless, and irresponsible.

    The whole event is just unbelievable and devastating. The victim pup’s family definitely should get counseling, as well as any other onlookers. (The dog owner may need counseling also, to learn the logical outcomes for their thoughtless, stupid and cruel act.) As such, I would be prompted to sue for the maximum amount allowed, if only to teach the dog owner that there are consequences for making poor decisions. Chances are, this isn’t the first time and won’t be the last time this person demonstrates poor decision making.

    I don’t go to dog parks and my dogs are always leashed when they are outside of our home – it’s too risky for me or for my dogs to do otherwise. One never can know when changing conditions, circumstances, or the unknown will result in unexpected behavior – certainty with dogs is not guaranteed. It only takes the firing of the odd human or canine neuron for disaster to occur. I’m so sorry for all involved.

  59. One million dollars and a paid-for commercial during Superbowl that shows the human culprit and that his/her off-leash illegal behavior cost him/her one million dollars, the cost for the commercial warning others, and the loss of the lives of his/her dogs (if they had to be put down for the human’s lawlessness). That’s just the first thing that comes to mind. The truth is, I’d need tons of PTSD therapy if I had to witness my beloved dog being killed in front of me.

  60. 25 years as a trial court reporter: Plainfiff would sue for loss of the services of the dog, for emotional damages for all concerned, for punitive damages (probably not awarded). For treatment of injuries – need some nice pics of the blood. Plaintiff’s lawyer would have Plaintiff see a medical doctor (psychiatrist or similar) who would prescribe drugs.
    That’s how the trial would go.
    How much to ask for, and how much you would receive, depend on factors like the area (its legal cllimate – lots more in South Floirda, a lot less in a livestock area), and the whims of the jurors (or judge if no jury), and the skill of the two lawyers.
    Most likely, though, with traumatized children involved, the insurance company (if any) would offer a good settlement because of what lawyers call “a sympathetic victim.”

  61. First – I very rarely comment, but feel compelled to on this one
    Second – Long long story short, I had had basset hounds my entire life, this was my entire experience
    with dogs, I pretty much thought all dogs were like this. I could never understand when we were walking
    out dogs, why, when we would see this one lady with her dog, she would always cross the street and
    move away from us. At first, we kind of took it personally, thinking it was something about us. Later,
    I understood only too well. I adopted a dog from a rescue that looked like a basset hound to me. In
    a very quick hurry, I was learning words like red zone, reactive. I hired all kinds of trainers, took him
    to a well known university with an animal behavior section, read as many books as fast as I could.
    The point is I DIDN’T KNOW. I was ignorant of many things. Does this make me a bad person?
    Third – All of you have jumped to conclusions, was the dog really off leash, or did he get away, was
    this a first time offender or not? There are people that are ignorant and there are people that
    know EXACTLY what they are doing. You can’t lump everyone together.
    Fourth – I would kill for my dog, I love him that much
    Fifth – Speaking about pack mentality, it is alive and well right here in this post
    Sixth – I am so glad none of you have never made a poor decision, a bad decision, an impulsive
    decision, an ignorant decision. I have, I wasn’t born educated, I wasn’t born smart, I wasn’t
    born wise, you learn it as you go through life.
    Seventh – You don’t know if the owner of this dog did this knowingly , ignorantly or knew
    exactly what he was doing, it makes a difference.
    Eighth – My heart breaks for ALL involved in this story

  62. Back in 1997 I was in a car accident where a Semi truck pulled out in front of me. My dog, who was in the car with me was injured. She sustained 3 fractures to her skull, and from then on had to be on seizure medication because of the brain trauma. While going through the lawsuit with the truck drivers insurance company, because of my own injuries, I also wanted them to have to pay for my dogs vet bills and all future costs of what it was going to cost for all her medications. My insurance company first told me that since dogs are considered “property” the other insurance company would probably not agree to pay. I told my agent, since they consider her “property” then they can pay to “fix” my broken property for the rest of her life!!! I had my vet write up a letter stating what costs I had already incurred to take her to an emergency vet after the accident, and the annual costs of her medication, and based on the average life expectancy of her breed, what that cost would be. I told my agent that I would not be settling my claim until the other company agreed to pay, otherwise I would be happy to take them to court to, again, pay for my “broken and damaged property.” She was my baby. My “child” and I was not going to let them treat her like a piece of furniture instead of the living, breathing being that she was. My persistence paid off, and the other company finally agreed to pay the amount my vet quoted.
    I don’t know what cost I would have put on her, or any of my other pets throughout all these years if something like what happened to your friend would have happened to me. Our pets are not just “pets” or “animals” to us. They are our family members. We love them like our children. And their loss can be just as painful as losing a human family member. How can you put a cost to all the lost years of love, happiness and companionship that losing that pet has cost an owner? I know to me, mine are all priceless!

  63. To put a price for a lawsuit on my dog’s life would be impossible! My dog is a service dog who has been incredible in helping get me healthier and stay healthier than I was before we adopted him. His love, personality, and ability to help me around the house and wherever I go is, I dare say, priceless. I would have to include the value of my own life along with his since he has been a primary source of keeping me going against the odds.

    I never take Noah to dog parks because of my concern for another dog harming him or me. Though he is trained to leave other dogs alone, if he senses something which could harm me it’d be a problem.

    In my opinion, you cannot just put a value (price) on a dog’s life. They mean different things to different people.

    I think the negligent dog owner should be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law and made known in media so other irresponsible dog owners will hopefully learn from this.

  64. Nancy Kerns: Wow we all DID go off in different directions here. But in answer to your question, I have heard of several people who had similar things happen in a public area with leash laws AND in dog parks. The only monetary awards I’ve seen have been for Vet bills and in the case of an animal who was killed by another animal, the award was the Vet bills and purchase price. REALLY sad. And sadder yet, until we can get the Government and Courts to recognize animals as living beings, they will continue to just be seen as property…”just a dog” or “just a cat” or “just a hamster” by people who don’t have animals and have never been fortunate enough to have a real relationship with species that are far greater and wiser than humans.

  65. I know you want a reply as to what amount we’d put on our dogs’ lives but I honestly can’t fathom that any amount would be enough. But if something like that happened to one of mine, yes I’d sue and the amount would be enormous.

  66. Cost of the dog, all Vet expenses, training, to say nothing of the fact that this very young child and other young children witnessing have had traumatic vision and memories, possibly nightmares! ALL of those kids may be terrified of parks, and dogs of all kinds forever! The horror of the event, the sounds, visual and the screaming is beyond belief!
    I would have psychological evaluations of every child and adult there at the time…with all trauma costs legislated for EACH child, and adult present with that killing. The negligent owner of the attacking dogs needs put their dog(s) to sleep, so they can’t ever attack a small animal or child again. It doesn’t matter if a public park or dog park. Obviously the attacking dog/or dogs were NOT safe to be off-lead ANYPLACE, and may not be safe if the owner can not physically hold back dogs their size and in attack mode. Not one of my Dogs could be “replaced” at any amount of money.I have Champions, and show and/or breeding costs should be counted into fees if applicable. It isn’t just “get another dog!” The vicious attack is appalling. and cause due to lack of control by the other owner.

  67. This doesn’t answer the question but why isn’t the owner of the dead puppy in the hospital recovering from his or her injuries? I would battle more than 2 dogs for my babies.

  68. There is no amount of money that could compensate this family for such a terrible loss and horrendous emotional distress . The owner of the illegally off leash dogs should be held criminally liable for negligence along with civil penalties and damages for emotional distress. When we as a society decide too many innocent dogs and owners are the victims of such terrible human behavior and enact laws to combat it these heart breaking situations will become rare .

  69. Getting through the horror of this story, I feel that an owner of an aggressive dog that takes the life of another dog should harshly be dealt with. Rather than a blanket conclusion be reached about the fate of the attacking dog, (which should be done case by case), in one of these attacks the owner should….. 1. Pay each and every vet bill for the dog attacked, that has to do with injuries, even if it’s a year down the road, and pay for cremation if that is the ultimate result. 2. Pay for the family to get a new dog, when the time is right, and pay for all vet treatment a new dog receives. This might be $500, or it might be $1,000 or more depending on the dog killed, vetted back to health, or replaced. A dog is more than just “property” that is replaced at cost. The cost of pet ownership revolves constantly, and that cost should be borne by the owner of a dog that takes life away.

  70. Why do we Americans always talk about money to put value on a life, any life? E are so materialistic? Why would u even ask the question what is the financial value of life? Only in America are we so obsessed with money!!
    It’s not about money! What happened is tragic for both the pup and the little girl. It is tragic for the owner of the 2 dogs also – he had to decide to euthanize one of his dogs who I am sure he loved as much as we all love our babies! It was not intentional and accidents and tragedy happen all the time life – it is part of. A life has been given for a life, so stop. What else do u want? U want value!!! Aka money. What a sad culture we have become, money is all, hidden behind a sense of our own righteousness!

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