The Legal Value of Your Dog

Beautiful son of a female dog.

Beautiful son of a female dog.

If someone negligently kills your dog, you can sue them for damages. (If you haven't already killed them and their entire family.) But how are damages computed? For a workable rule, the damages would equal the market value of your dog. But in most cases, that would be a negative figure because in the market for living dogs, the supply far outweighs the demand. So clearly we can't rely upon market forces to put an accurate monetary value on the absolute very best most-awesome incredible dog in the whole wide world: [insert name of your dog]. 

Accordingly, Illinois courts have recognized that pets sometimes have "no market value," as if they were family heirlooms or artifacts. But then doesn't that make the question of damages impossible?  

Although it's beyond dispute is that my dog, Fritz, is the most valuable dog in the world, I still couldn't fix him with a price. (Although if any eccentric billionaires want to make me an offer, get in touch.)

Here's the law on the matter:

"In the eyes of the law, a dog is an item of personal property. The ordinary measure of damages for personal property is the fair market value at the time of the loss. The courts have recognized, however, that there are a number of items of personal property that have no market value. Included in this group are such items as heirlooms, photographs, trophies and pets. In Long v. Arthur Rubloff & Co. (1975), 27 Ill.App.3d 1013, 1025, 327 N.E.2d 346, 355, the court stated that where property is not the ordinary subject of commerce or is otherwise unique, damages are not restricted to nominal damages; rather, damages must be ascertained in some rational way from such elements as are attainable. The court there espoused the rule that the proper basis for assessing compensatory damages in such a case is to determine the item's 'actual value to [the] plaintiff' and stated that the plaintiff is 'entitled to demonstrate its value to him by such proof as the circumstances admit.' " Jankoski v. Preiser Animal Hosp., Ltd., 157 Ill. App. 3d 818, 820, 510 N.E.2d 1084, 1086 (1987).

If you were called upon to demonstrate the actual value of your dog to you, what evidence would you produce?  *Cue uncontrollable sobbing from the witness stand.*