Bill Rankin's Legal Brief

The AJC's blog about the courts, crime and law

Justices hear arguments about value of lost dog

The state's highest court on Tuesday considered whether pet owners should receive damages only equal to the market value of the pet or the actual value of the pet to its owner, when the pet's death is caused by someone's negligence.

The case involves Lola, who was an 8-year-old mixed-breed dachshund when she died of kidney failure in 2013. Her owners, Elizabeth and Bob Monyak, contend Barking Hound Village gave Lola incorrect medication when she was boarded there for 12 days while the family was vacationing in France. Barking Hound Village strongly denies any wrongdoing.

The upscale kennel's lawyer, Joel McKie, told the justices that there is no question that dogs play key roles in the everyday lives of their owners.

"To be clear, this case is not about the worth of or the emotional attachment we have with our family pet," McKie said. It's about what owners can expect to recover in damages, and court precedents dating back more than a century dictate that the value of a lost pet is its market value before it died, he said.

Lola was a rescue dog with no special characteristics, McKie said. For that reason, it had no market value and the Monyaks should not be able to recover more than $67,000 in vet and animal hospital bills they are seeking, he said.

But Bob Monyak, who like his wife is an attorney, argued that Georgia law allows juries to consider the actual value of a pet to its owner. And a number of other states allow recovery of damages based on actual value. This includes reasonable medical expenses, he said.

"The sky has not fallen in those jurisdictions," he said.

The state high court is expected to issue its opinion in the coming months. To read the full coverage of Tuesday's arguments, please go to


Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Bill Rankin covers criminal justice for the Enterprise team.