If dogs become people (rather than property) under the law, will they eventually get workers’ comp benefits?

Some people refer to their pets as their ‘fur babies’ and regard them as their children. One woman in Manhattan wants the state of New York to legally recognize this bond by declaring her pup’s ‘humanity’ and officially recognizing that the dog is “considered a living soul that feels pain” and that the “pain and suffering is recognized by” the state.

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Were this to happen, Elena Zakharova could then seek greater damages than the law currently allows for her dog, Umka. Current laws only compensate owners for the value of their dogs, which in Zakharova’s case would likely be her initial investment of $1,600.

Professing “love at first sight”, Ms. Zakharova had a handful of months after taking the two-month old pup home before Umka began to suffer. It turned out that Umka had a bad knee requiring immediate surgery. Her other three knees are defective, as well, and so are her hips. So far $4,000 has been spent on corrective measures, with another $4,000 estimated. Even with these surgeries, it is predicted that Umka will never walk or run correctly. It turns out that –despite having been purchased in an upscale pet boutique– Umka was a product of a midwestern puppy mill and this information was not disclosed to Zakharova at the time of purchase.

Elena Zakharova is now represented by animal rights lawyer Susan Chana Lask, who filed suit on behalf of both woman and dog. The ultimate goal of the suit is to have the court rule that Umka is a living being rather than property, and as such is entitled to damages such as pain and suffering and medical reimbursement. Should this not occur, Ms. Lask would like to see ‘lemon laws’ dealing with pets extended to four years from the current fourteen days.

In light of all this, we have two questions:
1) Will we see ‘working dogs’ (as in dogs helping the blind or the police–not dogs working as prostitutes) get workers’ compensation benefits one day? and

2) How will they sign my fee contract?

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