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Examiner: Lask's Landmark Puppy Case Argues Dogs have Souls

Lawyer argues that suffering dog should have same rights as person

Howard Portnoy Pet News Examiner Pets | January 5, 2012

In what could turn out to be a landmark case, a New York City dog owner is arguing in court that an animal’s pain and suffering are akin to that of a young child, who is unable to verbalize his discomfort.   The lawyer for Elena Zakharova, who is suing a Manhattan pet shop for selling her a dog with painful joint problems, claims that the puppy is more than mere chattel. Animal-rights attorney Susan Chana Lask asks, “How can we value her pain and suffering? So let's compare it to a 7-year-old child that slipped and fell.”   According to the New York Post, Zakharova bought Umka, a Brussels Griffon, at an Upper East Side shop named Raising Rover last February. Zakharova was unaware at the time that the store had a history of selling puppy-mill dogs.   Shortly after she got Umka home, she noticed that the dog was limping and crying in pain. In July, Umka was diagnosed as having a bad knee, which will require surgery. The dog also has problems with other joints, including her hips.

The action seeks reimbursement for Umka’s medical bills, as well as an unspecified amount to compensate for the pooch’s pain and suffering. Lask’s lawsuit  

requests humanity for Umka in that she be considered a living soul that feels pain, and that her pain and suffering is recognized by this state and considered as damages to her.   Zakharova could easily recover damages under New York’s unfeelingly named “puppy lemon law,” which reimburses an owner for the amount paid for a “defective dog,” but Lask sees a larger issue here. "We are trying to get precedent that she's not property. I don't know if the judge will go for it," she is quoted as telling the Post.   The owners of the store have issued a statement, reading in part, “We take selection very seriously, and we do comprehensive background checks before engaging with any new breeder.” They claim they have tried to reach out to Zakharova but state that their "phone calls were not returned."   While I support a law that recognizes that dogs are not inanimate objects, I am hard-pressed to sympathize with a woman who bought, rather than rescued, a furry companion. Rather than pay $1,600 for a purebred puppy, she could have elected to give a home to one of the estimated 600 million strays whose lives are in jeopardy.