Animal Legal Defense Fund Urges Washington Supreme Court to Recognize Human Bond with Companion Animals

Posted on June 19, 2017

Brief Filed in Support of Washington Man Grieving Beloved Dog’s Botched Euthanasia

Contact:
Natalia Lima, 201-679-7088, nlima@aldf.org

Today the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in the case of Robert Repin, a Washington man who has sued for emotional distress damages after a veterinarian botched his dog Kaisa’s euthanasia, causing her a painful and prolonged death. Today’s brief urges the Washington State Supreme Court to grant Repin’s petition for judicial review and change the law to recognize the deep emotional bond between humans and companion animals.

“Washington has a golden opportunity to update its laws to reflect the reality that companion animals are irreplaceable members of the family,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “This is yet another example of the misclassification of animals as property under the law. The painful death of a beloved animal is not comparable to the loss of mere property. State law shouldn’t treat it as if it were.”

Repin’s ordeal began in 2012 when his beloved dog Kaisa was diagnosed with cancer. With Kaisa in intensive care and a prognosis indicating that she would survive no longer than a few months, Repin made the difficult decision to end Kaisa’s suffering and scheduled her for euthanasia. Typical companion animal euthanasia involves two injections—first a sedative, then the drug to stop the heart. Repin maintains that due to veterinary negligence, the procedure did not go according to plan, and after the second injection Kaisa showed signs of severe pain, spending several minutes thrashing and crying out while the veterinarian left to find another dose of medicine to stop the heart. While it is always an emotional experience to euthanize a companion animal, Repin expected to give Kaisa a quiet, painless and peaceful death. Instead, she suffered, and Repin was deeply traumatized. He sued the Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital for emotional damages due to their reckless breach of contract to provide Kaisa with a peaceful death.

In March 2017, an intermediate court of appeals upheld the trial court’s decision to dismiss Repin’s lawsuit, explaining the law in Washington simply does not allow recovery of damages for emotional distress involving the wrongful death of an animal. However, a concurring decision by Chief Judge George B. Fearing recommended review by the state’s highest court, noting that while current state law does not offer the damages Repin seeks, the principles of the law suggest that it should. When a veterinarian breaches a contract to humanely euthanize an animal, it undoubtedly takes a steep emotional toll on the animal’s guardian. Accordingly, the chief judge recommended the high court adopt the very change in law that the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s brief now urges.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund thanks the law firm Lane Powell PC for its work on this case.


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