Animal injury cases present unique difficulties in measuring damages. In Colorado, dogs are accorded qualified property status. 820 P.2d 644. Colorado Dog Fanciers, Inc. v. City and County of Denver, 820 P.2d 644 (Colo. 1991). In most cases, plaintiffs will recover only the market value of the pet – the amount of money someone else would pay for a pet of the same, age, breed, and condition. Webster v. Boone, 992 P.2d 1183 (Colo. App. 1999).

Nonetheless, courts and litigants are aware that society places great value on its companion animals. Recently some courts have started to accept a non-economic type of damages unrelated to market valuation – a pet’s intrinsic value. Intrinsic value recognizes animals as individuals and their unique relationship to their owners. In Colorado, Chryar v. Wolf, the court considered the loss of personal mementos. That court held “that sentimental and emotional value of property may be considered in awarding damages in connection with claims for intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress.” 21 P.3d 428 (Colo. App. 2000).

Another type of non-economic injury that can be available for plaintiffs to claim is their mental pain and suffering from the injury or death of their pets. Animal owners can be emotionally devastated by the wrongful injury or death of their companions. In Colorado, courts have maintained that mental pain and suffering damages are not available unless they are accompanied by “fraud, malice or other willful and wanton conduct.” Webster v. Boone. Therefore, Colorado could recognize emotional distress damages for malicious actions involving the death of an animal.

In some other jurisdictions, courts have allowed damages for loss of companionship due to the death of an animal. In Brousseau v. Rosenthal, the court awarded damages beyond the mixed breed dog’s market value for the protective value the dog provided to a widow. Colorado’s appellate courts have not considered loss of companionship damages in an animal case in a published opinion, but based on the cases cited, there are many factors Colorado courts can consider to allow the damages in such a case to reflect the actual value of a pet.

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