Animal Law Review

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A tort occurs where one individual breaches a duty allegedly owed to another. When the damage necessitates a judicial rem­edy, it is up to the courts to fix the appropriate level of compen­sation. The law distinguishes between two categories of compensatory awards and labels them ''economic'' and ''noneconomic'' remedies. When a loss falls into the latter cate­gory-that is, the damages suffered lack an ascertainable mar­ket value-judges have struggled to put a price on the harm.

This jurisprudential puzzle is particularly apparent in the pet loss context. Companion animals are defined as property under the law in all fifty states. Thus, when a court is confronted with the wrongful injury or death of a pet, it is generally reluctant to grant an award above and beyond the so-called market value of that animal. In response, economists have proposed a variety of valuation methods to better assess the ''true'' companion value of a pet.

But it is impossible to evaluate the companionship of breathing, sentient creatures using classic economic vernacular. In truth, the loss of a pet simply cannot be remunerated with money; no dollar amount can compensate for the loss of a companion animal. Instead, courts should recognize a new category of noneconomic ''solace damages," whereby judges may grant damage awards designed not to restore but to rectify or pacify the loss.

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