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Japanese court rules pet is family member

Date Posted: 2006-03-24

A dachshund attacked and killed by a large dog in Nagoya last year has triggered a landmark court decision.

The miniature dachshund was being walked by its owner last May, an everyday occurrence in a residential neighborhood. On this day, a mongrel dog usually confined by a chain in its owner’s yard was loose.

Officials say the large dog was usually kept under restraint, but the owner failed to hitch the dog to its chain, allowing the animal to escape from its home area and attack the dachshund. The puppy was bitten in the neck and stomach, and died of those injuries.

The puppy’s 78-year-old owner was devastated, and took the attacking dog’s master to court. “It is too painful an accident for the old lady and her dachshund,” the complaint read, asking for ¥670,000 compensation.

The Nagoya High Court agreed, and found the mongrel dog’s owner guilty of failing to control his animal. The consolation money was ordered.

The court’s ruling set a new precedent for animal cases. Until this incident, pets had always been considered by courts to be personal property, goods as opposed to living animals. In the past, punitive awards for damages were only in the ¥30,000~40,000 range, enough to purchase a new animal.

Nagoya’s High Court ruled the master’s mental damage is important enough to care about, and said owners must be accountable for their pets’ actions. An animal unleashed remains the responsibility of the owner.

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