The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit law organization based in California, has filed a legal brief supporting a local family whose dog was shot by sheriff's deputies.
The brief, filed Friday with the Court of Special Appeals, goes against one filed by a group of animal welfare organizations earlier this summer.
The ALDF is asking the court to uphold the jury's $600,000-plus verdict and reflect the value that Americans place on family pets, said Matthew Liebman, a senior attorney with the organization.
On April 3, 2012, a six-person jury found that a deputy violated the rights of Roger and Sandi Jenkins when he shot their chocolate Labrador retriever, Brandi, on Jan. 9, 2010, while he and another deputy were at their Bullfrog Road home looking for their son, who was wanted on a civil warrant.
The jury awarded $620,000 to the family, but that amount was later adjusted by a Circuit Court judge to $607,500 to comply with state law that caps damages for veterinary bills at $7,500.
The remaining portions of the award were for veterinary costs and other harm to the family.
Attorneys for the sheriff's office appealed the case to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in July, the same month a brief was filed by animal welfare groups that urged the court to decrease the award for emotional distress.
The Court of Special Appeals will determine whether emotional damages in specific cases of intentional harm are appropriate. In many states, family pets are considered property, meaning a family could receive only the "market value" of the animal.
"Such a rule is illogical and creates little or no deterrence to those people who recklessly or intentionally target other people's animals for harm," the ALDF wrote in its brief.
Earlier this summer, nine national and local groups filed a brief arguing that the jury's award for emotional distress stemming from the shooting of the dog will lead to increased costs in veterinary care, pet products and other services.
The groups are narrowly focused in their stand, agreeing that the $200,000 for emotional distress is improper and not supported by current state law.
The groups listed in the brief are the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, American Kennel Club, Cat Fanciers' Association, Animal Health Institute, American Veterinary Medical Association, National Animal Interest Alliance, American Pet Products Association, American Animal Hospital Association and Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.
Liebman said he doesn't agree that costs would go up if the decision is upheld. He also said the groups represent animal medical professionals who make their living on services such as surgeries that cost more than an animal's market value, underscoring an animal's greater value.
"In that sense, they want to have their cake and eat it, too," he said.
The case has not been scheduled for argument before the court, according to online records.
Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.
On the web:
A YouTube footage of the incident is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvnbxAygGSg. ___