Ruthie was more than a pet…. She was family.
When Ms. Lohre returned home one August afternoon to find Ruthie dead under her dining room table, she was devastated. While a company called Posh Maids had been cleaning the house, a worker had accidentally let Ruthie outside, where she was hit by a car. The worker left no note.
Ms. Lohre sued for nearly $100,000, most of that for her and her daughter’s mental suffering. In 2012, a Colorado district court awarded her $65,000—one of the largest emotional-distress judgments for a pet in U.S. history. Posh Maids went out of business. Ms. Lohre had purchased Ruthie for $299.
Americans have long seen dogs and cats as family members, but the law hasn’t always agreed. Until the early 1900s, both animals were deemed so legally worthless that they didn’t even qualify as property—and could be stolen or killed without repercussion. But as Americans began to spend millions, then billions, on food, toys and veterinary care for their pets, the law changed. Today, cats and dogs aren’t just property; they are the most legally protected animals in the country.