Part I: PETA tells a court that dogs are worthless and that stealing & killing a family’s dog is not “outrageous.” The Court disagrees.

Maya (2)

Maya. Stolen and killed by PETA

On October 18, 2014, PETA employees illegally entered a family’s yard, went on their porch, stole their dog, and then killed her with a lethal dose of barbiturates. Maya’s family was devastated.

Although PETA initially denied doing so, surveillance video of the theft proved they were lying. They subsequently admitted to taking and killing Maya. She was not the only one. According to records received under the Public Records Act, PETA also rounded up and killed two four month old kittens, a six month old puppy, a one-year-old lab-mix, and another Chihuahua.

The Commonwealth of Virginia gave them a $500 fine for breaking the law, a slap on the wrist considering it is a fraction of the $52 million PETA took in that year from unsuspecting donors. But Maya’s family sued PETA for compensatory and punitive damages, alleging conversion of their dog (theft), trespass, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They seek $2,000,000 in compensatory damages and $5,000,000 in punitive damages.

PETA, in turn, asked the court to throw out the lawsuit by arguing that the dog was unlicensed so was not worth anything, the dog had no value beyond the cost of replacement for another dog, they had permission by the property owner to remove community cats so they cannot be guilty of trespass for entering and killing a dog, and the family is not entitled to punitive damages because PETA’s theft and immediate killing of a happy, healthy, beloved dog is not “outrageous” conduct.

In June, the Court rejected most, but tragically not all, of PETA’s arguments. First, the Court rejected PETA’s argument that failure to license a dog means the dog is worthless. PETA cited an 1887 law that required a dog “to be properly licensed as a condition of being deemed personal property.” Since the family had not licensed the dog, the dog cannot be considered property, and thus has no value, PETA argued. Putting aside the irony–and outrageousness–of PETA arguing that Maya had no value, the argument is dishonest and PETA’s lawyers know it (or should know it). That statute was repealed in 1966, 50 years ago. It has not been the law in half a century.

Unfortunately, the Court did agree with PETA that the family can only recover the market value of the dog under compensatory damages. In other words, PETA’s position is that Maya was like a toaster. If you break it, you just throw it away and get a new one, another outrageous argument by a group that takes in over $50 million per year arguing to an unsuspecting public that animals matter and have worth independent of their “market value.” More importantly, while the family can get another dog, they can never get another Maya. She is dead and gone forever because PETA purposefully and illegally trespassed on their property to steal and kill her.

PETA, however, told the court that they cannot be held liable for trespass because the property owner gave them permission to come into the trailer park and onto the property and round up community cats (who they would also kill that day). In other words, PETA argued that since they had permission to round up and kill community cats, they have permission to come on the property and also steal (and then kill) a family’s dog. The Judge was not moved: giving someone permission to come onto a property for one purpose does not give them the right to do whatever they want. Furthermore, wrote the Judge, “a dog is not a cat.”

Finally, the Court overruled PETA’s argument that stealing and killing a dog is not “outrageous conduct” required for awarding of punitive damages. The Judge ruled: “I believe reasonable people could find that taking another’s dog and killing [her] is outrageous and intolerable.”

So do I. And so does every true animal lover on the planet, which–by PETA’s own definition–excludes PETA, its staff, its enablers, and its defenders.

The Court’s ruling is here.

Learn more about Maya by clicking here.

Learn why by clicking here.

Part II: The Court denies PETA’s ongoing attempt to get away with Maya’s “murder”

In September, the two PETA employees involved in the actual theft added outrageous claims of their own in a bid to get away with Maya’s illegal murder. First, one of the PETA employees argued that she can’t be held liable because she didn’t actually take Maya. “All she did” was conspire with the other employee to steal Maya, drive the getaway car, backed the van up to the family’s porch, and kept lookout while her accomplice went on on the family’s porch to steal and then kill Maya. In other words, even though she planned the crime, participated in the crime, drove the car to the crime, backed the car to the porch to commit the crime, kept a lookout during the commission of the crime, drove the getaway car from the crime scene, and then drove Maya to the PETA shed where PETA illegally killed her, suing her for all of the conduct is unfair because she didn’t actually go onto the porch and grab Maya.

Second, the PETA employees once again argued that stealing and killing a dog is not outrageous conduct and should not give rise to punitive damages.

Finally, in an argument reeking with racial overtones, they want to know if the Spanish speaking person whose dog they stole and killed is legally in the U.S. As I noted when news of the theft and murder of Maya was first reported over a year ago, “Some have suggested that PETA targeted the trailer park [for rounding up and killing people’s animals] because of the language barrier, the questionable immigration status, and the fear of government officials that pervades the tenants. In other words, PETA officials thought they could get away with it.”

The Court overruled all the claims and the case will proceed to trial. Specifically, it ruled:

  • “[T]hat entering on to another’s property for the purpose of carrying away his pet is an aggravating circumstance” which would support a claim “for intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
  • Being involved in the crime such as by backing the van onto the property and driving away with the dog so that a trespass could occur and Maya stolen is enough to be held liable for trespass and “conversion” of property even if she didn’t actually enter the property herself and grab the dog.
  • That the immigration status of the person whose dog they stole is irrelevant to the theft and killing of the dog.

A copy of the Court’s ruling on the second motion to dismiss is here.

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