Shown is "Neo," which was euthanized by the Kent County SPCA.
CAMDEN, Del.- A euthanized dog is at the center of a lawsuit going before a Delaware Superior Court judge this week.
In 2011, Delaware passed a law called the Companion Animal Protection Act. There are two key questions connected to the law in this suit. The first question is did the shelter that put the dog down follow the law. The second question is what impact does the law have on how Delaware values animals from a financial standpoint.
JC Hans clearly remembers when he rescued "Neo" back in 2011.
"Neo was my first rescue when I started the Mid-Atlantic chapter of Canine Nation," he said.
Neo was put with a foster family but escaped. He ended up at the Kent County SPCA, which put him down, Hans says was in violation of CAPA.
"Without them having tried to contact me, the foster family, the other rescues, without putting his face on the web site as the law requires," Hans said.
Kevin Usilton was not KCSPCA director when that happened, but he is now. He calls CAPA a poorly written law and an unfunded mandate. But he also says the shelter did try to contact Canine Nation and did follow the law's rules when it euthanized Neo.
"The Shelter Standards Law was presented in order to give animals a fair chance to be reunited with their owners," he said. "In this case, the question is was he the legal owner of the dog since he did not have custody of the dog at the time of its pick up."
If the judge sides with Hans, he wants $50,000 in compensation. But Usilton says a 2009 state supreme court decision lays from a legal perspective how much the dog is worth.
"The only value is how much is the dog," Usilton said. "To adopt a dog from the SPCA is $125."
"The fact that Neo is worth X or Y in market value isn't the problem," said Anne Benaroya, the attorney for Canine Nation. "The problem is using market value to value his life to begin with. It doesn't square with public sentiment."
Hans and Benaroya say it doesn't square with CAPA either.
"They're no longer worth $100 in the eyes of the law. Now there's something a little bit more intrinsic," Hans said. "There's a sentimental value. There's a human-animal bond."
Usilton says that interpretation reads something into the law that isn't actually there. Hans says if he wins he'll use the money to start a defense fund for other animals.
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