Who Gets to Keep Trover?

A man has a dog, “Trover,” who suddenly becomes ill. Trover loses all interest in chasing tennis balls, running around the park, sniffing, and other normal doggy activities. A visit to the vet ensues, with the result that Trover needs a $7,500 operation or he will die. This is far beyond the owner’s means, so instead he pays the vet $250 to have her put Trover to sleep. The owner, depressed, signs the authorization forms, and leaves the vet’s office.

About six months later, the man visits the park, and there is a dog that looks just like Trover. In fact, it is Trover. Not a ghost dog, but a dog that is alive and well, and out for a romp with… the vet. Upon questioning, the vet admits that Trover was such a sweet dog that she’s couldn’t let him die, and she decided to perform the operation at her own expense. Trover lives at her house and plays with her kids.

The man demands Trover back. The vet refuses, and she claims Trover is her dog now.

In your opinion, who gets custody of the dog?

(p.s. I previously posted this hypo to the fabulous AALS Contracts listserve, but no definitive answer was reached despite a willingness to talk about the law of bailments. Similar facts were reported as part of this news story.)

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38 Responses

  1. Anon says:

    Shouldn’t you have posted it to the property listserv? With most chattels, I’d give the original owner the goods, but I’d say that in this case the dog was abandoned and the owner was paying the pet for a disposal service — hence trover to the vet. What did the contract profs say?

    p.s. Shouldn’t the dog be called “replevin” — I realize it doesn’t rhyme with “Rover” but that’s what the owner wants. 🙂

  2. Miriam Cherry says:

    Contracts, property, they’re all the same, those private law first year subjects…. 😉

    For what it’s worth, there is a contract here, and perhaps a type of quasi-contract as well.

  3. KipEsquire says:

    Let’s start at the beginning: there was in fact a breach of contract.

    The default damage claim for breach of contract is “expectation damages,” which would require the destruction of the ill dog.

    But there is no ill dog anymore, and to kill the healthy dog would be unconscionable.

    So under the doctrines of (a) impossibility and (b) frustration of purpose, you must therefore revert to “reliance damages” (i.e., the parties are returned to their original position as if the contract had never been entered into).

    So the original owner gets both Trover and his $250.

    The vet is NOT entitled to the $7,500 (e.g., under an unjust enrichment theory) because he has unclean hands.

    And the vet hopefully loses his license too.

  4. Miriam Cherry says:

    Why punish the vet so harshly? Anon would have awarded custody to her.

  5. R says:


    But what was the contract for? The vet will argue that the contract was to get rid of the dog – which, in fact he did.

    In addition, there could be argument here for “efficient breach” – the vet breached the contract, but now has a dog that she is happy with. She may have to pay off the amount for the contract, but keep the dog.

  6. John Armstrong says:

    Correct me if I (the untrained) am wrong, but…

    It first comes to determining whether or not the euthanasia authorization included a transfer of ownership. I posit that the default answer (and thus lacking clear words to the contrary which the original owner should have noticed) is “no”. Many pet owners who have their pets put down for illness want to have some sort of burial or personal disposal. Asking a vet to euthanize a pet does not by itself imply a transfer of ownership to the vet. As far as what the original owner explicitly signed, he still owns Trover.

    The second point is that since the man walked away, he implicitly abandoned the dog. He did not make arrangements for the body himself, so he was assuming the vet would handle disposal. At this point it’s analogous to a trash bag on the sidewalk, which (if I recall) is fair game.

    So, the vet didn’t perform the service for which she was paid and should refund the $250. She voluntarily claimed effectively unclaimed property (once the man walked away) and so is currently the rightful owner.

    Actually, working through this gives me an idea for a (possibly) analogous hypothetical: say I have an iPod that stops working. One day it just won’t respond, no matter what. It’s past my warantee and I can’t justify going to some fancy place to repair it. All my music is in there (stupid me deleted the files from my computer), but it’s hopeless and not worth the effort to have it fixed. I just chuck the thing in a street trash can as I leave my apartment on the way downtown.

    My neighbor sees me do this and goes out to retrieve the device. He sees that it’s unresponsive, but he was an electrical engineering major in college, and he knows his way around an electronics bench. He fiddles with it and gets it working, along with 50GB or so of my music.

    Do I have a claim to the iPod I’d given up on and left for disposal in the trash? Of course not. Neither does Trover’s original owner. As far as I know, pets are covered under pretty much the same property laws as everything else. The nebulous “companionship” benefit (what a pet gives that an iPod doesn’t, or so I’m told) is a red herring in the original post.

  7. CM says:

    This may be more gut reaction than law school, but… A dog is not the same as personal property. You don’t have the same right to destroy a living creature as you would, say, a chair. So the vet was justified in making the decision not to kill the dog, and to pay for the operation instead.

    The vet certainly should give back the $250, since she didn’t put the dog to sleep. She should have told Trover’s owner about her decision — they could have agreed that she would pay and keep the dog, which the owner probably would have found preferable to killing the dog. But she didn’t, and the owner was willing to let the dog die rather than pay the money. He would be unjustly enriched if he got his healthy dog back. She should keep the dog.

  8. CM says:

    Actually, my last response didn’t seem entirely right, because it seemed like the vet should be punished a little more. She should also have to pay the man the value of the dog on top of the $250. (Of course, you could argue that the sick dog had no value, and she already paid to make the dog healthy… and talking about the monetary value of the dog is treating a dog like a chattel again, but it’s somewhere in between.)

  9. Contractual thinking doesn’t tell you everything. As Anon suggests, propertarian thinking proves useful. There are two actions by the vet: (1) not performing the euthanasia, and (2) performing the operation. Analyzing (1) as a breach of contract finds an obvious breach, leaving only the question of remedy. The owner could demand specific performance, but here won’t. Expectation and reliance damages mismeasure the interest because the goal isn’t financial and the owner isn’t out of pocket (for anything besides Trover). Restitutionary damages based on recision are the only sensible response. So that means a $250 refund and the return of Trover.

    At this point, however, property takes over from contract. Mistaken improvers of personal property can often keep the property if they pay restitution. The vet has engaged in a form of accession by mixing $7,500 of her labor with Trover. The two can’t be unmixed and the value of the labor is higher than than the original owner’s subjective valuation (since he wasn’t willing to pay $7,500 for the operation). Thus, the vet can keep Trover, but must pay some restitutionary amount to the owner.

    If the owner objects that, no, Trover is worth $7,500 to him, then a court sitting in equity could presumably also allow him to ratify the improvements and claim Trover by paying that amount. This remedy also shows up here and there in mistaken-improver cases.

    I wonder if bailment-specific law reaches the same result through a more directed analysis. What was the consensus from the listserv?

  10. Miriam Cherry says:

    The listserve did not reach a consensus; neither did my contracts class when I presented this hypo to them… But bailments did not, I think, add to the analysis.

    I have my own thoughts on how this might come out, but I’d like to see what you all have to say (because I’ve yet to have a large group agree). So far, though, Kip is the only one awarding custody to the original owner.

    Does it matter to your thinking / the outcome if the original owner is living from paycheck to paycheck or if the original owner is Bill Gates?

  11. Benjamin Weatherwax says:

    Trover should be returned to Original Owner.

    First, the vet breached the euthanasia contract.

    Second, the vet’s donation of the cost of the lifesaving treatment should be viewed as just that – a donation. Imagine a slightly different scenario: When Original Owner brings Trover to Vet, Vet says, “I’ll donate the treatment, but only if you give Trover over to me.” Perhaps Original would agree, perhaps he would not. Vet, however, sidesteps all this, taking Trover under false pretenses. (Vet’s failure ever to communicate Trover’s survival to Original shows that Vet is engaged in an ongoing fraud.) Vet shouldn’t be permitted to profit by defrauding Original of Trover’s companionship.

    Third, if we’re worried about depriving the Vet the $7,500 fee, let Original sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress and the $7,500 can be part of the damages award (compensatory or punitive, I care not which).

    Fourth, it seems to me that Trover is much better off with Original (applying something like a “best interest of the animal” standard here). Vet is a deceptive kidnapper; Original’s worst deed is failing to have the disposable income to save Trover’s life.

    As you can see, I’m grasping a bit. The conclusion – Trover goes home with Original – comes first. Rationales come second.

  12. R says:

    “Does it matter to your thinking / the outcome if the original owner is living from paycheck to paycheck or if the original owner is Bill Gates?”

    It would if we want to bring in the family law concept of “best interest of the child” – here, “best interest of the pet”. That sort of makes sense if we want to bring in the dog’s feelings – perhaps it would be better off eating filet mignon than cheap dog food?

    I think it would be going too far to start taking that in to account. Animals have historically been considered chattel, and while we put a lot of emotional value in to them, it is unclear whether they put that much back in to us, or have a lot of emotional stake in where they live. At least, it would probably be beyond the abilities of the court to so determine.

    To flip your question around, however – would it matter if instead of a dog, it was a workhorse on a farm? Less emotional attachment, but more monetary value?

  13. My thinking is not affected by the identity of the original owner. I have, however, realized that another factor — again suggested by the property law of improvers — might affect the reasoning. Did the vet act in good faith?

    Under the scenario as you described it, it sounds as though the vet acted in good faith in the sense that she made the contract with the owner intending to carry out the euthanasia. She then changed her mind, felt sorry for Trover, and performed the operation, in the belief that Trover was hers (by virtue of the original owner’s actions). Given that belief, her actions feel intuitively defensible, and it seems ethically acceptable to let her keep Trover (subject to monetary restitution to the original owner).

    Things are very different if she acted in bad faith. (By this I mean either that she had no intention of carrying out the euthanasia in the first place, or that when she changed her mind she realized that she should and could contact the original owner to offer to buy Trover but chose not to.) Here, she has an intent to defraud, or at least to take advantage. It feels much wronger to let her keep the dog in this case.

    But guess what? The property law of bad-faith improvers tracks this distinction, too. The bad-faith improver has no restitutionary claim on the original owner. For real property, the original owner may keep the improvement on her land without paying. For chattels, the original owner may demand the return the altered item. (That is, in the bad-faith case, the dog ought to be named Replevin. Once again, Anon was there first.)

  14. Miriam Cherry says:

    My contracts class seemed to think the economic status of the original owner (“OO”) mattered greatly:

    If OO was destitute, they sided with OO (because he really had no other choice but to abandon the dog, not having $7,500).

    If, on the other hand, OO was Bill Gates, then they sided with the vet (because OO presumably had money but decided that he didn’t care enough to spend it on the dog, whereas the vet cared enough to perform the operation).

    But should the result turn on how much OO is worth?

    Similarly, the good or bad faith of the vet became an important factor for the class, too. Assume, though, for purposes of the hypo, that the vet is acting in good faith and the FMV of the services really is $7,500.

  15. logicnazi says:

    The situation in the hypothetical is very different than the situation in the news story. At the very least how a jury would view a vet who donated their own labour to fix a sick dog versus a vet who just didn’t euthanize a dog but didn’t bother to have it repaired either is going to be very different.

  16. Miriam Cherry says:

    True, they are different, but as the hypo has a loose resemblance to the facts of the news story though, and this article had been called to my attention, I wanted to point it out.

  17. Another question that might affect people’s ethical intuitions: Is the vet destitute or is she Melinda Gates?

  18. Phill says:

    The former owner gets the dog but the vet acting as Trover guardian brings suit against his former owner for attempted murder. On winning the case the former owner is himself euthanized.

    Unfortunately the the former owners heirs decide that they don’t want a dog and have Trover put down.

    The vet writes a book about her experience and appears on Oprah.

  19. Simon says:

    The principal contract: “[t]he owner, depressed, signs the authorization forms.” Doesn’t the answer turn on the terms of the contract?

  20. Anon says:

    (Same Anon) I agree with James. The bad faith has got to be relevant because the remedy sought by OO is at equity. (Oh, and 00 should get the $250 back.) I also agree with John that most owners would want the pet back for burial, in which case title wouldn’t pass. OO’s indifference in this hypo to the chattel is pretty clear abandonment, but even if it isn’t, accession does the work to keep the dog with the vet (provided no bad faith).

    p.s. The interplay of wealth and ownership you’re pushing is reminding me a bit of the debates over organ sales and ownership (e.g. Moore v Regents) — interesting because it hints that perhaps the concerns you are raising with this hypo are somehow analogous to the property/persona issues raised by that case.

    p.s.s. Ben> “The conclusion – Trover goes home with Original – comes first. Rationales come second.” If we’re lawyers, rationales come first, conclusions come second. (Ignoring the Crits, of course.)

  21. gramm says:

    In my view, the outcome turns on the specific language of the “authorization form” OO signed at the vet’s office. If the form contains language relevant to the disposal of euthanized animals, those terms will control.

    Assuming those terms make clear that an owener, by executing the agreement, gives up “ownership” of his or her animal (or at least its corpse), OO has no claim for return of Trover and is only entitled to, if anything, money damages for breach of the the contract to euthanize Trover.

    However, if the terms of the agreement do not address disposal of Trover, or are ambiguous on the issue, OO should be given the option of adopting the improvements to Trover made by Vet, and “purchasing” those services he had previously declined. This result best restores OO to the position he was in prior to Vet’s breach.

  22. Paul Gowder says:

    Lets break it down a little bit. First, suck away the emotional content by changing the hypo. Dude owns expensive watch. That watch breaks. He takes it in to watch store and finds out it will cost $7,500 to fix. Disgruntled, he throws it in the trash can in the watch store and stomps out.

    The watch store owner fishes the watch out of his trash can, puts the $7,500 worth of work in, and keeps the watch.

    Would anyone think that the previous watch owner had any cause of action whatsoever here?

    I think not. Now is there a meaningful difference between signing authorization to euthanize a dog and throwing out a watch? Perhaps because there’s some kind of privity of contract between the dog owner and the vet. But the measure of contract damages is expectation damages, it’s ordinarily wholly irrelevant whether or not the breaching party has extra profit. Here (assuming specific performance isn’t desired by anyone), I’d say there are no damages: the owner wanted the dog gone, and the dog is gone.

    I fail to see how there are any other damages. Assuming (as others in the thread have) that the owner didn’t want the corpse back, and hence was abandoning the dog, there’s no conversion. And no damages = no contract claim. I can’t think of a tort claim like intentional infliction of emotional distress, because there’s no indication that the vet intended the owner to know. Owner SoL.

  23. anon says:

    Was King Solomon a crit? 😉

  24. Joe Miller says:


    It does seem helpful to shift to something like the watch example, at least to check one’s thinking. (And the tacit homage to Descarte’s analogizing dogs to machines is fun.)

    But perhaps the watch example is more useful as a contrast, rather than as a similar case. The comments in this thread suggest that people’s expectations around end-of-life care and health care for a companion animal are radically different from their expectations about watch repair. To the extent that the legal analysis incorporates the actors’ reasonable expectations, looking to the watch case may do more to show differences than similarities.

  25. Frank says:

    I’d file this under property, not contract, and say that the original owner abandoned Trover and now he is the veterinarian’s. Sure, the vet may have breached the contract to euthanize, but had it been followed, there’d be no dog. Specific performance would mean death to Trover. All I’d give the original owner would be whatever he’d payed to put the pooch down.

  26. CDB says:

    I think OO’s economic status can help us determine the parties’ intent when they entered into this agreement, along with the terms of the form. If OO was destitute, maybe all he was contracting for was $250 so he wouldn’t have to take care of a sick dog/watch his dog die, which he did not have to do. Even if he was just contracting for some kind of abstract notion of his dog “being at peace,” and “not suffering,” this too, was delivered. If OO was Bill Gates maybe we can assume that he wanted the dog put to sleep, paid his $250, and expected that performance.

    I’m not sure where property thinking gets us exactly. The dog was probably abandoned since OO did not plan to bury the dog himself. While the law of bailments does imply that the Vet should keep Trover (the value of a live, healthy dog is obviously much greater than a dead one), the Vet acted in bad faith by treating and possessing a dog that wasn’t his, unless we go back to contract interpretation determining whether the Vet was merely to dispose of OO’s property or OO was just paying $250 to not have the problem anymore.

    The best I can see OO getting is if he specifically wanted his dog to die and that was what the $250 was for, though I’m not sure how a court might calculate these damages, and, since it is a claim of equity I think a court would be hard pressed to order specific performance of the lethal injection (and the Vet could claim that this would result in economic waste, since he plugged in the $7500 in improvements). There are no reliance damages and I think any expectation damages resulting from the Vet’s nonperformance while still relieving OO of ownership are simply too uncertain to quantify.

    My practical guess? A court is likely to throw up its hands and awards restitution of the $250 for services not performed. The Vet keeps the dog.

  27. jim says:

    The question is what “signing the authorization forms” amounts to. A (possibly) comparable case: I own an old and loved car, not worth $7500. It develops severe engine trouble. The mechanic tells me it will cost $7500 to fix. Instead I pay him $250 to junk it. He fixes it at his cost and drives it around himself. Have I a claim? No. Since as part of the transaction I will have signed over title to the car.

    Is the contract to perform a specific service or is the contract to make the problem go away?

  28. Frank: The trouble with just claiming “abandonment” as the appropriate analytical category is that the abandonment is conditional. The original owner is (apparently) abandoning his claim in Trover’s body conditional on Trover’s euthanized death. The vet’s breach of the euthanasia contract makes that condition fail.

    The abandonment story also doesn’t explain, by itself, why the original owner can’t seek recission as a remedy for the vet’s refusal to perform the procedure. By making everything turn on the breach, it doesn’t distinguish the case in which the vet then performs the operation from the case in which she doesn’t.

  29. Paul Gowder says:


    That’s a very interesting point. I guess I’d say first that it’s not clear to what extent our expectations around end-of-life-care, etc. for a companion animal should be given legal import once the animal is surrendered.

    Consider a nastier variation. The owner pays the vet $250 to euthanize the dog, but the vet does so negligently: the dog dies while suffering. (Or any number of more gruesome things we can imagine: the vet maliciously tortures the dog, the vet eats the dog after it’s killed, the vet harvests the dog’s organs for other dogs, etc.) The owner learns of this conduct by sheer inadvertence (he goes to the same gym as the vet’s receptionist, say). Does the owner have any kind of claim against the vet?

    I think most people would say “no” in this situation, although I could be wrong. If I am right, however, it suggests that the owner’s expectation as to end-of-life-care isn’t what’s driving the urge to make the vet liable in the Trover case, but rather the sense that the vet obtained an unfair gain.

    Yet this sense seems inaccurate: presumably the market value of the treatment is $7,500, so presumably the vet spent $7,500 worth of labor, materials, etc. on fixing up the dog. The vet was willing (or able, yes) to do so when the owner was not.

    (Although I confess, the King Solomon suggestion seems most compelling of all!)

  30. David says:

    I initially liked the notion that the original owner abandoned Trover (“the property”). However, the abandonment was under the mutual understanding that the doctor would peform on a contract, after which point Trover would have no value at all, making abandonment by the owner reasonable.

    I think that a good reading of the intent of the original contract would be that the owner was exercising his right to destroy any intrinsic value the property had for anyone unless he could possess it himself. It was definitely the original owner’s right to do so. If he couldn’t maintain value in the property, he can decide that no future possessor/owner could benefit from that value, including the doctor.

    That the propery was cute and adorable enough to cause the doctor to be sympathetic and perform an act of kindness is an intrinsic part of the value the original owner rightfully sought to destroy. (So, in fact, the owner *did* have the resources to cover the cost of the $7500 operation, because his property was cute enough to earn him a 100% discount:)

    The original owner never sought to give to the doctor, or anyone but himself the property if it had any value left (except perhaps for occasional possessor who might have been permitted by the owner to throw a tennis ball at or near the property).

    Trover goes back to the original owner. The property still had value, so the “lack of value” prerequisite to abandonment never happened.

    If the doctor gets anything, I’d say $250 dollars, since he did perform on the contract to the extent that, if the property goes back to the original owner, his efforts are part of the outcome whereby nobody in the world, except for the original owner and his immediate friends and family, get to enjoy the cute piece of property.

  31. Anon says:

    James> The trouble with just claiming “abandonment” as the appropriate analytical category is that the abandonment is conditional.

    That’s interesting, James — have you got a case/treatise cite for a common law doctrine of conditional abandonment?

    King Solomon wasnt a crit. I guess the Crits aren’t the only ones who think the law isn’t really about putting reasoning before judgments.

  32. Anon: That’s interesting, James — have you got a case/treatise cite for a common law doctrine of conditional abandonment?

    My sense that where there’s an implied condition, there’s no abandonment until the condition is fulfilled. I take that from reading various definitions of “abandonment” that emphasize that the renunciation must be absolute. Am. Jur. 2d, Abandoned, Lost, and Unclaimed Property § 9 says, for example:

    As sometimes stated, the intent to relinquish property permanently is an essential element to its abandonment. Otherwise stated, property is formally abandoned only if it has been renounced utterly.On the other hand, ignorance, inadvertence, or unawareness militate against a finding of abandonment.”

    Commonwealth v. Wetmore, 301 Pa. Super. 370 (1982) doesn’t really support my position, but it’s a great case that discusses this issue. After his son committed suicide with a shotgun, a father asked the defendant (at that time the local chief of police) to dispose of or destroy the shotgun. He did so, but not for a year — and wrote the father a letter in the interim falsely claiming to have disposed of it. His conviction for larceny was overturned, on the ground that there can be no theft of abandoned property. The dissent had this to say:

    In this respect, the facts are not analogous to the throwing away of garbage. Rather, they are similar to the situation in which a desk is to be delivered to a charity or where a rabid dog is delivered to a game warden for destruction. In these situations, a relinquishment of the rights of ownership does not occur until the desk has been delivered or the dog has been put to sleep. Where an item of property has been delivered to another for purposes of destruction, there is no abandonment until the property has been destroyed. If the bailee does not destroy the property and keeps it for his own use, he can be prosecuted for theft by unlawful disposition.

    Very interesting hypo — everyone I tell it to has a different reaction.

  33. Anon says:

    Thanks so much, James. And thanks to Miriam for posting the fun hypo. I wonder if this is particularly fun at this time of year? After spending a couple weeks grading exams, it’s fun to have the tables turned. 🙂

  34. KMB says:

    This situation suggested an alternate hypothesis… I’d love to hear the legal analysis of this one:

    “Mary” goes to see a doctor “Jim” at a clinic for a late-term abortion. After signing the authorization forms, Mary enters the operating room and is put under anesthetic. Jim delivers the baby and places it in a nursery in another room instead of aborting it. Mary wakes up and goes home, unaware. Jim takes the baby home and raises it himself. Later, Mary finds out that her son/daughter is still alive.


    What happens to the baby? What is the baby’s legal status? Who is the baby’s legal guardian under the law?

    Does Mary have a claim to getting the baby back from Jim and raising it herself? What claim does she have against Jim for violating the terms of the ‘contract’? What claim does Jim have on the baby (if any)?

    If Mary does get the baby back, does she have claim against the baby’s father for child support? Can the father use the (failed) abortion attempt in court to influence any support judgment against him?

    If Jim keeps the baby, does he have claim for child support against either Mary or the baby’s father?

    How far does the ‘contract’ signed in the clinic extend? Does Mary have a right to a ‘dead baby’?

    What are the fundamental similarities and differences between this situation and the hypothetical above with Trover (or the watch and the IPod)?

  35. Miriam Cherry says:

    First, thanks to everyone for the great comments.

    As a whole, the ConOp crowd seems to think custody should go to the vet. Just so you know how it came out when I posed this to my classes: the majority of one class agreed with the vet, and the other wanted to award custody to OO. Again, part of it seemed to be based on who valued the dog more, and whether the OO had the money to pay for the operation.

    People tended to have a strong gut reaction about this one way or the other. My own “gut” was to prefer custody to the vet, but I was at dinner with others and we spent the rest of the night debating it.

    CM: Excellent point that the Vet should have contacted OO and described what was happening; As for the King Solomon suggestion, that was something that occurred to me too – give Vet and OO some beef jerky and see where Trover goes…

    As for KMB’s comparison to the abortion context, I did have a student from class ask me a similar question, which I told him I would need more time to think through (and now I have). I think there are significant differences between the old hypo and the new hypo based on constitutional right to choice; right to control one’s reproductive capabilities / genetic material (there’s a case from the Massachussetts SJC forbidding implantation of frozen embryos because the man didn’t want to become a father); end of life care vs. abortion.

    But, KMB, you’re right, it calls into the question all of the posts saying that the Vet can do what she wants to “abandoned property” even though the contract is for euthanasia. Interesting.

  36. Well, many states have resisted efforts to turn pets into something other than personal property — you can see the tort and family law littered with such cases.

    recission as a remedy for the vet’s refusal to perform the procedure. is a very common approach.

    As for the abortion hypo, there are a growing number of statutes and cases that make abortion or attempted abortion (before or after birth) a basis for termination of rights.

    Interesting intersection, especially since when you look at the ipod in the trash, the answer is so clear.

    Part of it is that the owner has an emotional connection to the pet that is violated by the pet not being dead, but somewhere else, the same as it is for a child that is delivered instead of aborted. Strange how the matter flips in some of those cases.

    Been great to read this one, and to see it linked to by other blogs.

  37. K Smith says:

    I would say a better analogy for this would be the person who delivered a car to the junk yard for crushing after discovering that repairs of $7500 would be needed to bring it to working condition. The contract with the junk yard covers crushing and disposal of the scrap metal at the junk yard owners smelter. The owner pays a fee of $250 to have the car crushed and only allows transference of the car after it is reduced to scrap. The car title itself does not transfer because the transfer of the property only occurs after the crushing when it was no longer a car. When the junk yard owner decides the car is too good to waste and does not crush it, the title still has not tranfer to him and he would be converting property to take it and repair it to new condition without permission.

    In the dog case the transfer of possession occurs at the time it is no longer a dog, but is indeed a corpse, if the contract with the Vet covers that aspect. Having had a dog euthenized once I recall there being a statement about disposition of the body. While the dog still lived OO continued to have an obligation to provide for its care and provided for that by arranging for end of life services. OO would not and did not abandon the dog, though there may be some merit to the argument that he planned to abandon the corpse. A refund for failure to perform contracted services of $250 is in order.

    Since the Vet did not repair the corpse, but repaired the dog which was not yet abandoned, ownership would continue to belong to OO. As sweet as the gesture of repairing the dog was it was never her property.

  38. Chris Berry says:

    Trover to the vet.

    Under property law, the man abandoned Trover. Abandonment of personal property has been defined as “the voluntary relinquishment of a thing by its owner with the intention of terminating his ownership, and without [the intention of] vesting ownership in any other person”. I think that clearly applies. The man’s title was severed when he left the vet’s office and Trover belonged to nobody. The vet claimed the abandoned property.

    There is a breach of contract issue, I suppose, but one that is limited to damages. The veterinarian breached the contract by failing to euthanize the dog for $250. I suppose she might be required to give the $250 back and pay for any emotional shock or damages the man can prove — though if anything, the knowledge that his beloved dog didn’t die should actually make him happy.

    I don’t see on what grounds the man can replevy Trover since he lost title by abandoning Trover. Under contract law, specific performance would require euthanizing Trover and not returning him to the man.

    This outcome is also preferential morally and politically. The best outcome is one that leaves Trover alive and if somebody who decides to foot a $7,500 bill instead of letting Trover die wants to do so then I say let Trover live.