During my appearance on Fox and Friends (@FOXandFriends) with Steve Doocey (@sdoocey) and Ashleigh Merchant (@AshleighMerchant), I debated a case where an Oregon couple was awarded $240,000 in damages because their neighbor’s Tiberian Mastiffs were constantly barking for a lengthy period of time.
In my discussion, I argued that this verdict will likely be appealed and reversed for two primary reasons. First, an appellate court will look at the amount of damages and have concerns about the excessive nature. Our society has become too litigious and this is why people dislike the judicial system.
Additionally, the judge, in this case, precluded a defense from the defendant dog owner that these dogs were service dogs. Specifically, the Defendant dog owners asserted that the dogs were being used to protected livestock. Clearly, the dogs did their intended job by continually barking in order to not allow other animals near the livestock. However, the judge limited the defense on the opinion that Tiberian Mastiffs are not an acceptable breed of dog for this service. Due to my experience as a certified New Jersey trial attorney, it is my opinion that this ruling was in error given the expansive use of dogs in the service industry. Rather, the focus should not have been on the specific breed, but on the type of training the dogs received to perform the specific service.
Finally, I am extremely troubled with regard to the judge’s order to devocalize these animals. In addition to the $240,000 damages that were awarded to the plaintiff neighbors, the judge issued an injunction which ordered that the dogs be removed or devocalized. Devocalization is an invasive surgical procedure applied to dogs and cats, where tissue is removed from the animal’s vocal cords to permanently reduce the volume of their vocalizations. @Peta calls the procedure a “cruel operation of convenience” and the procedure is illegal in five states, including New Jersey.
For these reasons, I believe that this decision will be appealed by the defendant dog owners, and most likely reversed.