Labradors like food. The last one we had at the farm would eat anything his powerful jaws could grind up. He only came to grief when he tried it on a brown snake, with sadly fatal consequences (R.I.P. Roly).
So I was interested in a story that landed in my inbox this week. According to 101.5 WPDH, Shannon Walton of Hopewell Junction, NY, fed her Labrador/beagle cross with “Blue Wilderness” dog food because it was advertised as “inspired by the diet of wolves.” Her dog put on substantial weight and was diagnosed with diabetes and canine obesity.
The lawsuit claims that Blue Buffalo was deceptive in their advertising because the food contains “high levels of dietary carbohydrates, which are neither healthy for dogs nor a meaningful part of the diet of grey wolves.”
The Hopewell Junction woman is seeking a class-action lawsuit which she says could reach over $5 million.
This left me wondering what, specifically, such a claim would be for. Strictly speaking, her dog is an item of property. Presumably, Ms Walton would be entitled to the diminished value of the dog, which I suppose would be a few hundred dollars at most. On the other hand, if the dog is viewed as part of her family, perhaps harm to it is something which the food manufacturer should reasonably have foreseen could cause mental harm to a person of ordinary fortitude (Tame v New South Wales; Annetts v Australian Stations Pty Ltd (2002) 211 CLR 317). If this is the case, then the claim may have significant value. But, does this tend to treat Fido, not as an animal, but rather as a small human in a dog-suit? And is this something the law should be doing?