A Colorado woman has been awarded $65,000 for the death of her beloved dog, in what her attorney calls an "unprecedented" victory for animal law.
Robin Lohre's dog Ruthie was hit by a car and killed while a cleaning service was working at her house in August 2011. Lohre sued the company, Posh Maids, for negligence and emotional distress, claiming that they did not call for help and left Ruthie alone to die.
This week, a Denver judge ruled in favor of Lohre and entered a judgment against the company for $65,118 plus interest.
"I believe there is justice in that award. I believe that my life was affected to that degree. It certainly affected my business," Lohre told ABCNews.com. "It's something that indicates the dog was of value to me, but I would much rather have my dog."
- Woman Awarded $65K in Dog's Death
On Aug. 17, Lohre hired Posh Maids to clean her home. When the cleaning woman arrived at 10 a.m. to do three hours of work, Lohre said she was going grocery shopping and asked if the woman minded if the dog stayed while she cleaned. She also offered to drop Ruthie off at Talulah Jones, the popular Denver boutique she owns, but the maid said she could stay.
Before she left, Lohre said she told the woman that when she was finished, she should leave the house through an enclosed mudroom in back. That way, Ruthie would not be able to get out.
At 12:22 p.m., Lohre said she received a call that the cleaning service had finished early, since an extra maid had come to help.
When Lohre got home, she couldn't find 18-month-old Ruthie. The front door of the house was unlocked.
"I finally found her underneath the dining room table, dead. There was no phone call, no note," Lohre said.
Lhore said she called the maid service and left a message. A few minutes later, she received a call from Miranda Pallone, the owner of Posh Maids. She said that she had contacted the maid who cleaned the house to find out what happened.
The maid said that Ruthie had gotten out and run into the street where she was hit by a car. She said that she had spoken to the driver but had not gotten his information.
"They said the dog was still alive when they left and whimpering a bit. She seemed fine is what they said," Lohre recalled. "They didn't try to get help. They didn't contact me and, by the time I got home, she was dead."
After the initial apologetic phone call, Lohre said that Pallone was unresponsive to contact from her and her attorney.
A "devastated" Lohre said she missed work and that her bussiness suffered financially as a result.
Lohre said Pallone told local reporters that she had offered to pay Lohre $2,000 but she had refused. Lohre said no such offer was ever made.
"She was on television lying every step of the way about what happened, which is also very painful," Lohre said. "A very awful thing happened and taking responsibility for it is all I really wanted, and instead she just continued to lie and make things worse."
Lohre also said Pallone told reporters that Ruthie was being aggressive and that the maid felt threatened.
"Ruthie was just the sweetest dog you would ever meet," Lohre said. "There seriously was not an aggressive bone in her body. Babies would pull at her and she wouldn't even growl."
A representative for Posh Maids told ABCNews.com that Pallone was out of town and had instructed her to say that the company had no comment on the incident.
Pallone did not answer the complaint filed against her and did not attend the hearing.
Lohre sued Posh Maids for negligence and emotional distress, and was represented by Jennifer Edwards, an attorney and founder of Denver's Animal Law Center, a practice that deals solely with animal legal issues.
In Colorado, pets are considered property, which means any damages would generally amount only to their replacement value. Lohre and Edwards said they hope this "unprecedented" judgment shows that pets are more than just property.
"Animals should be considered family members, not just property having no more value than a chair in your living room," Edwards told ABCNews.com. "The legal system is starting to come into line with the way people feel about their pets."
Lohre said that her 7-year-old daughter Imogene "considered Ruthie her little sister."
She recalled that the day before the accident, Ruthie and Imogene were in the backyard playing.
"The two of them were out there, both of them dressed up in play silks, running around together," Lohre said choking up. "I was thinking this is what life is about. This is idealistic."
Lohre recalled that in earlier years, it crossed her mind that she was grateful that by the time Ruthie died Imogene would be in college, and wouldn't have to be there when the family pet died.
"They were just so close and such a part of each other," she said. "The money doesn't take away the impact this has had on both myself and my daughter."
The family has since adopted a new dog that they love and hope that their case will help others in the future.
"They're family. They're part of our lives. They're one of the happiest parts of our lives," Lohre said. "The impacts they make on our lives are great and I think they are of value."