Monetary Damages For The Loss of a Pet

Date: November 10, 2011
Posted In: DLP Law

Ed and Mary were married for 55 years before Ed passed away. Their children had all moved out of the area and Mary\’s closest companion had become her loveable and faithful cat, Tabby. Mary\’s children often joked, amongst themselves, that if Mary had to choose her favorite child, she would choose Tabby. When Mary\’s husband Ed was still alive, he often joked that Mary would talk more to the cat then she would talk to him.

On Friday, November 11th Mary fed Tabby the usual cat food that she had been feeding her pet for years. By noon, Mary noted that Tabby was unusually lethargic. By 5:00 pm, Tabby wasn\’t moving at all. Mary became quite alarmed and called her local vet. Unfortunately, by that time, it was too late and Tabby died. It was eventually determined that the cat food that Mary had fed Tabby contained a form of rat poison which had led to the demise of her beloved pet.

Poor Mary was now shattered emotionally for the second time in just several months after losing her husband. Mary had always fed Tabby the most expensive cat food and she simply could not understand how this had happened.

ISSUE: What damages can Mary pursue?

ANSWER: In Pennsylvania, the loss of a domesticated pet because of negligence only allows the owner to recover whatever medical bills may have been incurred and the fair market value of the pet. Various breeds have established values. For instance, a mixed breed would only have a value of under $30. Despite the obvious emotional distress and the loss of companionship that Mary suffered, the law provides her no recourse for her emotional distress. Many consider this one of the great inequities in the law in the State of Pennsylvania.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Brian Price
Brian has been practicing law in Northeastern Pennsylvania for the past 25 years. In 2000 he became partner in Dougherty Leventhal & Price, L.L.P. He is Board Certified in Trial Advocacy, named a Super Lawyer and sits on the Board of Governors in Philadelphia.