With a large number of cats and dogs being killed or becoming severely sickened by the recent “tainted” pet food scare, many pet owners are wondering what remedies and/or damages are available to them. Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, pets are considered personal property. 3 P.S. 459-601(a). Because pets are only considered personal property, the damages a pet owner can recover against a party who negligently injures his pet is the cost of any veterenary bills he incurs to treat the animal. If a negligent party causes the death of one’s pet, the pet owner’s recoverable damages would be limited to an amount equal to the value of the pet. The value of the pet would be determined essentially by what the pet owner paid to purchase the animal.
Most pet owners develop a sentimental attachment to their animals. However, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has considered this issue and does not allow a pet owner to recover any additional damages due to the sentimental value the animal has to the pet owner. See Daughen v. Fox, 539 A.2d 858, 372 Pa.Super. 405 (1988). (Although pet owners undoubtedly had sentimental attachment to mongrel dog, attachment did not make dog “unique chattel,” for purposes of determining entitlement to damages for loss arising from dog’s death).
Some pet owners have also argued that they should be able to recover damages for the emotional distress they suffered as a result of another’s negligent or intentional conduct which injured and/or resulted in the death of their pet. However, in Miller v. Peraino, 626 A.2d 637, 426 Pa.Super. 189 (1993), the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that there could be no recovery by dog owners for intentional infliction of emotional distress based upon a veterinarian’s treatment of a dog inasmuch as a dog is property rather than a family member.
If you have any questions regarding what remedies may be available to you as a result of injuries or death suffered by your pet, call the DLP team of Pennsylvania Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation.
John P. Finnerty, Esquire