Are you entitled to compensation after the injury sustained or death of your pet?
Many Americans treat their dogs and cats as members of their family and, thus, become upset when they are injured or pass away, more so when they were in the care of other persons trusted with the responsibility. Many dog daycares have been sued by pet owners for negligence and it is common enough that it can happen to your pet.
If it happens to your pet, what then will you do? Will you seek compensation for the veterinary expenses incurred and/or for emotional distress suffered? Will you sue the dog daycare for damages?
The answers to these questions vary depending on several factors. You may, for example, not seek compensation if and when the staff members were within reason or when the injury was a result of a freak accident. Whatever your final decision, you may want to know about these matters first.
The Rules Vary by State
The rules and regulations regarding the compensation for pet owners vary between states. In most states, nonetheless, the courts limit the liability of the offending party for compensation to the owner’s economic loss.
But there are exceptions to the rule. The best example is in cases of malicious intent or deliberate wrongdoing against the affected pets, then the courts may award compensation beyond economic loss to the owner. You may be compensated for your emotional distress, for example, so as to punish the offender.
But if you’re thinking about getting rich from the injury or death of your pet, you have another think coming. You may think of your pet as part of your family – and millions of Americans share your sentiment – but most states see pets as personal property. You may get compensated but it isn’t enough to start a kennel of your own.
Furthermore, it’s important to choose a reliable dog daycare facility like Camp Bow Wow (PriceListo offers their price list if you are wondering about costs) to minimize, if not eliminate, the risk of injuries or death to your pet while he’s in the care of others.
The Components of Compensation
When your pet has been injured, your first expenses will be for veterinary care. The courts will likely make the person responsible for the injury liable for the payment of the veterinary bills.
But there’s a catch – the liable person will likely only be made to pay for “reasonable treatment” and there are several factors that affect the definition. The judge will consider the animal age and physical condition, the extent of the injuries, and the circumstances behind the injuries, among other factors.
Judges also have a wide discretion in deciding the economic costs related to a pet’s injury or death. On one hand, a judge may award compensation based on the animal’s fair market value – no more, no less. There’s little to no consideration about the emotional distress suffered by the pet and/or the owner in this approach.
On the other hand, a judge may also award compensation based on the amount needed for a pet to be restored to its former condition (i.e., before the injury happened). For example, if your pet poodle was attacked and mangled by your neighbor’s German shepherd, then you are entitled to a full reimbursement of the amount of money you spent on getting your pet back to its former condition. This even when your pet poodle’s fair market value was only, say, $200 but you spent $5,000 in treatment.
For this reason, you should keep organized records of the bills incurred for the medication, hospitalization, and treatment of your injured pet. You will find valuable use for these records during the settlement negotiations or trial. You may even keep a record of the time you spent away from work to attend to your pet’s treatment, particularly visits to the vet, although you may not be compensated for it.
This brings us to the next question: How does a judge measure the economic cost or worth of your pet? Currently, there are three approaches to the matter, namely:
- Fair market value, or the amount that your pet will bring if it were sold in an open market. The factors considered in determining your pet’s fair market value includes its pedigree, breed, overall health, age, and purchase price.
- Replacement cost, or the cost that it will take to replace your pet. This may be higher than the fair market value since other factors are considered, such as your pet’s training, skills, and accomplishments in dog shows, for example.
- Special economic value, or the cost of its special usefulness, service, and/or value to you, the owner. For example, you may ask for a significantly higher compensation for a pedigreed dog with excellent specialized training and with an income-generating side (e.g., stud services).
Other factors that affect the final compensation amount include the emotional distress suffered by the owner. But there are limitations to the emotional distress aspect since the courts generally grant it in two instances:
- When you suffered from the shock and distress upon seeing your pet being mistreated or in an accident; or
- When you experienced feelings of severe grief upon the loss of your pet.
Keep in mind that the courts aren’t immediately compassionate to pet owners, too. You should have exercised reasonable measures in keeping your pet safe, for example, and if the courts found you negligent in your duties, your chances of getting compensation decreases.