Can I Sue if My Pet Is Killed or Hurt?


If you love your pet as much as you love a child or spouse, you’re not alone. Psychology Today reports that approximately 90% of pet owners consider their pet a family member. That means that losing a pet, particularly when that loss is someone else’s fault, is an emotionally devastating experience.

Once the first hot edge of grief dissipates, it’s perfectly natural if you can sue the person who was responsible for your pet’s death.

The answer is yes, though the process probably won’t work the way you expect it to.

The first thing you need to understand is that while you might consider your pet a family member, legally, the law doesn’t. For the purposes of a lawsuit, your late pet will be treated as nothing more than property. If you sue someone for their death, it will be like suing someone for wrecking your car. 

Why is it important to understand that the law considers your pet property? Because it severely limits what you can ask for in the lawsuit. You’re legally able to sue for the pet’s actual value, but you’re unlikely to receive any financial compensation for your pain and suffering. 

Another challenge you face when you sue someone for the death of your pet is establishing your pet’s value. It’s unlikely that the court will accept the sentimental value of your pet. They’re going to want to see its actual value. In the case of a show or breeding pet, establishing the value isn’t difficult, though the plaintiff will have to prove that they did fully intend to use the pet for breeding or competition. When you’re talking about a family pet, establishing the animal’s value is difficult and the court might decide it was worth far less than you thought.

The other thing you have to prove when you’re suing for the death of your pet is that the death could have been avoided and that the pet didn’t do anything to provoke its death. For example, most states have laws in place that allow a farmer to dispose of a dog that’s disrupting their livestock. Nearly all states have policies in place that allow people to dispose of pets that are attacking them.

While the urge to sue someone for the death of your beloved pet is easy to understand. The emotional and financial toll the lawsuit puts on you is something you’ll likely want to avoid.