Our pets bring the most joy and happiness to our lives and it is only in our worst nightmares that anything would ever happen to them. Sadly, animal cruelty and abuse happens more often than one might think and it needs to be addressed.
If someone has injured or killed your animal companion, you may be entitled to damages–regardless of whether the animal was injured or killed on purpose or accidentally–so long as the conduct was at least negligent.
When an animal is injured or killed, you are generally entitled to compensation for the “market value” of the animal, veterinary bills and possibly punitive damages, mental anguish, and loss of companionship. What compensation is available depends entirely on the facts and circumstances of each case, and differs significantly from state to state.
Your first priority should obviously be the care of your animal companion. If she is injured, take her to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Ask the veterinarian to carefully document the findings of the examination. Also ask the veterinarian if she would be willing to testify as to the results. Request copies of your animal companion’s treatment record from any and all vets involved with her care.
On the other hand, if your animal has been killed, since you do not need to rush to the veterinarian, you should take time to complete as many of these actions as possible:
1. If possible, before moving your animal companion, take pictures of her in the exact spot and position in which she was injured or killed. Pictures may be very helpful and valuable. If you do not have a camera, and time permits, draw a sketch of the scene of the incident.
2. Get names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the incident.
3. If time permits, obtain statements from witnesses to the incident about what they saw.
4. If possible, get a statement from the person or persons who injured or killed your animal companion.
5. If your animal companion was killed, take her body to a veterinarian for a “necropsy,” a detailed examination to establish cause of death. A necropsy is very important if you choose to file a lawsuit, even if you think the cause of death is obvious. Some states require a necropsy in order to file a suit. Ask the veterinarian performing the necropsy if she would be willing to testify as to the results if necessary.
For more detailed legal information pertaining to damages and recovery, please see ALDF’s Animal Damages Memo.