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Emotional Distress From Maltreatment of Pets

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If Your Pet Was Mistreated, Can You Recover for Emotional Distress?

Many people shower their pets with love and affection and become very emotionally attached to their pets. Often, pets are considered as "members of the family." Although seeing or witnessing a traumatic experience to a family pet can be devastating, there is significant controversy as to whether an owner may in fact be entitled to recovery for their emotional injuries.  Some courts have recognized emotional distress due to the maltreatment of animals, while others have refused such lawsuits.

Who Can You Sue for Emotional Distress from Mistreated Pets?

Generally you are able to sue anyone who may have caused the injury to your pet. A majority of cases involve parties where the owner entrusted the pet to a caretaker. These parties include:

  • Veterinarians
  • Animal Shelters
  • Animal hospital personnel
  • Breeders or boarders

What Common Scenarios Found Emotional Distress as a Valid Cause of Action?

There are a variety of situations that prompt emotional distress. Some of these causes of action include:

  • The selling of another's pet while it was boarding with a caregiver
  • Hospital personnel giving back the wrong animal's body for burial

What Are Some Symptoms of Emotional Distress?

Common symptoms for emotional distress include:

  • Loss of sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Failure to go to work

Should You Seek a Personal Injury Attorney to Sue for Emotional Distress?

In recovering for damages or death to a pet, courts have traditionally limited compensation to the value of the animal as personal property. However, some courts have begun to recognize the valuable companionship that pets can create with individuals and the emotional value that is lost when they are injured or die.  If your pet is damaged by another and you suffered emotional distress, you should consult with a personal injury attorney to see what legal options are available to you.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 12-07-2016 11:04 AM PST

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