It is the other side of pet ownership no owner wants to imagine. The day when a cherished pet dies at home. Burying the family pet is not as simple as marking a spot in the backyard. Many states have pet burial regulations to determine the final resting place of a family pet.

Can I Bury My Pet at Home?

The answer hinges on the jurisdiction where you live. A jurisdiction may treat pet remains like human remains and not permit burial on any residential property. Other jurisdictions may authorize pet home burial.

For instance, San Francisco does allow pet burial. Nevertheless, animals who die from a contagious or infectious disease must be buried at least 500 feet away from any residential property.

Can My Pet Be Buried With Me?

Not in most jurisdictions. Nevertheless, New York does allow this.

Is Pet Burial on Public Land an Option?

Typically, burying any animal in a public park is forbidden.

Should I Bury My Pet in a Pet Cemetery?

You have the option of burying your pet in a pet cemetery. It will take a lot of unease out of whether you are breaking state law. Pet cemeteries are highly regulated. Thus, if anything goes wrong, the cemetery will face the trouble of burying your pet illegally.

Can I Include Burial Fees in a Lawsuit Against the Person Responsible for My Pet’s Death?

You may be able to recover pet cemetery fees against the individual or organization responsible for the death of your pet. Nevertheless, you’ll want to discuss the case with an attorney.

Can I Be Compensated If My Pet is Injured or Killed?

Suppose your pet is hurt or killed due to the negligent acts of another. In that case, you may be able to bring legal action on their behalf to recover certain expenses, such as veterinary bills or other damages.

If you intend to sue, make sure that you remember to ask the veterinarian to report all their findings from your pet’s exam and request copies of your pet’s treatment records. Your pet’s vet records and the related expenses can serve as useful evidence when trying to recover expenses.

Further, the laws for this type of action can differ by state and sometimes even by county. Most state laws do not expressly provide how much a person can recover if their pet has been hurt or killed due to wrongful or negligent conduct. Therefore, the amount a person can obtain for a successful claim will hinge on both state laws and the facts of each case.

How Much Can I Recover?

It would seem like an impossible feat for a pet owner to put a price on their precious animals. Yet, the law does so regardless. Generally speaking, the average damages for a loss of a pet typically involve calculating the following amounts:

  • The “market value” or how much it costs to replace an animal: This is the most common compensation that a pet owner will obtain for their deceased animal.
  • The amount required to be reimbursed for the veterinary care associated with the incident, so long as the vet used reasonable treatments: To determine whether a treatment should be considered reasonable, the court will consider the animal’s health before the injury in question and the type of injury that was inflicted.
  • The value of the animal to its owner, which can be deduced by using several factors, including the kind of animal, the quality and length of the pet and owner’s relationship, and various other indicators: This type of remedy is not commonly used in these cases and therefore may depend on the judge hearing the case or the laws enacted in a particular county.
  • Damages for emotional distress based on the owner’s experience and the emotional grief they suffered watching their pets get injured or killed: As with most claims that involve a request for damages for emotional distress, this won’t be easy to prove and will largely depend on the state in which a pet owner resides.

In extreme and rare cases, punitive damages may also be awarded if a defendant acted maliciously in injuring or killing an animal.

Who Is Liable for My Injured or Killed Pet?

Any individual who commits an intentional or negligent act that results in the death or injury of another’s pet will likely be held responsible for damages. For instance, a driver who runs a red light and hits a dog due to their negligent actions can be held liable.

The one exception to this rule is if the individual acted in self-defense, such as defending themselves from being attacked by the animal or pet.

In most jurisdictions, pets are deemed personal property, and therefore a person will not be allowed to bring a wrongful pet death lawsuit. Rather, an owner will most likely have to sue using some claim involving personal property and a request for damages based on the animal’s fair market value.

What If You Are Partially Liable?

As previously discussed, the damages for the death or injury of an animal will differ according to both state and local laws. Particularly, when a pet owner is partially liable for their pet’s injury or death, the amount of damages can potentially be reduced or barred depending on what type of negligence theory is followed within the state.

For instance, most states use some form of a comparative negligence standard to determine recovery. Comparative negligence jurisdictions can either be pure or modified.

Can I Sue My Vet for Misdiagnosis or Malpractice?

An owner may use two primary legal theories to sue a vet: malpractice and simple negligence.

Malpractice can happen when a vet does not satisfy the standard of care required of all veterinary professionals, which then causes them to injure or kill an animal. A vet may fall below this standard of care for various reasons, such as incompetence, misdiagnosis, and treating animals with careless indifference.

For an owner to prevail in a malpractice lawsuit, they will have to establish at least four elements before winning. Although these claims are usually brought because the vet made a mistake, not all mistakes will qualify. The mistake has to be related to the vet’s professional competence and ability to make judgment calls.

Pet-related claims that do not satisfy the criteria for a malpractice lawsuit but still cause injury or death to an animal due to a vet’s mistake can be filed as a simple negligence suit. The standard for simple negligence will not be based on the vet’s professional experience but on what someone else in the vet’s place would have done within reason.

A simple negligence case may occur if the vet loses the pet owner’s animal or forgets to feed and provide water for the animal if they are at the vet’s for a long appointment.

Sometimes these cases can become quite complex without legal help. Many cases are heavily based on specific state law, and many elements must be met to reach a victorious outcome. Therefore, it may be in the owner’s best interest to hire an animal injury attorney to help with a malpractice or simple negligence lawsuit.

Should I Discuss Pet Burial Laws With an Attorney?

Pet burial laws are complex and highly regulated by each state. Even though you may know the pet burial laws in your state, you should still talk to a criminal lawyer and check with your local jurisdiction. If you bury your pet illegally, you may face criminal penalties.