Your Dog Was Killed – Can You Recover Damages in Pennsylvania?

June 28, 2013

Recovery is Limited When a Pet Dog or Cat is Killed in Pennsylvania

Curtis D. EllisI have posted previously about the terrible case in which two dogs were killed in Chester County, Pennsylvania. In that case, the shooter was not initially charged because he claimed the dogs were chasing his sheep.  The law in Pennsylvania is that if your livestock is being chased, you have a right to kill the dog(s) doing the chasing. But upon a second interview, the defendant allegedly admitted that the dogs were not chasing the sheep and he was charged with animal cruelty as a result.

What Damages Can You Recover if Someone Kills Your Dog or Cat?

Currently, if someone kills your pet, your ability to recover is limited to your financial harm, known as economic damages.  What this means is that you can only recover for the value of replacing your dog and any other provable financial harm you suffered.  Vet bills, for example.

You cannot recover damages for the emotional harm you suffered as a result of losing your dog or cat.  This is very unfortunate, because many people consider their pets to be family.

The reason you can only recover actual financial damages is, because, in Pennsylvania, pets are considered property. To me, my pets are certainly more than property and I would be devastated if someone killed my dog.

Fortunately Times are Changing and So is the Law

Across the United States, including here in Pennsylvania, legislators are recognizing that our pets are not just property, but living, breathing creatures that mean a great deal to their owners. As a result, legislators are beginning to introduce legislation to allow for non-economic recovery if someone negligently or intentionally kills a pet dog or cat.  The legislation is Senate Bill 628.

If someone unlawfully or intentionally kills a pet dog or cat, the owner can recover up to $12,000 for “non-economic damages as compensation for the loss of the…companionship, love and affection of the pet.”

If someone negligently kills a pet dog or cat, the owner can recover up to $5,000 for “non-economic damages as compensation for the loss of the…companionship, love and affection of the pet.”

Understand, this legislation has not passed, and if it does it could be changed before it is approved by both the House and the Senate and signed by the Governor of Pennsylvania. But the introduction of the law is a good sign and shows that our legislators understand the feelings we have for our beloved pets.


Hopefully, in the near future, SB 628, which recognizes the emotional value of our pets, will pass and those who lose their pets due to  the intentional, unlawful or negligent acts of another person will be able to receive some financial compensation.  While nothing can replace our pets, the recognition of what we lost along with the fact that such a law will discourage people from harming our pets, is quite welcome.


By the way, the dog in the picture happens to be the author’s. His name is Curtis.



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