In the United States, pet owners and their pets often have strong bonds
and close relationships. Many go above and beyond what is standard to
ensure that a pet is loved, treated well, and that his or her life is
maintained through medical intervention. It is the strong relationship
between pet and pet owner that has caused laws protecting animals and
pets to emerged over the years, requiring those who have injured a pet
to pay the owner for damages. At the end of the day, though pets are often
considered members of the family, the laws surrounding pet ownership straddle
the line between family member and property.
The Legal Relationship of Pets, Past, and Present
In the past, pets were always considered property because in previous decades,
they had a role in maintaining the family residence. Animals were rarely
considered “pets” in the way that we consider them today,
as cows were there to supplement farmers with milk, chickens were sources
of eggs and meat, and dogs helped shepherd other livestock animals around
the family farm. With a migration to the cities, animals were treated
less like property and more like emotional support, like a family member.
The laws that are on the books in Maryland treat animals, not considered
livestock, as something between
property and a protected member of society. With a recent bill, the Senate is looking to provide further protections
to our furry friends by ensuring that their lives are compensated for
when they are injured or killed.
Senate Bill 143, an Expansion on Pet Protections and Compensatory Damages
Senate Bill 143 introduced by Senator Zirkin, Maryland law would find that any pet that
is injured or killed resulting from the acts of another person or resulting
from the acts of the person’s pet is liable for compensatory damages
to the owner of the injured or killed pet.
Current Maryland law states that a pet owner may receive compensatory damages for an injury
or death of a pet but those damages are capped at $7,500. If the pet is
killed as a result of the actions of the person and/or the person’s
pet, then the compensatory damages are equal to the fair market value
of the pet before its death and any reasonable or necessary costs associated
with veterinary care. If the pet is injured, then the compensatory damages
equal any reasonable or necessary costs associated with veterinary care
not to exceed $7,500. Senate Bill 143 looks to remove the cap of $7500
in the event of the pet’s injuries or death.
Those Affected by the Law
The law also makes the distinction regarding who may be implicated by this
statute. First and foremost, the animal that is considered a “pet”
is any domesticated animal, and not one that would be considered livestock.
Additionally, the person who may be forced to pay the compensatory damages
for the injury or death of a pet may be responsible in the event that
his or her actions led to the death or injury of the pet or as a result
of an animal that is owned, controlled, or directed by the person involved.
This implicates not only the owner of the pet that might have attacked,
injured, and/or killed the pet, but also someone who may be in control
of the dog at the time, like a professional dog walker.
Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You
If your pet, or a loved one has been attacked by an animal and have been
injured and killed as a result of the attack, it is important to consult
with an experienced personal injury attorney. Please call the
Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.