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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: February 26, 2013 04:09 PM
From: Senator Andrew E. Dinniman
To: All Senate members
Subject: Civil Damages for Harm to or Killing of Dog or Cat
I will soon introduce a bill to amend the Judicial Code to expand the civil action one may take against one who hurts or kills their dog or cat by a negligent or intentional act. Currently, such civil action may only ask for economic damages; basically the price paid for the pet. Under my bill, one could sue up to $12,000 in non-economic damages in magisterial district court.

I introduce this bill in recognition of the companionship and affection provided to us by such pets, and subsequently the real, non-economic loss we suffer when someone takes our pets from us through a negligent or intentional act.

Under my bill, a court could award the maximum $12,000 civil penalty if the act killing the pet is deemed “unlawful” or “intentional.” If the act leading to the pet’s harm or death is simply deemed “negligent,” a court could award a maximum civil penalty of $5,000. A finding of negligence could only occur if the death or injury occurs on the pet-owner’s property or if the dog or cat was under the direct control and supervision of the pet owner at the time it was harmed or killed. Incidents in parks where dogs are unleashed would not be covered under my bill.

By coincidence, a resident of my district recently shot and killed two dogs that had gotten into his yard. He has been charged with cruelty to animals. The local district attorney said he filed the charges after determining “There was no justification for the killing of these two dogs.”

The unfortunate incident represents an example of the type of future incident for which the owners of the deceased dogs could seek civil damages for the loss of their pets.

My bill specifically exempts veterinarians, non-profit entities, governments, and their employees acting on behalf of public health and animal welfare and the killing of any dog killing or pursuing livestock. I intend to introduce this bill at the close of business on Friday, March 1.

Introduced as SB628