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Recovering Damages After A Dog Attack

Can I sue for the mental anguish I suffered as the result of witnessing a neighbor’s dog attack and kill my dog? I was not physically injured, but I was emotionally injured.

- SMC, California


Unfortunately, California law does not entitle you to mental distress damages for witnessing a dog attack and kill your dog.

What You Cannot Recover

Under California law, a dog is considered personal property. Even though witnessing your dog being killed in a vicious attack may be as distressing as witnessing the killing of a family member, you cannot recover damages for your pain and suffering or for the sentimental value of your dog, or for the loss of companionship of your dog.

What You Can Recover

Under California law, if you were not physically injured, you can only recover damages for:

  • The fair market value of your dog
  • Veterinary bills, if any were incurred as a result of the attack

Because the damages recoverable are so limited, it is financially difficult for a law firm to take on these types of cases. At McGee, Lerer & Associates, we can only handle dog attack cases if the dog owner suffered physical injury as well as emotional injury.

This answer does not constitute legal advice, which can only be rendered after a full consideration of the facts of your case which is not possible in this format; nor establish an attorney-client relationship, which can only be done after you and an attorney meet and agree on the terms of that relationship. This answer is intended solely to provide general information about the justice system. Further, it does not provide the basis for making decisions about a course of action. Before making any decisions about a course of action readers are strongly encouraged to contact a lawyer and secure an attorney-client relationship. Readers must also understand that this format does not provide for confidential communication. Moreover, links to information on this site are for your convenience only and are not an endorsement or recommendation of those sites, and no responsibility is taken for any information at these linked sites, nor makes any representation or warranty with respect to these sites or the information contained therein.