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Recovering Damages After a Dog Attack

Question:

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.

Answer:

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.