VOLUME 5 - 2012-2013 - ISSUE 2

5 Ky. J. Equine, Agric. & Nat. Resources L. 249 (2013).


Article Written By: Alison M. Rowe

For sound policy reasons, courts have traditionally limited damages in cases where an animal is negligently lost or destroyed to the market or economic value of the animal. This system has resulted in low and predictable costs for veterinary services and other animal-related products and services. However, some people believe owners ought to be compensated for their emotional suffering when a companion animal is destroyed or injured due to negligence because of the strong emotional attachment that they feel towards their companion animals. Accordingly, advocates of change to the traditional damages rules in animal-related cases have encouraged courts and legislatures to depart from established law and award non-economic damages in negligence cases involving animals. One recent trend in companion animal cases involves attempts by plaintiffs to recover emotion-based damages in the form of "intrinsic" or "sentimental" value damages in states where these alternate damages measures have been judicially recognized for personal property having little or no market value. This article will explore that trend in detail.

This article will first articulate the various ways in which courts and legislatures have resolved negligence cases involving plaintiffs seeking emotion-based damages for harm done to their companion animals. Second, this article will provide an overview of the public policy issues surrounding recovery for emotional damages in tort cases involving animals. Finally, this article will explain how allowing non-economic damages in companion animal cases involving mere negligence would be unsound public policy and an unwise departure from established law.