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Can I Sue For a Dog Attacking My Dog?
It's happened to most dog owners. You're out taking a peaceful walk with your dog when all of a sudden an unfriendly dog approaches growling and showing teeth. Luckily, in most cases, this is as far as it goes. However, if your dog is bitten, you will surely ask, "Can I sue for a dog attacking my dog?"
Yes, you can certainly sue if your dog is attacked by another dog. However, even though you may consider your dog a beloved family member, you should know that in the eye of the law, dogs are considered "property." Therefore, in the vast majority of cases involving dogs biting other dogs, compensation is limited to the actual costs to "repair the property," i.e. veterinary fees, dog medications, and miscellaneous expenses like kennel fees if required. There may also be a limit on the amount of compensation you can receive for veterinary fees if the dog is much older. For example, if you have a 17 year old dog, you may not get awarded the full amount for an expensive surgery.
If your dog dies after the attack, you can be awarded the cost of replacing your dog with a similar dog (yes, we know that no dog can actually be replaced). Unfortunately, if your dog is a mixed breed, this amount will be very low. However, if your dog is a full breed and or a show dog, you may be awarded more. Regardless, the age and health of the dog will come into play. If your dog is older and or in poor health, you may not get the full replacement value, even if your dog is an expensive full breed show dog.
Proving liability can be tricky if there is a dispute about which dog started the "fight" that led to the bite. Therefore, it is important that you immediately take note of any witnesses to the incident. Keep track of any potential witnesses too such as a neighbor who may have viewed the incident through their window. There are other factors that an experienced dog bit attorney will know about too. For example, what is the size difference between the two dogs, if a larger dog bites a smaller dog. The breed of the dog who attacks may also be important if it is a breed known to be aggressive such as a German Shepard or a pit bull type dog. Past history may make a difference too. For example, if the dog has ever bitten another dog or a human, this may strengthen your case, especially if you have a good lawyer.
You cannot sue for the pain and suffering of your dog nor the emotional distress your dog may endure after being bitten. Again, this is because, unfairly or not, the dog is considered "property" in the eyes of the law. If the dog dies, you may want to try suing for loss of companionship or for emotional stress to yourself. Unfortunately, more often than not, judges do not award for this. However, the good news is that the attitude about this is beginning to change. Some judges have viewed dogs as irreplaceable property like old family photographs and family heirlooms which makes their loss more valuable and the emotional stress higher. Some judges have also stated in court that dogs give a great deal of support and comradery, and on this basis, some have given awards.
To determine how strong your case may be, it is important to get a free consultation from a lawyer, preferably one who has experience in dog bite cases.