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My Dog Was Killed: Seeking Legal Recourse for the Loss of a Dog

Updated: Sep 14, 2023


Losing a beloved dog is a deeply emotional experience that can leave pet owners devastated. In some cases, the loss may occur due to the intentional or negligent actions of another individual. When faced with such a situation, you may wonder if you have legal recourse to seek justice for the loss of your dog. This article aims to provide guidance on the legal options available, financial considerations, and coping strategies to help you navigate this difficult process.

Pet Injury Caused By Pet Care Professionals

Every year, numerous pets suffer injuries or even lose their lives while under the care of professionals such as boarding facilities, groomers, veterinarians, and doggie daycares. It is crucial to ensure that these individuals and businesses are held accountable for any harm caused to our beloved pets. Despite the historical notion that emotional distress cannot be compensated for, there is a growing movement challenging this belief. At Boston Dog Lawyers, we strive to fight for pet owners' rights and obtain justice in cases of pet injury or loss.

Boston Dog Lawyers has assembled a panel of 30 veterinarians across the country who review veterinary records in the initial stages of evaluating a case to assist in learning the true cause of a pet injury or when a pet dies.

Boarding Facilities: The Wild West

Many states lack regulations for boarding facilities and doggie day cares, leading to an alarming rate of injuries and deaths. At Boston Dog Lawyers, we have taken on cases where clients have suffered due to inadequate care provided by these facilities. In the absence of adequate regulation, we aim to be the regulators ourselves. We offer free safety training sessions to doggie daycares and provide guidance to pet owners when interviewing managers to ensure the safety of their pets. It is vital for pet businesses to accept responsibility for any harm they cause, fostering a culture of accountability and improved behavior.

Potential customers of boarding facilities need to stay vigilant as well, to ensure their beloved pet will be in competent and caring hands. A potential customer to a boarding facility can also call the local animal control officer or police department and ask if they have received any complaints about the facility they are considering. Online reviews are another good tool to see if a boarding facility is trustworthy.

Questions to ask a dog boarding facility might include:

  • Do you have a fire safety plan and has your staff practiced it?

  • Does someone stay overnight with the boarded dogs?

  • What is the experience level of the staff?

  • Are you affiliated with a nearby vet in case of emergency care?

  • What is the fewest amount of employees working at any one time?

  • If someone calls out sick, do you call for a substitute worker?

  • When was Animal Control last here and why?

  • How many dogs have been injured on the premises this year?

  • Show me your tools for breaking up a dog fight;

  • Show me the current declarations page of your insurance policy;

  • How many injury claims by clients in the last 3 years?

  • Do you hold any staff trainings and are they documented?

  • Show me where you keep dogs of different sizes separate;

  • Is your AC/Heating system working? When were the systems last checked?

Dog Sitters, Walkers, and Groomers

When entrusting our pets to dog sitters, walkers, or groomers, there is an expectation that our dogs should return unharmed. There is no reason that your dog should return from one of these services injured, or killed. Under Massachusetts law, the responsibility lies with the individual caring for the pet, and they are fully accountable for its safety.

Can You Sue Someone for Killing or Injuring Your Dog?

Understanding State Laws and Procedures

The first step in seeking legal recourse is to understand the laws and procedures specific to your state. Laws regarding the killing or injuring of a dog can vary, with some jurisdictions treating pets as personal property and others recognizing the emotional value attached to them. Massachusetts views pets as personal property.

Recognizing the Changing Perspective on Pet Value

Courts have started acknowledging the unique emotional value pets hold for their owners. Although pets are still considered property in legal terms, courts have awarded damages beyond the pet's market value to compensate for emotional distress. Stay updated on evolving legal perspectives and precedents in your jurisdiction to better understand your options.

Evaluating the Financial Considerations

Legal Fees and Court Costs

Before pursuing legal action, it's essential to consider the financial implications. Legal fees, court costs, and related expenses can add up quickly. Consulting with an attorney experienced in animal law can help you understand the potential financial aspects and explore options such as contingency fees, where the attorney is paid only if you win the case.

Documenting Out-of-Pocket Expenses

When seeking compensation, it's crucial to document all out-of-pocket expenses related to your dog's death. This may include veterinary bills, burial or cremation costs, and any other expenses directly resulting from the incident. Keep detailed records and gather supporting documentation to strengthen your case.

Determining the Value of Your Dog

Assessing the value of your dog for legal purposes can be challenging. While sentimental value may be immeasurable, courts typically consider factors such as the dog's breed, age, training, and any special skills or certifications. Consulting experts, such as appraisers or veterinarians, can help determine an appropriate value for your dog in the context of legal proceedings.

Recovery Options for Damages

Civil Lawsuit: Seeking Compensation for Negligence or Malicious Intent

In cases involving negligence or intentional harm, filing a civil lawsuit may be appropriate. To succeed, you must demonstrate that the responsible party owed a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused harm to your dog. Working with an attorney experienced in animal law can help build a strong case.

Criminal Lawsuit: Pursuing Justice for Blatant Acts of Cruelty

If the killing of your dog involved clear acts of cruelty or abuse, you can report the incident to law enforcement. Depending on the severity of the offense and local laws, the responsible party may face criminal charges, which can result in fines, probation, or even imprisonment.

Small Claims Court: A Viable Option for Quick Resolutions

For smaller claims and less complex cases, pursuing legal action in small claims court may be a viable option. Small claims courts handle disputes involving limited amounts of money and offer a simplified and expedited process. Research your jurisdiction's small claims court limits and procedures to determine if this option is suitable for your case.

Why Boston Dog Lawyers Represent Pet Owners?

We have chosen to represent pet owners in these cases for several reasons. Firstly, we believe in providing a platform for pet owners to seek justice when they have nowhere else to turn. Holding the responsible parties accountable not only benefits the pet owners but also promotes better behavior within the pet care industry. Additionally, we have witnessed inadequate responses from pet businesses driving pet owners to seek justice through inappropriate channels. By bringing these matters to the proper forum, we expect defendants and judges to take them seriously. For too long these businesses have been able to get away with avoiding or even bullying pet owners to drop the blame game. Those days are ending now.


Losing a dog is an emotionally challenging experience, and seeking legal recourse may offer a sense of justice and closure. Understanding the legal options available, evaluating financial considerations, and finding ways to cope with grief are essential steps in this process. Remember to consult with a qualified attorney who can provide personalized guidance based on the laws of your jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of your case.

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

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