Every so often we get a question from a family grieving for the loss of a pet. Recently we received this question:

"I have three cats and we have been feeding them a popular brand of cat food. Yesterday, my daughter called me from home to tell me one of our cats has died. The cat was lying on its side and there was vomit nearby. We had no idea what could have happened, until we saw a news article about our brand of cat food killing other cats.

Within a few hours, another of our cats began to get sick and before the end of the day had died.

We are considering a lawsuit against the cat food company. Our cats are a part of our family, and we love them very much. This has been very traumatic for us. What can we expect from this kind of lawsuit in Virginia?"

Here's the answer at least as it applies to Virginia; There is no emotional recovery for a pet's death, only compensation for bills related for the death. For the two cats that passed away, you can recover for the cost of replacing the cats, but not emotional recovery for their deaths. This seems very harsh, but it is the law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Often, in car accidents, pets are in the car and sometimes they are hurt. You can recover losses from treating your pet's injuries. However, "pain and suffering" for the injuries of the animal are often not considered in a car accident case. Even if the animal has suffered emotional damage, the courts generally do not award damages for the animal's (or their owner's) emotional injuries.

Ultimately, animals are treated as property in the state of Virginia. While the family cat or dog is a part of the family, in the courts they are treated very differently. This should not be confused with repercussions for animal abuse. If someone willfully hurts or damages an animal in Virginia, they can be criminally charged.


Ben Glass
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Ben Glass is a nationally recognized car accident and ERISA disability attorney in Fairfax, VA.
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