Recovery of Monetary Damages in Litigation Involving Animals

Comment on this policy

The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes and supports the long-standing legal classification of animals as the property of their owners. The AVMA recognizes that, in some lawsuits, economic compensation may exceed an animal's fair market value, which is the traditional measure of damages for property, in order for the owner to be made economically whole.

In determining the economic loss associated with an animal, courts should consider, when appropriate, the purchase price, age and health of the animal, breeding status, pedigree, special training, and any particular economic utility the animal has provided to the owner. It may also be appropriate to award reasonable and necessary veterinary expenses for the care of the animal's injury or sickness that was caused by the defendant during the incident in question.

Any extension of compensatory remedies beyond these economic damages would be inappropriate and ultimately harm animals by reducing the availability of affordable veterinary care services. Therefore, the AVMA opposes any recovery of non-economic damages.

The AVMA acknowledges the awarding of punitive damages when warranted in accordance with a state's punitive damage law.