Alabama Law: Hurting a Pet

Alabama law states that if someone is caught hurting a pet, they could be both criminally and civilly liable.

If you have ever been in a situation where someone hurts your pet, you probably experienced a range of emotions from hurt and anger to heartbreak.

After all, many people feel a very strong bond with their pets. This is especially true for those who own dogs and cats, as they are often housed indoors and treated as members of the family.

Even owners who do not feel a strong emotional tie to their pet feel protective or angry when someone doesn’t treat them well.

Alabama law says when someone hurts your pet, that person could be both criminally and civilly liable. Read on to discover what these liabilities mean and why they may not be enough.

Criminal Liability for Hurting an Animal

On the criminal side of the law, Alabama has numerous statutes making it a crime to injure or kill pets. For example, malicious injury to animals is punishable by six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Aggravated cruelty to animals is even a Class C felony. If convicted of animal cruelty, a person could face between one to 10 years of prison.

Civil Liability for Hurting a Pet

But can you hold the other person civilly liable? In other words, can you recover money damages from the person who harmed your dog or cat? The answer is yes, but how little you can collect may surprise you.

No matter how special your bond is with a pet, Alabama law considers them “personal property.” Therefore, the same principles of property damage law applicable to wrecked vehicles apply when a pet is injured or killed.

What can I do if someone injured my pet?

little girl smiles and hugs dog and cat

If someone injures your dog, cat, or another type of pet, then you can collect “costs of repair.” Cost of repair essentially means veterinary bills. 

You could also seek “diminution in value” if provable. A diminution in value is a legal term used when calculating damages in a dispute. It measures how much value is lost due to the circumstances at hand. For instance, the market value of a dog would decrease if it sustained permanent damage to one of its legs. 

What if someone killed my pet?

When someone kills your pet, the measure of damages is only the “market value” of the pet. Breed, training, unique qualities, and purchase price are all used to determine the value of a pet.

Unfortunately, the pet owner cannot claim damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, or loss of companionship. Rather, the only measure of damages is the market value of the pet just before it died. 

While many of us view our pets as family members, the law does not treat pets as equal to humans. 

 At Timberlake & League, P.C., we love our pets. We wish the law treated their injuries and deaths more fairly. What do you think the law should be?

If you believe you have a personal injury case involving a pet or someone else’s pet, contact us! We have the knowledge and experience to help guide you.