Tomorrow, March 10, 2022 at 4:00 pm the Maryland House Judiciary Committee will be voting on a bill that would allow a person to receive damages for mental distress or emotional harm caused by the injury or death of a companion animal.
The sponsor and supporters of House Bill 1375 are attempting to make it appear as if the bill would only apply in those cases where the individual tortiously causes an injury to or the death of a pet and acted with gross negligence, intent, or malice or in violation of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. However, such action would only result in the waving of the $10,000 cap for non-economic damages provided in the bill. If passed, HB 1375 would allow someone to be eligible to file suit for non-economic – “pain and suffering” – damages of up to $10,000 for any action that causes an injury to or death of a dog.
Keep in mind that the non-economic damages would be awarded to the owner of the dog for their “pain and suffering” and would simply not benefit the dog.
The AKC understands the pain and trauma that can result when a beloved pet is injured or killed. However, AKC opposes the awarding of non-economic damages related to a pet because such damages are not typically available for personal property. Allowing non-economic damages for pets calls into question the legal status of pets as property.
The legal concept that pets are personal property protects pet ownership and the rights of pet owners. A change in the legal status of animals could result in restricting the rights of owners, veterinarians, and government agencies to protect and care for dogs. Awarding non-economic damages for “pain and suffering” to the owner of personal property (a pet) no matter the reason, starts the “slippery slope” of providing legal rights to animals.
For more information on the issue of non-economic damages, and talking points on this issue, please see the previous alert.
In addition to HB 1375, the House Judiciary Committee will also be voting on House Bill 965 at tomorrow’s voting session. HB 965 increases the maximum amount of compensatory damages that may be awarded to a pet owner when someone causes injury or death to the animal in certain circumstances. The maximum amount would be increased from $10,000 to $25,000 and could include the fair market value of the pet and reasonable and necessary veterinary care.
What You Can Do:
Contact the House Judiciary Committee prior to the vote and ask them to give an unfavorable report on HB 1375.
Click here for House Judiciary Committee member contact information prior to the 1:00 pm hearing on March 2, 2022.
AKC Government Relations and Responsible Dog Owners–Maryland will continue to closely monitor these bills and communicate with the General Assembly. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.