Maryland Courts and Judicial Article section 11-110 states that an owner of a household pet may recover up to $10,000 in damages when his or her pet is injured or dies. Damages include the fair market of the pet, if the pet dies, and the reasonable cost of veterinary care.
However, a pet owner cannot recover damages for mental and emotional distress or punitive damages from the death of a pet, even if someone intentionally killed the pet. That was the holding of the recent case of Anne Arundel County v. Reeves, ___ Md. ___ (June 7, 2021).
Maryland characterizes household pets as property. This has created an anomalous situation. If someone intentionally kills their neighbor’s dog, the family can recover no more than $10,000 for the loss of their dog. But if the same person intentionally destroyed a painting of their neighbor’s dog, the family can recover both the fair market value of the painting as well as punitive damages.
Many other states recognize a greater right of recovery for injured or killed pets. More than 50 years ago, the Florida Supreme Court held in LaPorte v. Associated Independents, Inc., that when someone maliciously injures a pet, damages are not limited to the fair market value of the pet.
I advocate that Maryland should permit the recovery of emotional distress damages for pet owners when their pet is injured or dies as a result of grossly negligent or intentional conduct.