The lawmakers of New Jersey, USA are discussing an amendment to the existing law. Please read this article because it’s important.
About animal rights
Ultimately, this change in the law in New Jersey is about animal rights. It’s about improving animal rights and giving animals more value. This is very important and a reflection on an improvement in the relationship between people and animals. It can spread to other parts of America. Other states may pick up this change and do it themselves.
Scruffles’ Law – more compensation
In New Jersey the lawmakers want to give pet owners the opportunity to obtain real and genuine compensation if their companion animal is injured or killed through negligence or abuse. We know that companion animals are undervalued in the eyes of the law as they are treated as property and if you seek compensation because your cat is injured you might obtain the value of your cat plus veterinary fees and that’s about it. This puts people off suing because it’s just not worth it for the small amount of money you might win.
Well, New Jersey is discussing “Scruffles’ Law”. The proposed law is named after an English Bulldog who died at a routine grooming session at PetSmart in Flemington on December 29, 2017. There have been several stories of cats and dogs being killed at various groomers over the years.
The woman who owned the dog, Danielle DiNapoli, was unable to seek real compensation for the loss of dog which led to her attorney Daryl Kipnis, proposing an amendment to the New Jersey Civil Code. It was taken up by the state’s law makers.
The proposed amendment is substantial. It makes lots of changes and provides a real opportunity for pet owners to seek substantial compensation (damages). You can read the entirety of the proposals by clicking on this link.
Pet ‘owners’ can now sue the alleged perpetrator of abuse or negligence in respect of their cat or dog for compensation relating to the following:
- Economic damages
- Statutory damages
- Punitive damages
- The payment of your legal fees
Economic damages include:
- the value of the animal injured or lost,
- the replacement value of the animal,
- the breeding potential of the animal if that’s relevant,
- veterinary expenses involved in treating the animal,
- burial or cremation expenses,
- reimbursement of expenses incurred when training the animal,
- the inclusion of any special value that the animal may have had (for example if the animal was a guide dog or a therapy cat),
- lost wages incurred by the owner because of the injury or the loss of her pet.
“Statutory damages” has an upper limit of $10,000. This appears to apply to situations when consumer fraud has taken place. Under the circumstances damages are trebled to an upper limit of $10,000.
The third set of damages is “punitive damages”. This applies as a form of punishment. The court has discretion to award these damages. It depends upon the circumstances under which the cat or dog was lost or injured. For example, if the perpetrator of the act causing the injury or loss behaves particularly badly. Also the emotional distress of the pet owner can be taken into account. This is very important because up until now this part of compensation has been largely ignored but it is a very substantial matter.
Owner brings case to court
These damages can only be paid to the owner of the companion animal at the time the animal abuse took place and he or she brings the matter to the court in an application. The owner has to make the application to the court within one year of the date that the owner knew about the negligence or abuse or should have known about it.
The law would also apply to negligence by a veterinarian. If a companion animal owner believes that their ‘pet’ has been injured or killed through the negligence of a veterinarian they can apply to the court within two years. It appears that the same set of damages can be applied for and received on a successful outcome.