We all know we are responsible for our dogs’ mis-deeds and we can be fined – or worse – if our dog damages property, another human, or another domestic animal. But what if a stray or unclaimed dog kills a domestic animal kept confined on our own property?
I’ve watched enough of Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown on TV to know that owners are held liable for their dogs’ actions, and owners usually lose in a case involving his dog’s injuring a human or another pet.
But what if a stray/wild/un-owned dog kills our confined “domestic animal” and we can’t identify an owner?
In PA, we have a law under the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement (under the PA Department of Agriculture) that entitles an owner of a “domestic animal” injured or killed by a dog (or coyote) to claim damages up to $10,000 for each domestic animal. Claims are paid from the “Dog Law Restricted Account.”
I used to do dog rescue, and cannot seem to get my name off the Internet as an active rescuer. So I got a call yesterday from a very upset man who said 2 dogs with collars, but no ID, killed two of his fenced alpacas worth $30,000.
He is going through the process of filing a claim for damages, but he was very upset to learn that the two dogs, which were picked up by animal control are going to be adopted out to new owners.
This has brought an area of dog ownership to my attention that I had not thought about before, and I did not know an owner could recover damages from the state. This could be highly valuable information to anyone in this man’s position.
I checked out his online source from where he printed out his claim and gathered some interesting information about an owner’s recourse in unidentified-dog-caused-damage situations.
According to the PA Dep’t. of Agriculture, if the damage occurs to a domestic animal confined in a field or other enclosure, and the owner of the offending dog is unknown, the owner of the injured or killed animal may apply for reimbursement. The laws are made to include livestock, poultry, and domestic game birds.
Filing for damages: The complainant must file a written, signed complaint within five days of discovering the damage; he must include the “time, place and manner of the damage, the number and type of domestic animals damaged, and the amount of damage.”
A State Dog Warden will investigate and, within 10 business days, he will “issue either a dismissal of the complaint or a damage award.”
Reimbursements: Awards are limited to $10,000 for each animal and cannot exceed $10,000 or 90% of the animal’s value. Amounts will be taken from the Dog Law Restricted Account and will not cover claims already paid by an insurance carrier.
The Claim Application is six pages long and includes rather obvious entries: description for the basis of the claim; date and time of animal loss; type of enclosure used; and amount of damages claimed, which includes vet receipts and proof of value of the animals injured or killed.
Claimant must include name of dog owner, if known, or verify that no owners could be found.
On page 5 of “Insurance Information,” the applicant must make an application to his insurance company, and if he receives payment, he cannot claim that loss. But if he does not have insurance or his insurance carrier denies a claim, the “Dog Law is the payer of last resort.” If the insured later receives payment, the applicant must reimburse the Department that amount.
The claim is then sent to the PA Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, Harrisburg, PA.
State laws will differ, but this is worth checking out if you suffer the loss of a domestic animal due to a dog without an identifiable owner. You cannot recover a deceased animal or un-do the damages caused to your animal(s), but the financial reimbursement could be worth your time.
PA Department of Agriculture. Http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us. Overview of who can apply for damage claim reimbursement and how the program works. Retrieved 10-23-10.
PA Dep’t. of Agriculture. Http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us. “PA Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.” Use “Search” for 6-page pdf file: “Damage Claim Application for Dog Caused Damages.” Retrieved 10-23-10.