can I sue my neighbor for killing my cat

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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can I sue my neighbor for killing my cat

This past weekend my neighbor hit my cat with
their car. He was wearing a collar and was
microchipped but they did not bother to call a
vet or shelter to find out who his owner was.
They removed his collar and buried him on
their property. While searching for my cat,
unaware he had passed away I asked the
neighbors if they had seen him. They admitted
to hitting him and we had to dig him out of the
ground so we could bring him home to be
buried at home where he belonged. I feel like it
was wrongful of them to remove his collar and
not attempt to find the owner. I loved this cat
and I can’t believe he’s been ripped from my
life like this, he was not an old cat he should
have lived a full life, but instead he was struck
down and it seams to me the neighbors were
trying to cover it up as quickly as possible

Asked on October 3, 2017 under Personal Injury, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

As a pet owner myself, please accept my sympathy.
Unfortunately, the law does not recognize the emotional value that our animals have to us, or allow compensation for the animal's suffering. Instead, animals are treated essentially the same as inanimate property. That means that when someone negligently or carelessly kills your cat by running it over, the case is treated the same as if they had negligently hit your mailbox or fence: while you can sue them, all you can recover in terms of compensation is the animal's actual economic value--basically, how much a cat like that costs--and any vet bills you incurred due to the accident, in trying to have him treated before he passed (which are zero [$0] in this case). Therefore, unless your cat was an economically valuable or expensive purebreed or show animal, you will be able to recover little or no money for him, despite the callous behavior of your neighbor (which does not increase what you could recover).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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