Bill could allow pet owners to sue if pet gets hurt

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Greater justice could be on the way for Florida pet owners whose animals are wrongfully injured or killed.

State Senator Dana Young of Tampa has filed a bill that would hold people accountable for up to $5,000 for the pain and suffering they cause owners when a pet is harmed.

Under the current state law, if a pet is injured or killed, either through negligence or on purpose, the owner can only sue for the amount the pet is valued if it were for sale and for any veterinary bills that may apply.

"For my constituents, it's just not enough. If this happens to them and one of their pets are killed, they are suffering. They are sad. It's not just a piece of property to them," said Senator Dana Young.

Young filed Senate Bill 1270 on Monday, along with Representative Jared Moskowitz of Coral Springs, who filed House Bill 1067.

If passed into law, a pet owner could sue for up to $5,000 for pain and suffering from losing a loved one. The owner would have to prove that a case of gross negligence result in the animal's injury or death.

"It would have to be a complete and conscious disregard for the safety or welfare of the animal. That's a very high standard. It really is just the most egregious situations," said Young.

She said she was inspired to file the bill when a local resident approached her about the loss of her dog. The woman said a professional she hired to train her dog in Hillsborough County grabbed it by the snout when the dog got out of control. The dog began flailing as the trainer held its snout until its neck snapped. The dog died from its injures, but the owner had few options to take legal action against the trainer.

"Ideally, this bill will serve as a deterrent for those that might not take as much care with a pet as they would, for example, with a piece of furniture or a piece of property," explained Young.

If the bills pass the House and Senate, the new law would take effect this July.