A newly introduced bill in New Jersey, S4156 and sister bill A5404 would establish civil action for damages for injury or death of certain animals in certain circumstances.

Those circumstances would include any unlawful and intentional or negligent act of a person that results in the injury or death of a pet dog or pet cat normally maintained in or near the household of the owner, or the injury or death of any service animal or guide dog or a search and rescue dog.

The remedies would not be available for “any governmental agency, or its employees, negligently causing the death of an animal while acting on behalf of public health or animal welfare . . .[or] for professional negligence against a licensed veterinarian.”

So, it appears that this would provide for non-economic damages for veterinary malpractice, or if a government run shelter mistakenly or prematurely euthanized a pet.

For the remaining potential situations in which damages would be applicable, those damages “may include, but are not limited to, the monetary value of the animal, veterinary expenses incurred on behalf of the animal, any other expenses incurred by the owner in rectifying the effects of the cruelty, pain, and suffering of the animal, and, as set forth in subsection c. of this section, compensation for emotional distress suffered by the owner.  If the killed or injured animal was a service animal or guide dog or a search and rescue dog, then the value of that animal may include the cost of any specialized training the animal received.”

Noneconomic damages available if this bill is enacted would be limited to $5000.