How to recover vet bills after somebody else’s dog attacks your dog gum infection after tooth extraction symptoms

My wife, 2 children, and our dog were in our yard today when a pitbull came onto our property and started to behave aggressively. Within seconds, the pitbull attacked our dog who was tied up to his dog runner. My wife was able to get the children into the house quickly and she immediately called 911. After struggling for some time, our dog was able to free himself from the pitbull’s jaws which were wrapped around his throat and my wife was able to scare it off. Mind you, I am at work when this all takes place and she contacts me right away. She told me that our dog was covered in blood but seemed to be ok. The police and the animal control officer (ACO) arrive and gather all of the information. The ACO tells my wife that the owner is fully responsible for the vet bills and tells her that our dog needs to be seen.

After an examination, the vet determines that he has some blood in his lungs, he required some staples, and his nasal cavity was damaged from the other dog’s tooth and will require surgery.

The ACO provided my wife with the owner’s name and contact info and told us that the owner agreed to pay the bills. After communicating with the owner, she has indicated that she does not have the money to pay. She states that she is a single mother living with her parents, and she is on some form of minimal income from the State. She says that she is willing to give us $300 today but would need to work something out for the rest. The vet would not release the dog without payment so my wife paid the $700 vet bill. There will also be another $1,000 bill once he has his surgery next week. We do not have this type of cash laying around either and I feel as though we should not be the ones having to pay in this situation. I am easy going and understanding but I feel like what she is offering is minimal compared to what will be owed. I am empathetic to her situation as I know she didn’t ask for any of this either but, we are talking about a good chunk of money. I have never had any civil legal issues in the past, what should I do and what are my options? TIA!

Plus dogs are considered chattle, like a car or a chair. SO, unless your dog is a purebred and worth more than the cost of surgery, you likely won’t get what you want from them. IF they pay, it will only be monetary value of the dog, not the any cost to repair it that exceeds that value. You can seek full reimbursement for the dog’s owner but you might not get it in court. If she is willing to pay, why not work out a written agreement with her that you enforce if she doesn’t pay as agreed?

The case law on pet damages has evolved considerably in the past few decades with many courts around the country awarding veterinary costs that exceed the market value of the pets and some going as far as awarding damages for emotional distress.

Connecticut goes as far back as 1885 in applying consequential damages to the loss of an animal. In Brown v. Town of Southbury the court held that consequential losses as a result of the harm to an animal (a horse) to be a proper element of damages in addition to the fair market value of the animal.

In the Connecticut case of Altieri v. Nanavati (1989) a dog owner sued a veterinarian for negligence, claiming that the defendant performed unwanted sterilization surgery on the plaintiff’s dog, a Lhasa Apso. Plaintiffs claimed financial loss because of inability to breed the dog along with compensation for emotional distress. The appellate court did not address specific damages but it did say Damages are generally limited to the market value of the dog, although other damages are sometimes allowed at the same time making it clear that damages for emotional distress were not compensable.

In the Connecticut case of Liotta v. Segur (2004) a dog owner sued a groomer for negligent infliction of emotional distress, alleging that the groomer negligently handled her very large dog when he removed it from her vehicle with “excessive force.” This resulted in a leg fracture, that, after lengthy and expensive care, ultimately resulted in the dog’s euthanization. The court held that plaintiff failed to adequately plead a case for negligent infliction of emotional distress, but said in dicta that the results might be different for a pet owner who proves intentional infliction of emotional distress.