Overview of Current Law

Perhaps to the surprise of many, Massachusetts has a variety of civil and criminal laws relating to animals, but none that relate to their value when they are a member of a household and are in fact a companion, and are treated as such by their family.


Here are some of the laws relating to criminal actions that affect animals:


  1. Mass General Laws Chapter 112, Section 58B—Veterinarians are required to report to the police when they suspect animal cruelty.
  2. Mass General Laws Chapter 266, Section 112—With respect to domestic animals, including farm animals, anyone convicted of “willfully and maliciously killing” or maiming it or disfiguring it could be punished by imprisonment up to 7 years or fined up to $5,000.00 or both; second offenses have harsher penalties.
  3. There are other laws, including criminal penalties for “devocalizing” dogs and cats. Penalties can be as high as 5 years in prison or $2,500 fine, or both.


Here are some of the laws relating to “civil actions (non-criminal)” that affect animals:


  1. None, other than the right to make a Complaint with the Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine about a Veterinarian,


How does Massachusetts treat claims relating to human?

Death or injuries compared to such claims for animals

There are a variety of laws that deal with injuries and

Death claims for humans, the most important of which

May be:

  1. The Massachusetts wrongful death statute: mass general laws chapter 229, section 2—sets forth a variety of grounds when a party would be liable for damages when a person dies as a result of another party’s negligence. The party making the claim is entitled to:
  1. The fair monetary value of the deceased, to compensate for the loss of income, services, protection, care, assistance, society, companionship, comfort, counsel, and advice of the decedent to those entitled to recover damages.
  2. Reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
  3. Possibly punitive damages of not less than $5,000.00.

There are no laws that deal with injuries or death claims for pets.

In the massachusetts appeals court decision of: Irwin vs Degtiarov et al  — 85 mass. Ct. 234 (2014), the court stated:

      “although the common law considers dogs (like other animals) to be property…”.

In that same decision the court stated: “ although the owner’s affection for the animal may be considered in assessing the reasonableness of the decision to treat the animal, the owner cannot recover for his or her hurt feelings, emotions, or pain. Nor is the owner entitled to recover for the loss of the animal’s companionship or society”; and referenced a prior appeals court decision of Krasnecky v Meffen, 56 Mass app ct 418 (2002).