Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies


Jessica Dellow


This article explores how the lives of companion animals – pets by another name – are valued in negligence actions when they are wrongfully killed, and the justifications underlying the current approach of market value. Because Canadians welcome companion animals into their families for reasons that go beyond economics, this paper argues that a proposition of law that values them based only on market value fails accurately to identify and compensate for the loss suffered when a companion animal is wrongfully killed. Compensating a plaintiff for either mental distress or loss of companionship appears, initially, to be an attractive alternative to the market value approach; however, because of the cautious manner with which psychological injuries have been approached in Canada, and the common law position that loss of companionship is non-compensable, these alternatives are impracticable means by which the present legal position could be modified. While compensation for mental distress can respond to some situations involving the wrongful death of a pet, it cannot provide redress in all such actions. A solution to the challenges posed by the present legal position lies in valuation by reference to the investment made by animal guardians during the course of a companion animal’s lifetime. This method would allow for a companion animal’s value to be accurately measured, thereby permitting compensation that adequately reflects the entirety of the loss suffered. Legislative change, creating a statutory cause of action for the attendant non-pecuniary loss, would be the most effective way of achieving this proposed change.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.