Adopting Rover’s Grey Guide: A Proposed Framework for Calculating Restitution for Killed Pets
Starting the day with doggie yoga, constructing a DIY catio, or enjoying leisurely afternoon walks—these are just a few examples of the furry silver lining hidden amidst the misery of the Coronavirus pandemic. Brought on by an unexpected pet adoption boom, pet ownership in 2020 reached an “all-time high of 70 percent [of households].” The “opportunity” to stay home through the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic allowed pet parents to spend more time with their furry family members than ever before. While some pets found less enjoyment in this quality time than others, many first-time and long-time pet owners alike enjoyed expanded companionship through a very stressful time.
Unfortunately, the increase in pet ownership resulted in an increase in animal cruelty and violence over the same period. Because violence against animals is both a tort and a crime, owner-victims have two paths to justice: through either the civil or criminal court system. Each system presents its own challenges and considerations, but sometimes owner-victims have no choice in path at all; there are still barriers to access to the courts, particularly for indigent people, so a criminal restitution award may be the only compensation a victim receives.
Currently, there is no statutory framework that provides courts with guidance on calculating a restitution award. With the inconsistency between criminal animal cruelty statutes from state to state, the circumstances of your address can determine whether you receive a fair restitution award, or whether you receive a nominal or even negligible award. This Note proposes the adoption of Rover’s Grey Guide, a new framework loosely modeled after the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides, aimed at filling that gap and identifying universally applicable factors and support for courts to consult when calculating a fair restitution award.
Part I of this Note discusses restitution as a remedy and explores some of the reasoning behind choosing to seek restitution through the criminal system. Next, Part II compares different factors and methods courts use in calculating animal restitution awards and categorizes them along with several proposed factors. Finally, relying on those factors, Part III introduces and applies different methods of calculation, including Rover’s Grey Guide, to a hypothetical case, and evaluates the Guide’s strengths and weaknesses. Because animal cruelty is a nationwide issue, this Note proposes a statutory framework adaptable across all jurisdictions, ideally without complicating or contradicting current animal cruelty statutes in effect. No amount of money can ever truly replace a beloved pet, but the financial burden that may be left in the wake of that loss should be remedied and borne by the one who caused it.
 Laura Van Antwerp, 10 Activities to Do at Home With Your Pet, SPCANevada (Apr. 5, 2020), https://spcanevada.org/10-quarantine-activities-to-do-at-home-with-your-pet/; How Pets Help People Cope During a Pandemic, Sharp (Apr. 9, 2020), https://www.sharp.com/health-news/how-pets-help-people-cope-during-a-pandemic.cfm; Pandemic Inspires DIY Projects for Feline Family Members, BradfordToday (Mar. 21, 2021), https://www.bradfordtoday.ca/local-news/pandemic-inspires-diy-projects-for-feline-family-members-3552221.
 Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, New US Pet Ownership Study Confirms Pandemic-led Growth, PetfoodIndustry (June 1, 2020), https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/10325-new-us-pet-ownership-study-confirms-pandemic-led-growth.
 Office of Gov. Phil Scott, Exec. Order no. 01-20 (Mar. 13, 2020), https://governor.vermont.gov/sites/scott/files/documents/EO%2001-20%20Declaration%20of%20State%20of%20Emergency%20in%20Response%20to%20COVID-19%20and%20National%20Guard%20Call-Out.pdf (mandating, among other restrictions, State employees to work virtually when possible, restricting gatherings outside of households, and required isolation after exposure).
 Jemima Burt & Adam Stephen, Cats ‘Put Out’ by Their Owners Being Home More During Lockdowns, Study Finds, News, ABC (Jul. 7, 2021), https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-07-08/study-cats-felt-owners-were-invading-their-space-during-lockdown/100275392.
 Jasmine Turner, ‘It’s Been a Really Violent Year’: RACC Responds to an Increase in Animal Cruelty Calls
 Lorna G. Schofield, ABA Section of Litigation Member Survey on Civil Practice: Detailed Report, City Bar Ctr. for Continuing Legal Educ. (May 9, 2014) (finding eighty-two percent of civil litigators surveyed responded “their firms turn away cases when it is not cost-effective to handle them,” particularly those “smaller cases [which] may not be litigated,” denying access to the civil court system for those potential plaintiffs).
 Fed. Trade. Comm’n, Green Guides, FTC https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/topics/truth-advertising/green-guides (last visited Mar. 28, 2022) (providing companies with guidance on navigating environmental claims through marketing with the aim of avoiding misleading consumers and outlining appropriate standards for commercial labeling).