SPCA Not Immune From Liability

Posted on: June 29th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

A Dec. 2009 legal opinion of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania permitted a dog owner to successfully sue the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).  The dog owner filed a lawsuit versus the SPCA in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas seeking damages for civil rights violations, trespass, conversion and negligence.  The SPCA had euthanized her dogs and the dog owner claimed that the SPCA had no legal ability to destroy her dogs.

After the Philadelphia jury rendered a verdict in favor of the dog owner, the SPCA appealed claiming it was immune from suit due to either sovereign immunity or local immunity.  The SPCA elects it own officers and directors, manages its own affairs and adopts its own bylaws.  Neither the Commonwealth nor Philadelphia County makes direct payments to the SPCA from taxpayers’ funds.  Lastly, there is no state law classifying the SPCA as a state or local government agency.  For these reasons, the PA Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the Philadelphia Trial Judge and Pennsylvania Superior Court.  Snead v. SPCA of Pennsylvania, 985 A.2d 909 (Pa. 2009)