Posted in: Lawyers Editorial Board


Throughout her legal career, Elle Klein has always been passionate about criminal law and was recently able to turn this passion into a career with the United States Attorney's Office. As an assistant U.S. attorney, Klein works in the criminal division, something she has aspired to do since her days in law school.

“It’s an extremely fulfilling career path as I know my work directly leads to a safer and more stable community for my family, friends, neighbors, and fellow South Carolinians,” Klein said.

Klein is also an active and passionate dog mom to her two yellow labs, Nilla and Bogey, and a member of the SC Bar Animal Law Committee. Her love for animals made her ponder the possibilities of stronger legal remedies for pet owners, a topic she discusses in her recent SC Lawyer article.

In the U.S., over 67 percent of households or about 85 million families own a pet or companion animal. But what are pet owners to do if their furry family members are tortiously harmed? This question and a casual conversation at dinner is what inspired Klein’s article.

“My husband, Zak, is a plaintiff’s attorney,” Klein said. “One night over dinner, we somehow got onto the topic of potential claims for pets. He told me that the damage for harm to pets was limited to fair market value. As an avid animal lover and obsessive dog mom, I couldn’t believe it. This lead researching how other states handle tort claims for companion animals and, ultimately, writing the piece so other people in the legal community could be aware.”

Those who have lost a companion animal know the emotional and psychological damage from a loss like that. Other states are starting to recognize this and have enacted statuses to allow recovery of emotional damage after harm or injury to a companion animal. A point that Klein says is a key takeaway in her article.

“I would say the biggest take-away from my article and research is that damages for tortious injury to companion animals doesn’t have to be limited to fair market value. Other states have already shown us that this doesn’t have to be the case,” Klein said.

In South Carolina it has been nearly 30 years since the Supreme Court has been faced with a case in which they had to determine if an individual could include emotional damage in their recovery in the event of harm to their companion animals. Will South Carolina follow the lead of other states?

“Hopefully South Carolina will sooner rather than later! Today, pets really are like family members. Personally, I’d love to see pet owners have a stronger legal remedy in the unfortunate event that their pets are tortiously harmed,” Klein said.

An active SC Bar member, Klein enjoys writing in her spare time and reflected on her experience writing for the SC Lawyer magazine.

“It was great! The editors and staff of SC Lawyer were so friendly, encouraging, and easy to work with. I absolutely would recommend it,” Klein said.