What is Animal Law?

Paco and George

Animal law is at the same time simple and complicated. According to Chairperson of the Animal Law Section of the American Bar Association, animal law is the law that affects, but not always protects, animals. That simple statement provides a window into the complexity of animal law. Just as with people, every area of the law impacts animals for good or bad. From transactions like veterinary or breeding contracts, to issues in tort like determining the damages for the wrongful death of a companion animal, animals are involved in a broad array of legal issues. The discipline of animal law is evolving, and can be practiced from many different perspectives.

A primary struggle is the animal's status under the law. Are they property?  Sentient beings? Both? While the law has evolved somewhat from treating animals as mere property, in many ways it has not yet reconciled this idea with the rights they have gained and deserve. 

Examples of Animal Law Cases

Since animal law touches every legal practice area, the types of cases possible are only limited by our imagination. Examples of some common scenarios we have seen are:

  • Landlord-tenant and homeowners' association issues
  • Emotional support and service animal concerns
  • Pet trusts and emergency planning (like veterinary care directives for when you are away)
  • Custody issues of family pets in divorce or long-term relationship breakups (mediation is great for this)
  • Contract evaluation and negotiation and other issues for rescue groups and other nonprofits
  • Local ordinance violations such as "dangerous dog" hearings
  • Defense of animal rights protesters 
  • Damages for wrongful death or injury involving pet care providers
  • Equine care and contract issues

How Do We Practice Animal Law?

Our approach to animal law is simple: we first determine if a case involves or advances the rights of animals or their human companions, then we assemble the necessary experts for the case at hand. At times, our attorney serves as a consultant to other attorneys, helping them fill in the gaps for their clients. Our goal is to advocate under the law for the best possible outcome. Then we push the envelope to drive positive change.

As a member of Attorneys for Animals, we believe that animals are more than mere personal property. Animals deserve recognition for the intelligent beings they are, protection from an outdated legal system that can be abused to their detriment, and advocacy to advance the laws more equitably.

Our Commitment

We have a passion to serve animals and the people who love them. We will work tirelessly and creatively to achieve the best possible outcome within the law.