WHAT IS ANIMAL LAW?
History of Animal
Animal law involves any legal issues that involve animals.
Lawyers have been resolving issues involving animals for
quite some time, but animal law as primary area of practice
is fairly new. It is gaining acknowledgement by the public
and members of the legal field.
Historically, the law treated animals solely as “property”.
Owners were responsible for damages caused by their animals
and, generally, individuals who injured an animal were
responsible for the damage that they caused. Damages were
based upon the fair market value of the animal.
Today, the courts still primarily resolve issues involving
animals under the laws of property. Many animal law
attorneys and laymen alike are fighting to change this
categorization of animals. More and more courts are
recognizing that animals are something more than just
The Practice of Animal
Animal law crosses into all areas of the legal field. It
includes (a) discrimination against the disabled due to
their need for a service animal; (b) injuries or deaths of
animals and the rights of their owners/guardians; animal
cruelty and the humane treatment of animals; (c) custody
disputes; (d) dog bites and attacks (e) veterinary
malpractice; (f) disputes involving condominium associations
and condominium members over the right of the members to own
animals; (g) contract disputes between sellers and buyers of
animals; (h) the rights of real estate developers and the
protection of endangered species, etc.
Some lawyers incorporate an aspect of animal law into their
daily legal practices. Personal injury lawyers may bring
actions against the owners of dogs that have bitten their
clients; environmental lawyers may use the endangered
species act when fighting to protect animals on the
endangered species list; and professional malpractice
attorneys may advocate for a veterinarian client when the
client is accused of malpractice; etc.
A minority of lawyers practice animal on a full-time basis.
An animal law attorney with a full-time animal law practice
will either focus a few areas of animal law or incorporate
all types of animal law in their practices. Lorrie Elliott
is a full-time practitioner of animal law. She emphasizes
cases involving discrimination, custody disputes; injuries
or deaths of animals; and dog bites/attacks; but she also
includes other areas of animal law in her practice.