History of Animal Law
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 property.

The Practice of Animal Law
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.