The Emerging Field of Animal Law

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The Emerging Field of Animal Law

By Ken Dailey, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
August 2008

The seamless web of laws entangling human existence is more and more often working in favor of our friends in the animal kingdom. A growing number of attorneys are taking on the challenge of advocating for animal rights.

Animal law includes all types of legal action affecting the rights, standing or welfare of animals as an emerging legal field and has been compared to the state of environmental law in the U.S. in the 1970's. A quick perusal of statutory and case law on the topic shows that animal law now permeates most traditional areas of law—tort, contract, criminal law, constitutional law even estate planning. Things get especially interesting as legal, social and biological aspects of nonhuman animals are explored, covering companion animals, wildlife, animals used in entertainment and animals raised for food, testing and research.

This expanding field provides ample opportunities for new attorneys to contribute to the pro-animal case and statutory law. A growing number of law schools including highly ranked schools like Harvard, Stanford, UCLA and Duke have added animal law to their curricula.

More than 100 law schools in the U.S. have Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapters that offer aspiring attorneys opportunities to take part in this "niche" field of law while helping give voice to the voiceless. With the Animal Legal Defense Fund's support, students take on projects such as writing law review articles for journals dedicated to animal law, moot court competitions, and volunteering to do legal research and writing for law firms.


Ken is the President of Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, Santa Barbara College of Law. For more information visit Student Animal Legal Defense Fund http://www.saldf.org.

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