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Sidebar: Why Animal Law?

With all the world’s problems, some question whether animal law is a relevant area of study.

“When we first got involved in animal law, no one really knew what it was,” says Janice Weis, associate dean and director of the Environmental Law and Natural Resources Program (which houses the Center for Animal Law Studies). “It sounded marginal, controversial. But that’s changed as people’s perceptions of animals have changed. Today people relate to legal efforts to protect animals, and animal law has become a legitimate field of study.”

Legitimate, indeed. Thousands of local ordinances, state statutes, and federal laws have been passed addressing animals and their relationships to humans. Many pets are covered by health and life insurance policies. Divorce cases often include shared custody of companion animals, with specific visitation schedules. And trusts created for pets so they can be cared for after their owners die are becoming more common.

Hessler says animal law impacts every field of law and many aspects of our lives. “Law professors used to say every lawyer should know a little about tax because it’s in every area of law, and now the same is true for animal law,” she says. “Animals are everywhere in our society, and social and legal issues relevant to them have grown.”

Research shows that violence toward animals directly relates to other types of crime. For instance, virtually every serial killer has had a history of abusing animals. “A person who’s engaging in violent acts against humans is likely to have abused animals,” says Frasch. “If we care about violence against humans, we need to care about how we treat animals too.”

Firsts in Animal

Law Lewis & Clark Law School has the distinction of many firsts in animal law, including:

■ First legal and academic think tank and training program for students interested in animal law ■ First animal law journal

■ First international animal law conference

■ First animal law moot court

■ First competitions in animal law mock trial, closing argument, and legislation and lobbying

■ First summer animal law program

■ First collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to create a comprehensive animal law program of international stature

■ First animal law program to be developing a template for a program that can be replicated at other schools

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