Another Milestone For Animal Rights Law

i May 9, 2009

Veterans of the animal rights legal movement believe that it began back in 1972 when ISAR’s chairman, Professor Henry Mark Holzer, brought a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ritual slaughter exemption to the federal Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act of 1958, and expressly invoking the moral/legal concept of “animal rights”–as a result of which some graciously consider him “the first animal rights lawyer.” (See

In her Stanford article, its author, Joyce Tischler, Esq., of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, credits Professor Holzer with three accomplishments crucial to establishing the field of what today is known as “animal rights law”: (1) with ISAR, having brought the first federal and first state lawsuit expressly invoking the moral /legal concept of “animal rights”; (2) with ISAR, having founded the Animal Rights Law Reporter, which became “the legal clearinghouse for animal rights law information”; and, (3) again with ISAR, having organized the “First National Conference on Animal Rights Law”—an undertaking, in Ms. Tischler’s words, “[t]he significance of which cannot be overstated.”

At that conference Professor Holzer had articulated his vision for using the law on behalf of animals.

A major result of the conference was to coalesce the attending lawyers into a loose network of like-minded individuals, and to identify the tools necessary to create an entirely new, discrete field of law–one which would take its deserved place among other long-recognized practice areas such as corporate law, property law, criminal law and many others.

Over the past two decades, that vision has been almost fully realized.

Today, courses in animal law are taught in virtually every major law school in America, usually using books expressly written for that subject.

Today, conferences are frequently held for lawyers practicing animal rights law.

Today, lawyers draft animal rights legislation, and lobby for their enactment.

Today, more than one law school has nationally recognized programs in animal law.

Today, professional journals devoted solely to animal rights law are published.

Today, animal protection lawyer testify before legislative committees.

Today, laypersons with legal issues involving animals seek out lawyers who specialize in animal protection law.

Today, articles, monographs and books on animal law issues proliferate.

Today, national animal protection organizations have lawyers on their permanent staffs.

Today, more and more college students enter law school because they want to practice animal rights law.

Today, animal rights lawyers consult with lawyers in general practice who may from time to time have a case involving animal issues.

Today, state and local bar associations have animal law sections.

Today, lawyers file “friend-of-the-court” briefs in cases involving animal protection (as Professor Holzer will soon do in the Supreme Court of the United States on ISAR’s behalf in the case of United States v. Stevens, in an effort to protect the constitutionality of a federal animal protection statute.)

Today, the American Bar Association, recognizes the existence of the animal rights law practice area by maintaining a subcommittee for those interested in that subject.

Today, lawyers litigate animal rights cases in federal and state, and trial and appellate, courts throughout the United States.

And today, thanks to the ABA, lawyers who litigate those cases are going to have a much easier time–and be able to achieve even better results for their human and animal clients.

That’s because of a brand new 584 page book published by the ABA this year, edited by Joan Schaffner and Julie Fershtman: Litigating Animal Law Disputes: A Complete Guide for Lawyers.

The Guide was a formidable undertaking, and its editors and contributors have discharged their task admirably, as its seventeen page Table of Contents reflects.

There, one finds every imaginable topic of interest to lawyers who act on behalf of animals and their custodians: Negligence and Tort Law; Ownership, Custody and Keeping of Animals; Veterinary Malpractice; Animal-Related Contract and Sales Disputes; The Disabled, Service Animals, and the Law; Animal Insurance Litigation; Legal Issues Involving Animal Associations and Individuals Helping Animals; Remedies in Animal-Related Litigation; Criminal Law; Expert Witnesses; Practical Considerations for Attorneys Handling Animal Law Cases.

These chapter headings only suggest at the depth and breadth of information contained in the many sections and subsections of each one, and in the appendices which accompany some of the chapters and appear at the end of the book. (The appendices are also copious indexes.)

It’s evident that the editors and contributors gave considerable thought to what their book should contain and, speaking as one who was in this field from the beginning–before the beginning, according to some–they’ve thought of almost everything. (One suggestion for the second edition: the inclusion of a chapter on the constitutional aspects of animal law, and a Table of Cases and Other Authorities cited in the Guide.)

Litigating Animal Law Disputes: A Complete Guide for Lawyers deserves to be in the library of every lawyer and law library in the United States because it is the one-stop resource for every lawyer who contemplates acting on behalf of animals and their custodians.