Animal Rights Law

Throughout the ensuing years, Professor Holzer and ISAR have provided legal information, analyses, and guidance to the animal rights law movement.

Professor Henry Mark Holzer, ISAR’s long-time Chairman, and ISAR have provided legal information, analyses, and guidance to the animal rights law movement over many years.



As “the first animal rights lawyer”, some forty years ago Professor Henry Mark Holzer first articulated his vision of using the law on behalf of animal rights. In a 1972 speech entitled “Lobbying in the Courts,” he explained how “rights-oriented” groups such as the NAACP, ACLU, National Consumer League, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others, had successfully used the courts and legal system to foster their political, religious, and economic agendas. Professor Holzer emphasized that, for better or worse, “if five members of the Supreme Court of the United States can be convinced that a given thing should or should not be done, opposition of even the United States Senate, House of Representatives, and President can be overcome. One can ‘lobby’ successfully,” Professor Holzer argued, “in court, simply by convincing only a few judges.”

Throughout the ensuing years, Professor Holzer and ISAR have provided legal information, analyses, and guidance to the animal rights law movement. On behalf of ISAR, he has drafted state and federal animal protection legislation, counseled animal rights/welfare organizations on legal topics, developed widely distributed reports on animal legal issues, presented seminars on animal rights/welfare subjects, filed amicus curiae (“friend-of-the-court’) legal briefs on behalf of animals, participated in animal rights/welfare symposia, advised public officials on legal issues affecting animals, helped educate the public about the legal rights of animals, contributed to the creation of animal rights literature, mentored law students interested in the animal rights field, and produced considerable writing on the subject of animal rights in general and the use of law to further them.

Some examples of ISAR’s legal activities follow. Clicking on the case links will take the reader to pertinent documents.


Five of ISAR’s major cases, spanning more than three decades, are:

Jones v. Butz
Jones v. Beame
Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, Florida
O’Sullivan v. City of San Diego 
United States v. Stevens

Amicus curiae briefs

In the two decades between 1938 and 1958, the Jehovah Witnesses’ legal team won 44 of 55 cases they brought to the Supreme Court of the United States. The issues included free speech, and free exercise/establishment of religion. In the 1989 term of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Washington Legal Foundation filed amicus curiae briefs in twelve percent of the cases. The efforts of the NAACP and ACLU in state and federal appeal courts need no elaboration.

Currently, thanks to the newborn animal rights legal movement, there are cases involving animals in trial and appellate courts throughout the United States presenting issues of experimentation, hunting, farming, sport, education, spay/neuter, breeding, and more. Every one of these cases can profit from amicus curiae briefs presenting a pro-animal rights perspective.

The first federal case ever to use the phrase “animal rights” was Jones v. Butz, 374 F.Supp. 1284 (SDNY, three-judge court, 1974). Professor Henry Mark Holzer on behalf of a wide-range of plaintiffs challenged sections of the federal Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act on the ground that its religious exemption—which effectively nullified the act’s protection for countless livestock animals—violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The first state case ever to use the phrase “animal rights” was Jones v. Beame, 45 N.Y.2d 402 (1978). Professor Holzer on behalf of ISAR’s then-president, Helen Jones, and ISAR itself sued to close the Central Park zoo in New York City on the ground that the treatment of the animals confined there violated the anti-cruelty statutes of the State of New York.

Despite the importance of these cases for animal rights, not a single individual or organization filed an amicus curiae in support of ISAR.

However, ISAR has filed amicus curiae briefs on behalf of others in state and federal courts. A few recent examples are:

  • O’Sullivan v. City of San Diego, 2007 WL 2570783 (2007) — a case that sought to protect the federal recognized seal rookery at Casa Beach in La Jolla, California, from depredation by swimmers and fishermen. Professor Holzer on behalf of ISAR and several other animal protection organizations consulted with the lawyers for the plaintiffs and submitted amicus curiae briefs in the California Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of the State of California.
  • Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, Florida, 508 U.S. 520 (1993), in which Professor Holzer on behalf of ISAR and eleven other animal protection organizations filed amicus curiae briefs in the Supreme Court of the United States in support of Hialeah’s ordinance that prohibited the Santeria cult from sacrificing animals as part of an alleged religious ceremony.
  • United States v. Stevens, 559 U.S. 460, 130 S.Ct. 1577 (2010) in which ISAR and Professor Holzer (together with Lance Gotko, Esq. of the New York City law firm Friedman Kaplan Siler & Adelman) filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the government’s argument that the federal statute criminalizing the making, selling or possessing depictions of “crush videos” and other torture and killing of animals was constitutional.

Lawyers interested in working with ISAR on amicus curiae briefs in animal rights cases are very welcome. See ISAR Seeks Twenty-First Century “Coast Watchers”. Interested lawyers should provide ISAR with the following information.

1. Name.
2. Firm name, if any.
3. Office address.
4. Telephone and fax number(s).
5. Email address.
6. Year(s) admitted to practice, and jurisdiction(s).
7. Specialization(s), if any.
8. Post-law school judicial clerkship(s), if any.
9. Judicial experience, if any.
10. Experience with animal-related cases, if any.
11. Amount of time available annually.
12. If a member of a firm, whether it has a formal pro bono program.

Although at the initial stages of the amicus brief (issue analysis, strategy, tactics, etc.)–Professor Holzer will be involved, the work product will be the volunteer lawyer’s. So, too, will be the responsibility for any necessary “leave” applications and production and filing of the brief(s). If the volunteer lawyer is unable to bear the costs of the brief’s production and filing, ISAR will assume those costs.

Crush videos

Report to the FBI all information concerning “Crush Videos.”
The Stevens Decision: Speech 8, Animals 1
United States v. Stevens: A Half-Full, Not Half-Empty Decision
United States v. Stevens: Popular Wisdom May Be Wrong
Analysis Of The Supreme Court Oral Argument In United States v. Stevens
Our Amicus Curiae Brief Has Been Filed In The Supreme Court
Our Amicus Curiae Brief in U.S. v. Stevens
Animals In Court
ISAR In The Supreme Court Of The United States
Free Speech and Cruelty to Animals

Animals and the Constitution

Do Not Fear That Animal Protection Legislation Will Be Ruled Unconstitutional
Search Warrants In Animal Protection Cases
The People v. Keith Chung, Revisited
Will lack of “standing to sue” once again rear its ugly head?
Suing on Behalf of Animals: New Case

Important ISAR animal protection statutes

Model Spay/Neuter Tax Deduction
Model Spay/Neuter Tax Deduction (Part II)
Model Mandatory Identification of Companion Dogs and Cats
Model Adoption Sterilization
Model Department of Animal Affairs
Model Euthanasia Statistics
Model Mandatory Spay/Neuter
Model Dog Breeding, Facilitation and Sales Regulatory
Model Prohibition of Devocalization
Model Prohibition of Retail Commercial Sale of Dogs and Cats
Another ISAR Legislative Idea Is Copied

Example of a successful animal rights litigation

Great Success for Animal Legal Defense Fund . . . and Hundreds of Dogs

Animal rights lawyers

As ISAR’s supporters know, the field of animal law began largely through the efforts of our chairman, Professor Henry Mark Holzer. Since that beginning, the interest of lawyers, law schools and the legal profession in animal law has burgeoned. (See Important New Publication: Stanford Journal of Animal Law and Policy and Websites Providing Information About Animal Law.)

Among the many exciting recent developments in animal law is that the American Bar Association and state, city, and local bar associations have not only created animal law committees, but have started to perform two other valuable services. Many bar associations provide lawyer referral services, through which non-lawyers can find attorneys proficient in animal law. Perhaps more important, more and more bar associations publish useful information about animal law. For example, The New York State Bar Association has developed a pamphlet which summarizes New York animal law and covers both companion and farm animal.

Hence, one of the first stops for those wanting to find an animal law attorney, and learn something about animal law, is the nearest city, county, and/or state bar association.

Animal law resources

Various websites providing information about animal law
Animals and “Standing to Sue”

Intentional and negligent harm to animals

Harming Companion Animals        
Harming Companion Animals: Liability and Damages
Veterinarians Are Running Scared
Harming Companion Animals to be used in law school “Animal Law and Rights” Course