Animal law is designed to protect the welfare and interests of pets, wildlife, farm animals, animals used in entertainment, and animals used in research and experiments. In addition to defining the rights of animals, animal law also defines the rights of animal owners. Issues may include custody over pets in divorce disputes, veterinary malpractice, wrongful death or injury to a pet, enforceable trusts for pets, disputes involving “no pet” policies, and cruelty against animals, including the issue of who has standing to sue on behalf of animals.
There is no one area of law in which all animal attorneys practice, because animal issues span many areas of law. Some specialize in pet trusts, to allow people to leave assets for the care for their animals after they are gone. Some handle landlord/tenant issues, such as when a tenant is asked to choose between giving up their animal or being evicted. Others represent clients whose animals have been injured or killed by abuse or veterinary malpractice. Another area of practice is First Amendment law, which is important when activists want to exercise their right to protest. Some animal attorneys protect wildlife through a variety of administrative, environmental and wildlife laws. Still others represent clients whose dogs have bitten someone, and are facing civil lawsuits and/or the loss of their dogs.
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.