AR Philosophy > Legalities
The field of animal law in 2007

Inside the booming field of animal law, in which animals have their own interests -- and their own lawyers.
IN RECENT YEARS, Dr. Amy Marder, a veterinarian practicing in Lexington, has found herself called upon to decide which human "parent" a pet prefers.

Pet custody disputes have become an increasingly common fixture in divorce cases and Marder, an animal behavior specialist, has consulted in several. To do a proper evaluation, she likes to spend at least an hour and a half with the couple and the pet. She asks the owners a barrage of questions: which of the two spends more time with the animal, who plays with it more, who feeds it. She asks about the pet's upbringing, its temperament, how much it exercises.

Marder frowns on so-called "calling contests," a method used by lawyers in some custody cases, in which the owners stand at opposite ends of a room and call the pet to see which way it will go. She prefers to observe the animal's body language as it interacts with its owners. She looks at whether it sits closer to one or the other, and how it reacts when each pets it.
A decade ago, the idea that a divorce would involve "custody" of a pet, much less that the decision would factor in the pet's own predilections, would have been dismissed by most lawyers as absurd. Pets were property, and not very valuable property at that, to be balanced against all of the other stuff that is split up in a divorce - nobody, after all, talks about joint custody of an armoire.

But recent years have seen an intensifying effort on the part of animal rights activists, legislators, prosecutors, and legal scholars to change the way the law treats animals.
Still, a few animal lawyers see the evolution in the law paving the way to a more fundamental rethinking of the legal status of what they call, to emphasize our own connection to the animal world, "nonhuman animals."

Steven Wise, a Boston-based animal rights lawyer and a leading animal rights theorist, shares that view. "The idea that nonhuman animals are worthy of anything - that they have some value that's worthy of fighting about in court - that will lay the foundation for litigation that would actually lead to nonhuman animals getting some sort of equal rights," he says.

full story: articles/2007/09/09/lawyer_for_the_dog/

or articles/2007/09/09/lawyer_for_the_dog/?page=full

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