AR Philosophy >
from New York Law Journal
Law schools see a growing interest in representing
can't speak for themselves
It's 4 p.m. at the D.C. Animal Shelter in Washington, D.C. A black Lab
puppy with longing eyes is being taken from his cage -- to be
euthanized. Because of the city's serious overpopulation of companion
animals, this scene occurs every day at the shelter.
What's the solution? Laws requiring mandatory spaying and neutering of
all licensed companion animals in the district would keep this
population under control. Today, though, no such laws exist. But
students in the George Washington University Law School's animal law
program are working with the Department of Health to finalize this
legislation and present it to the D.C. Council. With new laws, and
fewer animals needing adoption, the black Lab being led to his death
could have lived out his life in a loving home.
Working to require spaying and neutering is just one element of
"animal law," a legal specialty that is starting to attract the
attention of law schools across the country. The school at GW, for
example, has grown to become one of the top law schools in the country
to offer an extensive animal law program.
Until recently, animal law was a relatively small and unknown
specialty in the legal profession. Meanwhile, corporate interests have
exploited the holes in the laws applied to animals. For instance, the
meat industries have ensured that the Animal Welfare Act -- the
federal statute purportedly providing protection for all animals --
effectively does not apply to farm animals. And state laws applying to
these animals deny them the most basic requirements of humane
treatment as they lay eggs, provide milk or wait to be slaughtered as
What will the future hold? LL.M.'s in animal law? Specialized
study-abroad programs in animal law? In the short term we can expect
to see enrollments in animal law courses increase and new courses
It would be no surprise if many law schools soon begin to offer
several courses on the topic beyond the general overview course,
including courses in specialized areas such as farm animals, animals
used in research, endangered species, animal cruelty, and
international animal law. GW Law School certainly plans to continue to
develop and expand its animal law program. GW Law's program is
thriving, but it is not an anomaly. It is a sign of things to come.
Joan Schaffner is an associate professor at the George Washington
University School of Law, and Kerry Contini is a law student there.