For a young, overworked lawyer practicing in a big Manhattan firm, it
was a "transformative experience."
Eighteen years ago, James Gesualdi took a week off from his job to
swim with pediatric cancer patients and dolphins. "The people taught
me all about real-life stresses, as opposed to the artificial stresses
that I was subjecting myself to in my practice," said Gesualdi of
Kings Park, recalling the joy the dolphins brought the sick children.
"And the animals - the dolphins just absolutely inspired me," he said.
That inspiration led Gesualdi to combine his two passions in life -
the law and animals. Today, Gesualdi is one of an increasing number of
attorneys specializing in animal law, legal experts say.
Indeed, the boutique field of law has grown so rapidly that the
Suffolk County Bar Association recently established an entire
committee dedicated to animal law, with Gesualdi and Smithtown
attorney Amy Chaitoff as its co-chairs.
"I believe our committee is a place where people - whatever their
perspective on animals issues - can come together to work to make
things better," said Gesualdi, who specializes in cases involving zoos
and aquariums. "Better for animals, and better for society."
The committee plans to offer seminars for the public as well as
continuing legal education courses for attorneys.
Whether they're criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors or estate
attorneys, organizers said the common link between committee members
is their passion for animals and their realization that while state
law may recognize animals as no more than property - like a car or a
house - they can mean much more to their owners.