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Law evolves after estates left to pets and activists push for animal rights

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RALEIGH --

Fido is getting a new name -- several, in fact: "plaintiff," "trustee," "beneficiary" and even "defendant."

Dogs, cats and creatures of all sorts are being redefined in an emerging area of legal practice known as animal law. Once considered mere property, animals are being invested with legal standing as they're increasingly being named as partial beneficiaries of estates, subjects of lawsuits and victims of abuse.

As animals rise in the law, so does the profile of animal lawyers, or lawyers who practice animal law.

Ninety-two of the 196 law schools in the country approved by the American Bar Association now offer courses on animal law, up from the nine that offered classes in 2000, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

"You're seeing this real snowball effect," said Pamela Alexander, director of the defense fund's animal law section.

Part of the push has come from animals' rise in prominence in people's lives, with owners routinely spending thousands of dollars to give a cat chemotherapy and sending dogs to day care, therapists and groomers.

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full story: http://www.charlotte.com/local/story/539006.html

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