ALR Student’s Corner: Animal Law – A Guide to Help Attorneys Understand this Emerging Field of Law


As members of the legal profession, we are naturally concerned about the well being of other people. However, animals often go unnoticed. They may catch the help of a few bleeding hearts, but often times no one knows how to assisting animals legally. What are their rights? What are the owners’ right? Are there criminal penalties for animal abuse? What happens if an animal injures a person? Who is liable?

The answers to these questions and more can be found in a user-friendly treatise titled Litigating Animal Law Disputes: a Complete Guide for Lawyers. Animal law is considered a new and emerging field, which borrows from almost all other legal areas such as contracts and torts. As a new field, there is a large sea of uncharted waters that this book can help an attorney navigate through.

Animal welfare is often stigmatized as a plight of the common tree hugger, but this is not the case. Many leading attorneys across the nation are beginning to focus on the issue. Two trail blazers, and editors of Litigating Animal Law Disputes, are Joan E. Schaffner and Julie Fershtman. Ms. Schaffner is a professor at the George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C. and is active in many organizations that promote animal welfare through legal venues. Ms. Fershtman is an attorney practicing insurance defense, insurance coverage, business litigation and equine law at a firm in Michigan. Additionally, there is a long and impressive list of contributing attorneys that all have various experience and credible knowledge of animal welfare efforts.

Here is an example of how to use Litigating Animal Law Disputes. A potential client who is blind walks into your office with her service animal. She tells you she was removed from a flight because she had her service dog with her, and the airline would not allow her to stay on board. The airline refuses to refund her money because she violated the airline’s policy of no animals on board.

The potential client feels as though the airline discriminated against her, and indicates further that this discrimination had caused her to miss a very important job interview. After she leaves your office, you decide to take a look at Litigating Animal Law Disputes from the Charlotte School of Law Library to see if there are any applicable laws that may offer her remedies.

Since you are new to the subject, the first step is to introduce yourself to the material, so as to determine what legal options might be available to your client. Upon flipping to the main table of contents at the beginning of the treatise, you notice Chapter 6 – The Disabled, Service Animals, and the Law and consider this relevant to your client’s issue.  Each chapter has an extensive table of contents, which is easily navigable and a useful tool for locating a particular subtopic within your legal issue.


After locating Chapter 6, scroll down the page and find Section V. – Service Animals at Your Feet on Board: Air Carriers Access Act. Upon flipping to this section, you discover the basic requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act that air carriers must follow.  From this research, you think your potential client has a claim against the airline, so you decide to call her and tell her you would like to represent her. She is very happy to hear the news. You also tell her to keep an eye out in the mail for a retainer agreement.

After you get off the phone, you flip to the appendix section, which has examples of retainer agreements for animal law cases. Litigating Animal Law Disputes includes these additional samples: a letter rejecting a potential legal matter, retainer agreement (hourly), retainer agreement (contingency), an agreement to arbitrate, interrogatories, requests for production of documents, wills, and a settlement agreement.

This single volume treatise is located in the Treatise section of the Charlotte School of Law Library and can be located with the Library of Congress call number, KF 390.5 .A5 L582009 (using the search term “animal law” in the Library’s catalog gets you here).  But, if you have difficulty finding the book, a reference librarian or someone at the circulation desk should be able to assist you.

Overall, this treatise is well rounded and organized in an understandable fashion. If you have an animal law issue, chances are you will find it in Litigating Animal Law Disputes. Regardless of whether you are a defense or plaintiff’s attorney, this book can help you come up with an action plan and legal strategy for your case, including applicable defenses and remedies.

If in need of additional information that is free and online, consult the Animal Legal Defense Fund. When reaching the home page, select “resources” at the top of the page. Here, a wealth of free information can be found, such as laws and cases advocating for animals and ALDF publications. You can also find animal law events and opportunities.  The most important section for a practicing attorney to visit is the “Law Professional and Law Student Resources” tab on the left hand side. From there, select “Law Professionals” and you will find model laws, pleading summaries, research tools and an attorney blog.

 ~ Charlotte Buell, Class of 13 ~

Class Advisor – Cory M. Lenz, Esq.

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