LAW 635

Topics in Animal Law

The field of animal law has grown tremendously in the past decade in the United States and throughout the world. There is substantial litigation and reform legislation concerning all types of animals (from insects to whales) in settings as diverse as factory farms, zoos and aquaria, research facilities, and in the wild. There is also considerable legal activism on behalf of companion animals. A single course cannot cover all aspects of the theory and practice of animal law, but this seminar aims to provide a thoughtful introduction to some of the basic topics and challenges in the field. It attempts to provide guidance in answering general and specific questions about the status and experience of nonhuman animals within the legal system.

The following are examples of questions we will consider. If an animal is the property of humans and lacks legal personhood, can they have any rights? Can an animal be a plaintiff or have legal standing in court? Can an animal be a client? Do animal cruelty laws provide effective protection to animals? How do other legal areas impact animals – such as environmental, human rights, international, family, corporate, constitutional, and food law? Another example: Since states regulate the uses of property in their jurisdictions, states control most aspects of animal law. Yet, when a state enacts an animal-friendly law, oppositional corporate entities often challenge those laws on grounds of federal preemption. Preemption issues also arise when state law differs from local laws. Under what circumstances will a less progressive state law preempt a more progressive municipality’s law? Are there ever times when federal law is more progressive than state or local law? We will explore these preemption questions in the context of specific laws that affect animals. Yet another set of questions concerns different theoretical and philosophical perspectives that drive animal law. Most can be subsumed under the labels of “rights” or “welfare” approaches, but there are interesting variations within those categories. Some recent variations are striking for their novelty and importance in shaping the field going forward. These are just three examples of sets of questions we will examine in this seminar. These types of questions are considered at various levels, including a quite specific level of engagement as to a particular animal for purposes of completing the paper requirement for the seminar.

Course requirements: The primary written work product for the course is a paper. Students will be given a format that involves a “client-centered” approach to animal law. Through representation of a specific animal chosen by the student, this approach will enable students to consider the circumstances of the individual animal as a member of a species and, also, as an individual within a species. In doing so, students will become familiar with some specific statutes and case law that apply to the situation of their particular animal as well as learning legal and lawyering skills associated with client representation when a client’s preferences cannot be fully known. Examples of completed projects will be provided to help students choose their topic and produce the different parts of the paper.

The course grade will be based on the paper described above and on class participation. The class participation component includes attendance/participation in class and one prepared oral presentation based on the seminar paper. There may be short writing assignments based on some of the assigned readings. These would be considered part of class participation because they are intended to prepare for class discussion.

See Full Course Details