The American Bar Association has devoted its latest issue of GPSOLO Magazine to the blooming field of animal law. In ten articles, lawyers describe how they are adapting legal concepts such as guardianship and ownership, to reflect Americans’ evolving regard for animals.
All but one focus on animal companions, whom Americans increasingly regard as family members, according to a recent AP poll. The trend brings more pet owners into contact with the law through custody disputes (recall Michael Vick’s dogs) and trusts (recall the $12 million left to billionaire Leona Helmsley’s Maltese), and as targets of an ever-diversifying market for products and services like pet insurance.
Some readers may be frustrated by the short shrift this collection gives to laws affecting farm and lab animals. Or, they may interpret the emphasis on pets as indication that those animals perch at the frontier of a shifting status quo in animals’ legal status.
A few highlights from the issue:
• Dana M. Campbell surveys legal efforts to pass and defeat “breed specific legislation” (BSL) (such as Cincinnati’s ban on owning, selling or harboring pit bulls, whose penalties were doubled in March). She examines the origins and results of such efforts, and the effectiveness of various arguments in courts of law.
• Christine Garcia outlines her experiences with civil (e.g. divorce) and criminal (e.g. dog fighting, domestic violence) cases that regard the custody of companion animals.
• Katherine Hessler and Tanith Balaban offer the collection’s single foray out of pet law: a discussion of the legal issues that have arisen from America’s recent and dramatic industrialization of animal farming. The authors examine how legislation such as the Clean Water Act, the Animal Health Protection Act, and state constitutional protections, impact farms and animals. And they highlight key loopholes in animal welfare laws; The Humane Slaughter Act and The Twenty-Eight Hour Law, for example, aim to make slaughter and transport more humane, yet birds–who comprise 95% of America’s farmed land animals–are exempted from the protections of both.
Those who follow changes in the legal statuses of animals, will appreciate this collection of updates by sharp minds keen to make sense of animal law and American sensibilities, in light of each other.
For for those interested in staying up to date, these think tanks and research centers may be of use (and they are all on my blog roll):
• Animal Legal and Historical Web Center; Michigan State University College of Law
• Center for Animal Law Studies; Lewis & Clark University Law School
• Center for Animals and Public Policy (disclaimer: this center is my alma mater); Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine