AR-News: "Animal law is emerging as field" - Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City -- UT-US)

Karen Dawn KarenDawn at DawnWatch.com
Mon Feb 2 10:49:50 EST 2004


(The Deseret Morning News takes letters at: letters at desnews.com )

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

February 1, 2004 Sunday


Animal law is emerging as field

Pam Louwagie Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

Starting when he was a puppy chewing on the straps of her shoulder bag,
William the Conqueror, a black standard poodle, accompanied Judith Younger
almost everywhere.

He grew into a refined canine, resting politely on the floor while she
taught law school classes at the University of Minnesota, strolling with her
and escorting her to dinner at a neighbor's house.

So when Younger needed heart surgery a few years ago, she worried about her
animal companion and, as a wills and trusts professor, tried to provide for
him in her will. She was shocked to learn that under Minnesota law she
couldn't make her directives for William's care enforceable and would just
have to trust that the people she had appointed would care for him.

"I was very, very worried about it," she said. "He was my only remaining
dependent."

It's just one of many creature matters that have come up in the legal
system.

Attorneys handling them are part of the emerging field of animal law.

Animal law encompasses everything from pet custody in divorce to testing on
animals to wildlife conservation regulations.

"Animals can't speak for themselves, so people need to speak for them," said
Barbara Gislason, a Minneapolis attorney.

Attorneys say the field has gained momentum in recent years for a variety of
reasons. Advances in science are showing that animals have emotions and
skills people didn't know about years ago, for instance.

"Most of this stuff has not been closely analyzed. Now people are
questioning it," said David Wolfson, a New York City attorney who has
handled some animal cases and has taught animal law at Yale University.

And the luxuries that come with a more affluent society are leaving people
with more time to pay attention to their pets, changing their views on
animals, Wolfson said.

"Many people consider a pet as a family member," Gislason said. "But there's
nothing in the law that reflects the role of a pet in the family."

Without an enforceable provision in her will, Younger scrambled to make
plans and backup plans for William, calling first on her grown daughters and
then on friends.

She made it through the surgery and spent two more years with William until
he died in December 2002. Her smile still beams when she talks about how he
sat so well behaved by her office door.

"I really didn't realize how much I was wrapped up in him until he was
gone," she said.

Lots of people are wrapped up in their pets. Pet ownership increased nearly
19 percent in the past decade, according to the American Pet Products
Manufacturers Association. Spending on pets is estimated at $31 billion in
2003, up from $17 billion in 1994.

So it should be no surprise that animal law is an emerging field nationally,
with more than 30 schools, including Harvard and Yale, offering law courses,
and more than 20 state and regional bar associations forming committees on
the topic.

Animal law attorneys are dealing with a wide range of legal issues .And, of
course, the field covers existing laws against animal cruelty, caps on
animals in residences and hunting limits.
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