Animal Law includes any type of legal action, whether it be transactional or litigation, that effects the rights, standing and/or welfare of an animal. It is a new area of the law where sparse pro-animal case and statutory law exists in terms of defining, establishing and protecting the welfare of animals. Unlike more traditional areas of law like criminal law or contract law, “animal law” is not defined by a specific set of statutes but rather by the facts to which the law is applied. Any area of law, from constitutional law to contracts, can fall under the umbrella of “animal law” if the specific case in question impacts animals.
Sometimes, animal lawyers can use the law to help animals directly, such as by using anti-cruelty laws to save animals from situations of abuse or neglect. But more often, animal law lawyers need to find creative ways to help animals, given the overall lack of adequate legal protections for our nonhuman friends.
What is an Animal Lawyer?
An animal lawyer is someone who is involved with legal cases involving veterinary malpractice, wrongful death, tainted pet food products, dog bite defence cases, discrimination, landlord-tenant disputes, estate planning, purchase disputes, animal cruelty, and other animal-related legal issues. Animal lawyers may be hired by animal welfare organizations, animal protection groups, pet service providers, conservation organizations or by individual clients. An animal lawyer will advise clients, research cases, review and prepare legal documents, conduct depositions, create pet trusts, argue cases in court, file class action lawsuits and a variety of other duties. They may also publish case studies in journals dedicated to the study of animal law.
Do animals have rights?
Animals lack personhood status in most areas of the world, which means that they have little to no legal standing. Animals are widely considered to be the property of humans, and this significantly diminishes legal protections that can be implemented on their behalf. While many countries and states have instituted laws granting animals protections against cruelty and neglect, there are still vast populations of animals that lack any protection whatsoever. Furthermore, most laws have problematic gaps in who and what they cover, and enforcement is frequently lax.
More fundamentally, exploitation of animals is entrenched in economic and political systems worldwide, and major shifts in attitudes toward animals are needed. In addition to stringent legal protections, recognizing animal sentience and self-determination can lay the groundwork for animals to be granted rights. Several countries have already made significant steps forward — in 2021 Spain passed a law broadly acknowledging animal sentience for both wild and domestic animals. Spain joins France, New Zealand, Tanzania, the EU, and the UK as countries that legally recognize animal sentience.
For more information on animal welfare and protection with European laws explained, visit: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20200624STO81911/animal-welfare-and-protection-eu-laws-explained-videos
For details on “What is Human Rights law?”, have a look at another article in our series at https://buenosabogados.es/what-is-human-rights-law/