The recent case of a Pennsylvania man denied food stamps to feed his service dog got me thinking about animals and the law.
Animal law has been taught in at least 119 law schools in the U.S., including Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Northwestern, University of Michigan and Duke. Courses encompasses cruelty, welfare, custody and housing disputes. But do any lawyers specialize in animal law? There may many relevant organizations and certainly lots of animal-friendly legal counselors. But imagine a legal eagle saying: “My client is a dog.” Good karma and public service aside you have to admit it’s great party conversation.
Seriously, every time I watch or read about efforts to ban carriage horses in Central Park I wonder if the passionate, well-meaning champions of the horses would be better served by someone who could navigate the court system armed with specialized training along with love of animals?
The court that denied public aid to the service dog noted that animals are legally property and food stamps are meant for people. Fine — but in this case the dog was a service animal that performed a function as necessary as electricity or running water and therefore is theoretically entitled to something. The dog’s owner represented himself. I think an attorney specializing in this area might have made more headway.
Legal protections for pets and owners would also benefit from laws similar to those in the United Kingdom, which has guidelines for properly treatly pets. In a nutshell, it’s food, water, shelter, basic care and love. While it is sad that common sense and kindness need to be legislated, I approve.
Cases of neglect and abuse would also benefit from lawyers with a specialization in animals. If this became a fully functioning pratice area, I think even sharks would smile, a few more critters might have a better life — and the world would have some new lawyer jokes.