Top 10 Animal Law Programs

Animal Law is a small but burgeoning field.  In 2001 there were only nine animal law classes offered in the United States, and today there are over 100.  Animal law is any type of legal action that affects the rights, standing, or welfare of an animal.  It can encompass many traditional areas of law, like torts, contract law, and family law.  Cases can range from litigation against negligent veterinarians or manufacturers of harmful pet products, to defending animal activists’ Constitutional rights.  Here are some of the best schools with animal law programs or courses:

1. Lewis & Clark Law School – Located in the forests of Portland, Oregon, Lewis & Clark Law School offers the most extensive animal law studies program in the country.  Students can specialize in Animal Law as a subset of the Environmental Law Program.  Through a collaboration with the non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund, Lewis & Clark also features the Center for Animal Law Studies.  The Center serves as a think tank and offers conferences, scholarships, and clinical opportunities.

2. University of Virginia – The Animal Law Program at the University of Virginia was established in 2009 through a $1 million grant from animal rights activist and former game show host Bob Barker.  The Program offers one animal law class every year, helps students find internships and externships related to animal law, sponsors a writing competition for UVA graduate students, and hosts prominent speakers.

3. University of Pennsylvania – Penn Law prides itself as a leader in Animal Law.  Penn offers an annual seminar class in Animal Law and Ethics, and students at Penn formed the Animal Law Project.  ALP assists nonprofit organizations with research and analysis of animal law issues, allowing students to apply their classroom knowledge to real life problems.

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4. Georgetown – In 2007, Georgetown University Law Center partnered with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to offer two new animal law initiatives.  An animal protection litigation seminar allows students to earn academic credit while working with HSUS legal staff on animal cruelty cases.  In addition, Georgetown added the first animal law fellowship, which provides Georgetown Law Centers with a one-year job with the Humane Society after graduation.

5. Harvard Law School – When Harvard, one on the nation’s top law schools, began offering an animal law course in 1999, it lent legitimacy to the newly-growing field.  Last year, Harvard hosted the eighth annual inter-law school National Animal Law Competition.  An Animal Law course is taught once a year by Paul Waldau, and Harvard has an active Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter.

6. Stanford Law School – Stanford in one of the few schools in the country with a publication devoted to animal law, the online Stanford Journal of Animal Law and Policy.  Stanford also has a Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter, and offers a course on Animal Law taught by Bruce Wagman.  Wagman coauthored the comprehensive animal law casebook, and recently published a book on worldwide animal laws and practices.

7. University of California, Berkeley – For those who prefer the East Bay to the South Bay, Bruce Wagman also teaches an animal law course at Boalt Law School.  Berkeley’s chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund hosts frequent potlucks, fundraisers, and speaking events.

8. Northwestern University – Northwestern University Law School was another recipient of Bob Barker’s animal law endowment.  Thanks to his donation, Northwestern Law School regularly offers a course on animal law.  The Student Animal Legal Defense Fund at Northwestern is also extremely active; in 2010 it hosted an “Animal Law Week,” featuring lectures, film screenings, dinners, and a service event.

9. New York University – NYU offers an Animal Law Seminar every semester.  The seminar, which may be taken for writing credit, is taught by David Wolfson, who has represented a number of animal protection groups like Farm Sanctuary and The Humane Society of the United States.  NYU Law students can also sit in on classes in the undergraduate Animal Studies Initiative, which offers several classes for the Animal Studies Minor.

10. University of Michigan – Michigan Law offers an animal law course, and has a chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.  In addition, the Michigan Law website features a page devoted to the practice area of animal law, which offers various school, state, and national resources for students interested in pursuing animal law.

For more information about animal law programs and careers, visit the Animal Legal Defense Fund website.

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  • MSU Law Student

    There’s no reason why Michigan State University shouldn’t be on this list.  It offers an animal law class, wildlife law class, and international environmental law class (that focuses on animal issues) annually.  It has an active chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.  It also is home to one of three legal journals in the nation that focuses on animal law.  Lastly, David Favre (a known, published, international animal law scholar) runs the Animal Legal and Historical Web Center through Michigan State.  

  • L&C

    Hey, Don’t forget that L& C has the law review Animal Law! Also MSU student is right, L&C partners with MSU a lot, and I often refer to MSU’s website for background on substantive animal legal issues.

  • Animal law

    George Washington also has an animal law program

  • Joan Schaffner

    Why is GW Law not listed here? We have a full-time faculty member who focuses on animal law, a class in animal law and a class in wildlife law, a very active SALDF chapter, externships in animal law and an animal welfare project for students to take on projects involving legislation, commenting on proposed regulations, and other legal projects.