Turn your Love of Animals into a Law Career - Martindale-Avvo

Turn your Love of Animals into a Law Career

When you enter a legal practice, your love of animals doesn’t have to go by the wayside. You can incorporate animal protection and welfare as a core aspect of your legal career by considering practice areas that can involve animal rights. Even at the beginning of your law education, you can start to incorporate animal work to supplement what you learn in class. Here are some ways to use your passion in the legal profession.

Legal Practice Areas for Animal Lovers

Animals are important to all aspects of human life, which means there’s no shortage of legal practice areas where you can use your skills to protect animals. Consider the following areas as a starting point of possible directions for your legal career. 

Non-Profit Administration

Many animal welfare organizations run as non-profits, advancing the interests of animals through advocacy, shelters, and habitat protection projects. These non-profits can exist not only because of the dedicated staff and volunteers who do frontline work. They also run on the administrative staff who ensure the organization meets regulatory requirements. 

As a lawyer, you can work to ensure legal compliance for taxation purposes, secure legal title to organization assets like shelter buildings, and more. 

Since non-profits are also employers, there’s a role for lawyers in human resources, workplace safety, and benefits administration. 

Environmental Protection

Environmental protection organizations work to advance the interests not only of the natural world, but its inhabitants — notably wildlife and complex ecosystems. Lawyers who work in environmental protection can help by bringing legal action to protect threatened areas. They can also support organizations that use different strategies to advance the interests of the environment, such as buying land out of the hands of developers. 

Lawyers can also work with community organizations that want to protect the environment by petitioning for stop work orders to prevent development. In the process, they help safeguard the rights of animals. 

Criminal Prosecution and Regulatory Enforcement

Criminal lawyers have an active role to play in preventing animal cruelty, specifically by helping to enforce laws against animal abuse. They work to stop animal abuse not only in a domestic setting, but also by shutting down illegal breeding operations. 

Lawyers who work in agricultural enforcement can help ensure farmed animals are treated humanely, by prosecuting commercial operations that fail to meet standards of animal welfare in food production. 

Although criminal lawyers often take on a variety of different cases, there can be an opportunity to develop a specialized skill set in animal abuse cases. More specifically, by getting involved with humane society organizations tasked with investigating complaints under state and local animal protection statutes. 

Legislation and Policy

Advocates often advance animal welfare through changes to law and government policy. Lawyers have a key role to play here, as they can help identify gaps in current legislation and recommend changes. Lawyers can work with an organization such as the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), whose mission is to use the legal system to improve the lives of animals.

Lawyers can also work with single-issue advocates to make legal changes, such as a community organization wanting to stop a coyote cull in a local park or to prevent a prominent wildlife habitat from being redeveloped. 

How to Make Your Love of Animals a Part of Your Legal Career

You can start preparing now to have a career in animal welfare, even before you start law school. Look for opportunities to get involved, gain knowledge, and work with people who are already doing important work for animals. 

Take Undergraduate Courses in Animal Welfare

Many colleges, especially larger ones, offer courses in animal welfare. You can learn about the role of animals in human society, including how people use animals for food, research, and domestic companionship. These starting points can help you to gain a broad understanding of the potential role you might play as a future legal advocate to help animals.

If your school doesn’t have an animal welfare program, consider looking for courses in anthropology, philosophy, and food systems that discuss animal rights. 

Take Law School Courses on Animal Law

Once you are in your J.D. program, seek out coursework on animal rights. Many programs offer a class on animal law or have a faculty member who specializes in this area. Related areas, such as environmental law, might also be relevant. 

If there’s nothing offered at your school, consider any opportunities you have for independent research. You might be able to get class credit for a directed studies or student-led seminar under faculty supervision. In the process, you’ll learn more about legal systems affecting animals.  

Volunteer for Animal Welfare Organizations

Regardless of your educational stage, you might want to give some of your time to non-profits that care for animals. This can give you relevant, practical experience. It can also serve as a reminder of why you want to focus on caring for animals in your legal practice. 

You can try to gain specific legal experience in animal welfare, through an organization like ALDF. You might also work with a local shelter that offers care to animals in need of adoption. You might also investigate cruelty complaints. 

Other non-profit organizations, like those that help support people who lack access to veterinary care, might pique your interest. 

Network with Lawyers Who Practice Animal Law

In any legal career, it’s particularly important to get to know people already doing the work you are interested in. Do a search for lawyers in your area who practice animal law. Talk to them about volunteer or internship opportunities. 

If they don’t have anything available, ask them if they have any advice or recommendations of how to get involved in this area. Often they might know of animal advocates or others doing work similar to what you want to support through your legal practice. 

Your law career can include issues and advocacy that are important to you. If you are passionate about animal rights, start learning all you can about animal law. Work with animal welfare advocates and lawyers who are working to advance the interests of animals in the public arena. 

When you’re ready to market and grow your legal practice, consider working with Martindale-Avvo to get the job done. 

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