Since its development in the 1970s, the relatively new field of animal law in the United States has expanded into a diverse body of topics that touches almost all traditional areas of the law. Examples range from veterinary malpractice (professional liability/torts), to location restrictions on animal facilities (zoning/land use), to wildlife/livestock or pet ownership (property law).
Whereas legislative proposals prescribe or prohibit certain activities by establishing broad rules for all animal owners in a jurisdiction, court cases usually deal with individual circumstances. However, they can set legal precedent and impact a large number of animal owners too.
Paralleling the expansion of animal law subject matter is an explosive growth of animal rights ideology in America’s law schools. Today, almost all American law schools have at least one animal law-focused effort, many of which are designed with an animal-rights bias, including classes, certificate programs, and extracurricular groups.
If recent history is a reliable indicator, a large number of future federal and state lawmakers are likely to be lawyers. To help ensure that future lawyers and lawmakers are exposed to a variety of animal law perspectives and have the opportunity to engage in unbiased debate of animal law’s expansive issues, the American Kennel Club, American Veterinary Medical Association, the Cat Fanciers’ Association, and the Animal Health Institute have joined together to establish the Animal Law Writing Contest for Law Students.
The contest is part of a shared effort by concerned mainstream animal welfare groups to ensure access and familiarity with a broad range of perspectives on animal law. The contest launches this month and welcomes all scholarly viewpoints.
Students currently enrolled at ABA-accredited law schools located in the United States are invited to write a 10-20 page scholarly paper on the constitutionality of one of two preselected animal law topics. A committee with relevant experience will judge all properly-submitted entries received by Noon on February 15, 2015. The winner, who will be notified by April 1, 2015, will receive a $2,500 cash prize and a trip to the American Veterinary Medical Law Association’s Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, next July. The second place author will receive a $1,000 cash prize.
The contest is one of a number of ways in which the American Kennel Club and the collaborating organizations are dedicated to promoting further education and unbiased study regarding the human-animal bond, the role of animals in society, and animal welfare practices and policies.