A wise lawyer once wrote, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” That lawyer, Mohandas K. Gandhi, would surely be impressed with all of the animal protection laws that have been enacted in Texas. He would be amazed at the vast array of other laws dealing with animals that have been passed by the Texas Legislature and common law handed down by the appellate courts. There are so many laws today concerning animals that it is impossible to say what “animal law” is without giving an explanation. Lawyers who practice animal law deal with contract law, sales, tort law, constitutional law, criminal law, property law, probate law, family law, tax law, and many other areas. Statutes expressly pertaining to animals appear in the penal code, health and safety code, family code, agriculture code, parks and wildlife code, property code, and civil practice and remedies code. There are also numerous federal animal laws such as the Endangered Species Act, Animal Welfare Act, Convention on Trade in Endangered Species, Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and Horse Protection Act, to name just a few. Almost every city in Texas has enacted ordinances regulating or protecting animals.
Seven years ago no law school in Texas offered a course in animal law. Today animal law courses are taught at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, South Texas College of Law, University of Houston Law Center, Southern Methodist University Dedmon School of Law, and the University of Texas School of Law. Several of these law schools have student animal organizations.
In 1996 a handful of lawyers persuaded the State Bar of Texas to create an animal law section. This year the Animal Law Section celebrates its 17th birthday with almost 400 members. On March 22, 2013, the section put on its 13th annual Animal Law Institute. Each year the section brings in speakers from all over Texas and around the country to give presentations at the institute on a wide range of topics in animal law. Our institute has gained a national reputation as being one of the best animal law symposiums in the country. The section has an email listserv where members share news and ideas, discuss legal issues, and refer potential clients.
Our section is on the front line of a fascinating and rapidly growing area of the law. Welcome to the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.