REVIEWS: Animal Law

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1999:

by David Favre, Esq. and Peter L. Borchelt, Ph.D.
Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company, Inc.
(POB 30040, Tucson, AZ 85751-0040), 1999.
388 pages, hardcover, $97.90 including postage.

A Review of Animals and the State
by Ann Datta et al.
Otter Memorial Paper (Chichester Institute, Bishop Otter Campus,
Chichester, West Sussex, U.K. PO19 4PE), 1998.
104 pages, paperback. $10.00.

Kluwer Law Intl. (675 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139), 1998.
216 pages, paperback. $135/three issues.

Attorney Larry Weiss, of
Santa Rosa, California, is the Satchel
Paige of animal rights law. He’s been
doing it forever, but never got rich;
been up against the best, but you don’t
see him much in the marble halls of
appellate courts, where precedent-setting
cases are reviewed and get mainstream
Maybe Weiss will get his
propers when he’s still striking ‘em out
from a rocking chair. Meanwhile, the
other players know who he is and what
he’s done, proving his cases in the bus
leagues, and if you cover animal law,
“rights” oriented or otherwise, you soon
learn that when Weiss talks, the big
names with big incomes listen.
But important developments in
animal rights law are now coming so fast
that even Weiss was astonished, from
less than 75 miles away, when James
Fuller of Richmond, California, reportedly
won $255,000 in damages on
December 30, 1998, for the 1992 police
shooting of his arthritic 11-year-old dog.
“This is incredible,” Weiss
wrote to ANIMAL PEOPLE. “I’ve
been considering myself lucky if I get
$5,000 in such a case,” and indeed an
award of $2,500 in a comparable New
Jersey case was cited to us as a precedent
just a few weeks earlier.
Whether or not the Fuller verdict
and award withstand appeal, courts
at several levels in several states
found––as Animal Law & Dog Behavior
was in production––that reasonable
compensation for a pet who is unjustifiably
killed or injured far exceeds the
cost of replacement and veterinary care.
Animal Law & Dog Behavior
authors David Favre and Peter L.
Borchelt, to their credit, anticipated the
possible trend, if not necessarily the
dollar figures, based on earlier verdicts.
Book law pertaining to animals
is even more volatile lately than
judicial interpretation, and has been
since the advent of felony cruelty laws in
the mid-1990s. Among the bills moving
through state legislatures as this review
went to press were proposals in Hawaii
and West Virginia to strengthen
response to biting dogs; proposals in
Minnesota, Idaho and Georgia to establish
stronger definitions and penalties for
criminal cruelty; and a proposal in
Washington to establish the ability of
animal care agencies to recover legal
fees as well as damages via civil suit
against convicted perpetrators of cruelty.
Such bills, however, constitute
updates to existing laws rather than
radical changes, and rarely break from
precedent. Thus it matters relatively little
that most of the case citations in
Animal Law & Dog Behavior are at least
a decade old. They are still useful,
because the text––like our legal system––is
heavily based on jurisprudence,
i.e. the evolution of reasoning that
judges use in reaching verdicts and
appellate opinions. Jurisprudence usually
develops in a consistent, predictable
manner, both following book law, as
passed by politicians, and creating new
law by defining how book law should be
applied to specific situations that the
politicians haven’t forseen.
The value of Animal Law &
Dog Behavior is that it helps the rest of
us vicariously gain the perspective that
Weiss got the old-fashioned way, in
The legal directions discussed
in Animal Law & Dog Behavior are also
reviewed to some extent in Animals and
the Law, by Ann Datta and eight guest
essayists––with an eclectic and often
eccentric British accent. Legal history
and analysis constitute about half of the
anthology, which goes beyond companion
animal issues to explore the use and
abuse of animals in agriculture, science,
blood sports, and habitat conservation.
One chapter looks at the use of religion
to rationalize harming animals; another
offers poetry. We’ve already found it
handy as a reliable source on the early
development of the humane movement.
The Journal of International
Wildlife Law & Policy debuted in mid-
1998, raising immediately the question
as to whether it exists for any reason
other than the need of academic scholars
to “publish or perish.” Stuart Harop and
David Bowles review the difficulties and
contradictions involved in attempting to
establish animal welfare as a consideration
of conservation and trade law;
Brendan Moyle argues the World
Wildlife Fund party line that legal trade
in substances such as elephant ivory,
rhino horn, and tropical birds is essential
to restrain poaching; and there are
extensive descriptions and/or complete
text of several recent conservation conventions
and international agreements.
For the same price, over the
same few months this journal was current,
one could have gotten essentially
the same perspectives and information in
a subscription to The New York Times––
plus sports, business, computer,
lifestyles, and theatre sections, and the
unexpurgated Kenneth Starr report.

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