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An Introduction to Animal Law

This is a guest post by Ashley Sundin who was an intern with the Law Library’s Public Services Division this summer.

Animal law is a rapidly growing area of law, especially in the past decade.  The human–animal interaction comes in a variety of forms including companionship, agriculture, and science.  As a result, animal law extends into many areas of law including criminal, torts, property, and constitutional law.

This guide will provide an overview of the resources available covering animal law, wildlife law, and animal rights and welfare.

Whoopie and Englehurst Gillette two of the White House dogs with Robert R. Robinson (March 29, 1929).  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c31290.

Whoopie and Englehurst Gillette two of the White House dogs with Robert R. Robinson (March 29, 1929). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c31290.


For Beginners



The materials in this section explore animal law career options for those considering a career in animal law and provide litigation strategies for those currently working in this area of practice.

Foreign & International

State & Federal Law

You will find laws at the federal, state, and local levels that relate to animal law.  You can directly search for federal and state laws by consulting the United States Code and your local state statutory code.  Be sure to also take into consideration your local laws by consulting municipal codes. The Animal Legal Defense Fund site contains a finding aid that may prove helpful to locating legislation.


The following sites compile notable cases in the area of animal law.  You can also locate cases related to animal law using free sources on the web such as Google Scholar.  Alternatively, you can visit your local law library for access to subscription legal research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis.


Subject Headings

You can also search the Library of Congress catalog by browsing subject headings for books on this topic. Click “browse” and use the drop-down to select “SUBJECTS beginning with” or “SUBJECTS containing,” and then input a subject heading using one of the examples shown below. Finally, click on a result and you can browse the materials classified under that subject heading.  Here are a few examples of possible subject headings:

  • Animals–Law and legislation–United States
  • Animals–Law and legislation–[Country]
  • Animals–Law and legislation–[State]
  • Animals–Law and legislation–United States—Cases
  • Animal welfare–Law and legislation–United States
  • Animal rights–United States
  • Dogs–Law and Legislation–[Country]
  • Dogs–Law and Legislation–[State]

Online Resources

What Legal Processes are Available to the Journalists Imprisoned in Egypt?

The following is a guest post by George Sadek, a senior legal research analyst at the Law Library of Congress.  George has previously written various posts related to Egyptian law for In Custodia Legis, including about the constitutional developments in the country in the past couple of years. As has been widely reported and discussed […]

An Interview with Mohammad Qadamshah, Foreign Law Intern

Today’s interview is with Mohammad Qadamshah, an intern with the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress. Describe your Background I am from Afghanistan.  My family is originally from Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh province. They have always encouraged me to pursue higher levels of education. I completed my primary education in Iran. I returned […]

Movies and Court Martials

Home with a cold this spring, I was re-reading a mystery novel which centered in part around the fate of a British officer in World War I.  In the novel, the officer had been executed for cowardice which made me begin to think about movies which portray incidents of military justice.  Although fellow staff members […]

An Interview with Jessica Ho-Wo-Cheong, Global Legal Research Intern

Today’s interview is with Jessica Ho-Wo-Cheong, an intern with the Global Legal Research Directorate’s Foreign, Comparative, and International Division I. Describe your background. I am a proud Canadian, born and raised in Montreal, Quebec.  I just graduated from l’Université de Montreal with a civil law degree.  Beforehand I completed my undergraduate degree at McGill University, Honors […]

Making Legislative Information Accessible, Discoverable and Usable

The following is a guest post by Noriko Ohtaki, who was a research fellow at the Law Library of Congress.  She previously blogged about Searching for Current Japanese Laws and Regulations. G8 leaders signed the Open Data Charter on June 18, 2013.  Open Data is intended to make information resources accessible, discoverable, and usable electronically to the public, increase […]

“My Devise for the Succession”

On July 6, 1553, Edward VI, the only son of Henry VIII, died at the age of fifteen.  Edward had been king since 1547 when he had succeeded to the throne at the age of nine.  When Henry died in 1547, he had been married six times and had three children.  His marital career is […]