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Animal law teaching, conferences growing around globe | Victoria Shroff

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 @ 1:30 PM | By Victoria Shroff

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Victoria Shroff %>
Victoria Shroff
Interest in animal law along with access to justice for animals is a growing concept. I’ve been appending my hashtag #A2JForAnimals on correspondence where I can.

My team and I filed an animal law case for leave from B.C.’s highest court for Punky Santics, the Canadian canine who was deemed dangerous, some two weeks ago and we have had national and international interest in the case from lawyers, law students and members of the public. Please see Getting Punky off death row

Add filing an unprecedented animal law case at Canada’s highest court to the number of law schools globally teaching animal law and mix it with the spike in animal legal conferences and events taking place around the globe and I believe it’s undeniable that animal law as a discipline is growing up.

I would guess that there are probably close to 200 law schools around the globe offering animal law courses, over 100 of them in North America. (Animal law: An elephantine case to consider)

I now have pre-law or law students telling me that they are going to law school for the dedicated purpose of becoming an animal law lawyer one day. I did not hear comments like this when I started teaching animal law at the Peter Allard School of Law at UBC a few years ago.

As a practitioner of animal law for 20 years and a professor (adjunct) of animal law, I always try to blend substantive law, academic theories with how things actually work in practice. Now in 2019, Harvard Law School has just started an Animal Law and Policy Clinic to train students in how to advocate for animals that will have far reaching influence on how animal law courses are taught by merging the practical and academic into a clinical setting.

Animal law courses and conferences are also on the rise not just in North America but globally. In September and October alone there are at least five animal law conferences taking place worldwide.

In early October in Halifax, there was the Canadian Animal Law Conference, put together by Dalhousie/Schulich Law professor Jodi Lazare and the Animal Justice group. The keynote speaker was Australian professor Peter Singer, who teaches bioethics at Princeton University and is author of a pioneer book in animal law, Animal Liberation.

Several luminaries such as Alberta Court of Appeal Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, who wrote the brilliant dissent in Reece v. Edmonton (City) [2011] A.J. No.876, the case about Lucy the lonely zoo elephant, presented (please see Reframing the status of animals in Canadian law  or Access to justice for animals: It’s possible) and scholar professor Maneesha Deckha of University of Victoria shared her deep knowledge of animal law and intersectionality.

Well known animal law author scholars Lesli Bisgould, Vaughan Black and scholars like Margaret Robinson, Kendra Coulter and others presented on key issues facing animals. Justice Lois Hoegg of the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal, who wrote the hugely important dissent in Baker v. Harmina [2018] N.J. No. 65, was another star at the conference.

My presentation at Canada’s biggest academic conference of the year a few months ago at Congress 2019, where I was on an animal law panel with animal law scholars Maneesha Deckha, Jessica Eisen, Jodi Lazare and Charlotte Blattner, focused on the beautifully crafted pet custody dissent written by Justice Hoegg, as well as the enormously influential dissent of Chief Justice Fraser in Reece.

The influence of these Canadian cases in both an academic and practice setting cannot be overstated in my view. (Animals: Family at home, property at court)

In many of my animal law presentations in both academic and non-academic settings and when arguing in court I liberally refer to these two key dissents.

On Oct. 12, New South Wales hosted Animal Law Conference 2019: Laws of Tomorrow. In Asia, the 11th Asia for Animals Symposium held in China in mid-October was well attended by animal law scholars throughout the region.

In mid-September, the European Animal Rights Law Conference attracted animal law scholars from throughout Europe who gathered to talk about adopting a pragmatic approach to animal rights without focusing on the polarities of welfare versus abolitionism.

A fulsome discussion on this was led by Raffael Fasel, who talked of the unity in animal law in Europe, stating “…while there are important dissimilarities between the animal laws of different European states, there are also important similarities — not least thanks to the Council of Europe and the EU.”

There was also a talk on habeas corpus for animals. Earlier in September, there was the second annual New Zealand Animal Law Conference that focused on creating a better legal system for animals. Animal law conferences have definitely gone global.

On Oct. 25, Lewis and Clark Law School, well known throughout North America for its animal law program, is hosting its 27th annual animal law conference in Portland, Ore.

The history of this very well established conference goes back to the early 1980s and ties in with the longstanding American Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), which hosted an animal law conference in San Fransisco in 1982.

There was a touching animal law moment at the conference back in 2016, when a retired soldier attended the conference and described his difficulties in getting separated from his combat partner canine. An attorney and board member at the conference, Marilyn Forbes, took action and brought the military man and his furry best friend together again.

The list of speakers at this year’s conference include North American animal law pioneer, professor and author Joyce Tischler, the founder of the ALDF Pamela Hart and many more. Several of our current animal law students from the Peter Allard School of Law at UBC will be attending the conference this week and they’ll bring back their knowledge to share with our class.

Conferences and smaller scale events like guest speaking privately to groups have been hugely important for animal law and the sharing of ideas across borders. I have been a guest speaker of animal law in auditoriums in Canada, Asia and the U.S. and continue to maintain a dialogue with these law schools and groups. I also regularly present to animal groups, some not even strictly in the animal law field, but in the animal world who need to know about the laws facing animals.

Looking forward, if my calendar is anything to go by, I’m sure that there are more conferences to come, more guest presentations to be done and further animal law courses to be launched as animals nose forward toward justice in legal systems worldwide.

V. Victoria Shroff is one of the first and longest serving animal law practitioners in Canada. She has been practising animal law civil litigation for 20 years in Vancouver at Shroff and Associates (604-891-0209). She is also adjunct professor of law at the Peter Allard School of Law at UBC and has lectured internationally from India to Galiano Island and is frequently interviewed by media. Reach her or follow her at @shroffanimallaw or on

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