For almost three decades, Bruce Wagman has been using his legal education and well-honed skills to help animals in all sectors of society, and benefit both society and the animals themselves. He is the only lawyer running an exclusive animal law practice in a major United States firm. He litigates, drafts animal-friendly legislation, oversees rescue operations, and consults clients who care for and protect animals. He has published two major works, the leading casebook for law schools nationwide -- Animal Law: Cases and Materials -- and a global survey of animal laws, A Worldview of Animal Law, the only global survey of animal law. Bruce also founded Project Chimps, a chimpanzee sanctuary that is home to chimpanzees retired from a research laboratory.
Bruce’s forte is the kind of creative lawyering it takes to fit animal interests into the legal world, and his clients regularly applaud his ability to model solutions and take on the toughest problems. His practice covers a broad range of animal-related legal issues -- including cases involving the use of animals in entertainment, biomedical research, animal agriculture/food production, animal cruelty, and wildlife control. He has a long history of wide-ranging “impact litigation,” but he also loves to work with individuals on cases involving dog bites, animal custody disputes, and injuries to, and caused by, animals. Bruce brings an undeniable passion for each of his cases, a dedication to both his human clients and the animals involved, and he has a proven ability to turn that passion into winning arguments both in and out of the courtroom. He takes an “eyes on the prize” approach to all of his matters.
Bruce’s clients include numerous animal protection organizations as well as private individuals. He has worked on behalf of many species, including alpacas, bears, birds, cats, chickens, chinchillas, chimpanzees, cows, deer, dogs, dolphins, ducks, elephants, elk, ferrets, geese, goats, gorillas, horses (domestic and wild), lions, mice, monkeys, pigs, rabbits, sharks, turkeys, whales, and wolves.
Hon. William H. Orrick, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (1991-1992)
Judicial Extern, Honorable James Browning, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
- Humane Society of the United States v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service – served as lead counsel on the multi-year case, obtained affirmance by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals of federal Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes states, upholding a federal court ruling stating the wolves’ delisting was illegal.
- National Meat Association v. Brown (U.S. Supreme Court) – Defended California law requiring humane treatment of animals too sick or injured to stand or walk; prevailed at the Ninth Circuit.
- Humane Society of the United States v. Jewell – obtained order vacating federal government’s decision to remove endangered species protection for gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes.
- Statutory defense – Bruce has been involved in the defense of several animal protection statutes including laws protecting wildlife, animals raised for food, sharks, and dogs and cats.
- Front Range Equine Rescue v. Vilsack – Obtained temporary restraining order preventing the initiation of commercial horse slaughter for human consumption; part of a multifaceted administrative/legislative program to end horse slaughter in the United States.
- Front Range Equine Rescue v. Jewell – Sued federal government for dangerous and untested surgical sterilization “research” on wild mares; in response, federal agency dropped the program while summary judgment briefing was pending.
- Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest and Project Chimps – Negotiated release of chimpanzees from biomedical research laboratories, and founding member of board of directors providing the chimpanzees permanent sanctuary in Georgia and Washington State.
- Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Woodley – Using unique North Carolina law, ALDF successfully sued animal abusers, resulting in rescue of approximately 350 dogs and 21 birds from an animal hoarder who kept the dogs warehoused in squalid conditions. After winning the dogs, Bruce assisted with the appeal, physical rescue, rehabilitation, and long-term foster care for all of the dogs.
- Chesley Morton et al. v. Georgia Department of Agriculture – Oversaw team that sued the state of Georgia Department of Agriculture to enforce Georgia's Humane Euthanasia Act and help put an end to the illegal and inhumane gassing of domestic animals in Georgia's animal shelters.
- Chimps, Inc. v. Primarily Primates – Represented two sanctuaries and fought for and obtained permanent homes for nine gibbons and two chimpanzees that had been taken from a situation where they were exposed to daily neglect and cruelty.
- Animal custody – Bruce has represented clients in several cases involving disputes over pets, which range from mediation and negotiation to extended civil litigation.
- Dog bites/vicious and dangerous dogs – Bruce has had over 30 cases defending the owners of dogs threatened with designation as “vicious” and/or “dangerous”, in order to prevent the imposition of restrictions or euthanasia after bite incidents.
University of California - Hastings College of the Law, J.D., 1991, magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, Thurston Society, Article Editor, Hastings Law Journal
Columbia University School of Nursing, B.S.N., 1981
Cornell University, B.S., 1979
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
American Bar Association
Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section
Bar Association of San Francisco
Appellate Practice Section
University of California, San Francisco – Hastings College of the Law, Animal Law, Adjunct Professor (1996-present)
University of California, Berkeley – Berkeley Law, Animal Law, Adjunct Professor (2004-present)
Stanford Law School, Animal Law, Lecturer (2006-present)
Honors & Awards
Northern California Super Lawyers
Thomson Reuters (2007-2009, 2011-2014, 2016-2018)
Humanitarian of the Year
The Marin Humane Society (2016)
Friend of Farm Animals Award
Farm Sanctuary (2013)
Peer Reviewed AV® Preeminent™
Martindale-Hubbell (Since 2006)
Bruce is a frequent speaker at animal welfare legal conferences. He also teaches animal law classes at three Bay Area law schools and is a guest lecturer at law schools across the country.
Animal Law: Cases and Materials, Sixth Edition (co-author), Carolina Academic Press (April 2019) — the first casebook for animal law courses in law schools, originally published in 2000
“And Now We Must Provide … Creating Sanctuary” and “Practice Tips: Chicago’s Dangerous Dog Proceedings and Using Experts in Animal-Related Litigation,” (speaker) Illinois State Bar Association CLE 10th Annual Animal Law Conference, Chicago, IL (March 1, 2019)
“Egg Wars,” (speaker) Florida State University School of Law, October 18, 2018
“Dangerous Dog Cases: From Both Sides of the Aisle,” ABA presentation for National Animal Control Association, Denver, CO (October 10, 2018)
“Shelter Law – An Expanding Area of Practice,” ABA presentation for National Animal Control Association, Denver, CO (October 10, 2018)
“Changing the World for Animals – 2018 Animal Law Review,” (speaker) The Bar Association of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA (April 12, 2018)
“Penal Code Section 597.1 – From Every Angle,” State Humane Association of California (November 4, 2017) (December 2, 2017)
“Win Continues String of Legal Victories Nationwide Over Challenges to Local Restrictions on the Sale of Certain Animals,” (co-author) Illinois State Bar Association Animal Law Newsletter (November 2017)
“From Wolves to Horses to Dogs This Big Law Partner Has Built a Practice Exclusively Defending Animals,” American Lawyer Litigation Daily (August 3, 2017)
“Delta pigs multiply, but where are they now?,” The Sacramento Bee (June 29, 2017)
“Taking Stock of Animal Law: Part One,” (author) ABA Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Summer 2017)
“Companion Animal Custody and the Law,” Clear Law Institute (May 22, 2017)
“Wildlife Law and Ethics: A U.S. Perspective,” (co-editor) American Bar Association (April 21, 2017)
“Fighting For Life In The Wild,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Spring 2017)
“A Big-Firm Lawyer’s Fight for Animal Rights,” (interviewee) The Recorder (November 22, 2016)
“In Egg Ruling, Ninth Circuit Sends Message to Businesses,” The Recorder (November 17, 2016)
“Litigation Involving Shelters,” Symposium: Animal Shelter Law, Seattle, Washington (November 17, 2016)
“Litigation Involving Shelters,” Symposium: Animal Shelter Law (October 5, 2016)
“The Essentials—Sentience In Animal Law,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Fall 2016)
“Sharks Need Friends, Too,” The American Lawyer (June 27, 2016)
“Companion Animal Controversy – Custody Disputes and Dangerous Dog Litigation,” The Bar Association of San Francisco’s Arbitration Section, San Francisco, CA (June 14, 2016)
“Companion Animal Controversy – Custody Disputes and Dangerous Dog Litigation,” Bar Association of San Francisco Arbitration Section (June 2016)
“Spreading the Word,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Summer 2016)
“Shelter Law,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Winter/Spring 2016)
“Growing Up with Animal Law: From Courtrooms to Casebooks,” in Turning Points In Compassion: Personal Journeys of Animals Advocates (2015)
“Animal Law For All Practitioners,” Thomson Reuters Live CLE, Los Angeles, CA (October 12, 2015)
“Who Gets the Animals?,” Companion Animal Custody and the Law, California Continuing Education of the Bar, Oakland, CA (October 6, 2015)
“Constitutional Animal Law,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Fall 2015)
“From Legislation to Litigation: Progress and Hurdles in the Puppy Mill Battle,” Animal Law Guild, Los Angeles, CA (September 26, 2015)
“Litigation as a Means of Changing and Interpreting Law,” State Bar of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM (September 18, 2015)
“’Master Breed’ of Mustang Under Development: Wild-Horse Advocates,” Washington Times, CBS News Denver, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Union-Bulletin, Herald News, SF Gate, SF Chronicle, Daily Reporter and more than thirty other publications (July 7, 2015)
“Veterinarians-The Animal Lawyers’ Friends,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Summer 2015)
“Bringing Pigs to Court,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Winter/Spring 2015)
Animal Law: Cases and Materials, Fifth Edition (co-author), Carolina Academic Press (June 2014)
“Orca Welfare Law Is a Strong Step Forward,” Daily Journal (March 19, 2014)
“Best Bets for ‘No Pets’,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Summer 2013)
“A Laundry List of Lies - Common 'Defenses' to Animal Cruelty,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Winter/Spring 2013)
“Experts – Explaining the Science of Animal Law,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Fall 2012)
“Animal Biology, Animal Law,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Summer 2012)
“Don’t Just Complain – Educate and Explain: Drafting the Complaint; Telling Their Story,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Winter/Spring 2012)
“Running the Gauntlet of Dangerous Dog Litigation – A Guide to Getting Good Dogs Off of Death Row: Part II,” (co-author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Winter 2011)
“Creative Discovery in Animal Cases – Use of the Inspection Tool to Expose Abuse,” (author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Fall 2011)
“Give Me Back My Dog! – A Practical Guide to Helping Clients Obtain or Keep Custody of Their Pets,” (co-author) Animal Law Committee Newsletter (Summer 2011)
A Worldview of Animal Law, (co-author) Carolina Academic Press (June 1, 2011)
“A National Injustice: The Federal Government’s Systematic Removal and Eradication of an American Icon,” (co-author) Ecology Law Currents (February 2011)
“Their Day in Court,” ABA Journal (September 1, 2010)
“The Wag-Man,” California Lawyer (December 1, 2008)
Pro Bono Activities
Bruce engages in significant pro bono work, both in his litigation and consultation practice. He is a board member and adviser to several organizations including Marin Humane Society, Project Chimps, and the United States Equine Rescue League.