Who We Are and What We Do
We handle every aspect of animal law – litigation, legislation, consultation, and provide full-service support to animal welfare groups as well as individuals involved in disputes concerning their animals. RSHC lawyers have been on the forefront of the development of animal law for over twenty-five years, and have litigated in state and federal courts, at every level of trial and appellate courts, and in local and federal administrative hearings.
Animal law covers a broad range of legal issues, and we have addressed most of them over the years. We have unmatched experience with respect to pertinent legal issues involving companion animals (such as dog bite cases and pet custody), farm animals, animals used in entertainment, wildlife (both in the wild and in captivity), and animals in biomedical research. We are well-versed in both the particular characteristics of many species, as well as the legal tools and procedures needed to litigate at every level of the courts.
We also have extensive experience drafting and reviewing legislative proposals that improve the welfare of animals and humans who may be affected by the way our society uses animals. We have been involved in legislative efforts to assist law enforcement in animal cruelty matters, to provide greater welfare for animals in agriculture, and to provide greater protections for exotic species.
Our record, in the courtroom and the legislature, is very impressive. Our efforts have led to the protection and better treatment of dogs, cats, horses (wild and domestic), chimpanzees, chickens, cows, pigs, birds and others, and we have been involved in educating lawyers, law students and the public on the arc of this fascinating field.
We are dedicated to the development of animal law as a standalone legal practice area, and to providing protection for animals under the law. We take an “eyes on the prize” approach, and never give up on a case.
We are the only major commercial litigation firm in the country with a practice group focused solely on animal welfare and animal protection. Our team has been involved with animal law for almost three decades, and has helped shape the field through the publication of multiple texts and a long string of articles on animal law that have been disseminated widely. RSHC lawyer Bruce Wagman is the co-editor of the Animal Law Casebook, which is used in probably over 100 law schools to teach the basic animal law course, and is also relied on as a treatise for practitioners nationwide. We also publish regular practice tips and have published a practice guide on cases involving injuries to, and by, animals.
We have developed deep and extensive experience in cases involving dog bites, representing the owners of dogs who have been involved in biting incidents. We have also done a series of pet custody cases and been involved in the development of the litigation on those issues.
By being in the thick of animal law since the beginning, we are always able to employ the newest theories, cases, laws, and regularly creating new ways to protect animals. We are ready to provide our clients with the breadth of our knowledge and experience in all of these areas. Staying on top of those developments and turning them to the advantage of our clients is one of our signature strengths.
We have also cultivated a network of animal protection experts, including veterinarians, scholars, scientists and lawyers, who we work with on cases involving the complex and evolving issues arising in the field. This deep bench of support is a key tool in our team’s ability to succeed in animal-related disputes.
Our Approach and Results
We are a firm built for clients, and the animal law practice takes that to heart, as we deal with single individuals and larger animal welfare organizations. We tailor every matter to our clients’ needs and desires. We assess the ultimate goal for the clients at the outset of every engagement, and regularly check in to be sure the goals remain the same. Client involvement and review at every step is in integral part of how we maintain client contact and continue to gauge client satisfaction. In every matter, we emphasize efficiency and effectiveness.
We work for clients only on the side of the animals, and our decades of experience enables us to help clients understand complex issues of animal protection, as well as the legal avenues, and barriers, to achieving the desired results. We realistically assess potential outcomes, and are open and candid with our clients about opportunities for success, and possibilities for change, regarding the interaction of animals with society.
Our goal is always a satisfied client and to have clients’ goals achieved through the most efficient and economic means. Our lawyers become part of the team that is seeking the change desired by our clients, and we have the knowledge to provide insight and thoughtful commentary to discussions about big picture items, as well as specifics.
In addition to our unique experience in the animal law field, we have a base of litigation, negotiation and consultation experience that helps inform court cases and all other aspects of our work. In this way, we deliver superior value to our clients and align our work with our clients’ needs and expectations. Our lawyers become fully invested in each matter because effective advocacy is a hands-on venture, and we believe that lean but highly focused teams can deliver great results in a much more cost-effective way.
Our lawyers have participated in the following matters:
- Represented dog owners in over fifty matters involving “dangerous dog laws” in which dogs are threatened with sanctions including euthanasia, with cases from coast to coast over two decades.
- Successfully obtained permanent custody for clients in custody cases over companion animals.
- Assisted law enforcement and local prosecutors in animal cruelty cases in many states.
- Developed a national horse welfare program, running a litigation team that prevented the onset of horse slaughter for human consumption in America, filing multiple lawsuits to protect America’s wild horses, working on equine legislation, and supporting law enforcement authorities involved in seizures, arrests and convictions for abuse of privately-owned horses.
- Successfully defended animal protection laws designed to provide more humane conditions for egg-laying hens, pregnant pigs, and geese and ducks, with multiple matters that were presented to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Worked to improve treatment in rural shelters throughout Kentucky through a series of lawsuits that forced compliance with state laws that were being ignored.
- Negotiated the release of over 200 chimpanzees used in biomedical research so that they could be transferred to a sanctuary for the rest of their lives.
- Investigated and successfully sued a couple abusing over 300 animals, resulting in the rescue of all animals on the property and an order prohibiting further possession of animals.