If you feel strongly about the treatment of animals in our society then a career in animal welfare law can be extremely rewarding. However few lawyers are able to dedicate their career to animal welfare, partly because the opportunities do not arise to practice exclusively in this area and partly because animal welfare spans so many different areas of law that it is difficult to specialise. Those lawyers who do dedicate their career to animal welfare tend to work for animal protection and campaigning groups or in Government.
For lawyers working in private practice animal welfare law tends to form a sub-specialist area of interest within their practice area whether crime, negligence, public law and so forth. (See our interview with Gwendolen Morgan.)
Areas of specialism within the law include tort (veterinary negligence claims), crime (prosecution of cruelty offences) and public law (judicial review challenges to decisions of public authorities concerning animals). Environmental law also offers considerable scope for committed practitioners to use their legal skills to protect environmental and animal interests through conservation and protection of the habitat.
If you are interested in developing a career in animal welfare law we would offer the following advice:
- It is helpful to have a working knowledge of EU law, which is relevant to many areas of practice.
- If animal welfare is included as a module on you undergraduate course this would be a good option and may place you at an advantage when seeking employment in this field.
- If you are interested in working for an animal charity, identify groups that you would be interested in working for and enquire about opportunities for voluntary work or a secondment.
- Where possible attend meeting, lectures, seminars and other networking opportunities where you can meet lawyers already practising in this field.
- Become a member of ALAW’s student group and keep informed about current issues through the Journal of Animal Welfare Law and ALAW’s e-bulletin, which are sent free to our student supporters.
- Demonstrate your legal, drafting and research skills by contributing articles on animal law to legal journals, such as the Journal of Animal Welfare Law.
- Think creatively. A career in law enforcement (such as with the Wildlife Division of the police force or as an RSPCA inspector) or campaigning may be just as rewarding and enable you to put skills gained during your law degree to real practical effect.
For a career with the RSPCA see: www.rspca.org.uk/utilities/jobs/profiles