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No one was surprised to see bankruptcy, unemployment and even divorce lawyers grow their practices in the past few years. In the midst of all of the emotional decisions brought on by strained divorces and job losses, another sector of the law profession was quietly growing, too. Animal rights lawyers have been seeing steady increases in the number of clients who wish to do everything from include their precious animals in their wills to eviction issues about pets between landlord and tenants.

Some attorneys are become quite familiar with First Amendment rights, too, says A. Harrison Barnes, lawyer and founder. Usually, these are activists who wish to voice their opinions on animal abuse and are facing efforts to quell their voices. Some lawyers are reporting a growing number of lawsuits against dog owners whose pets attacked or bit a neighbor or visitor.

It’s also not uncommon for environmental law to combine with animal rights. Whether it’s protecting endangered species or the growing wildlife problem on the Gulf Coast related to the BP oil spill, the lines are blurring between these two specialties.

Clearly, there are many facets to this interesting specialty. In early 2010, Swiss voters rejected a proposal that would allow appointment of lawyers to represent abused animals in court. This vote, had it passed, would have been applicable to every region of that country. More than 70% of voters chose not to pay for more than 25 attorneys to be on call to protect abused and neglected animals, including dogs and cats. Unfortunately, one lawyer had recently represented a dead fish, which might have had something to do with voters declining to pass the proposal. The case revolved around a Zurich fisherman who was accused of torture for wrestling with a pike for ten minutes before finally being able to reel it in. One expert said voters took the stance that their lunch did not need legal representation.

Regardless of what’s going on in Switzerland, in the U.S., the field continues to grow as more animal abuse and torture cases are making their way into mainstream media. One Memphis attorney said animals are vulnerable and have no voice. A passionate animal lawyer who also happens to have a degree in law ensures they do and levels the playing field against animal abusers.

A. Harrison Barnes agrees, “It’s a growing specialty for a reason; people are growing weary of seeing the devastating images of abuse against animals.” Not only that, but he says recent interest on also indicates the growth potential of this sector of law. He says trends are easily identified simply by observing the real time aggregate of openings for lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries.

Sadly, it appears the need will continue to rise as more abuse is uncovered; whether it’s dog fighting or neglect.

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