Animal Law Projects

The Animal Law area of study has two projects: the Animal Law Lawyering Project, which provides special externship opportunities for students to gain practical experience while working on behalf of animals, and the Animal Welfare Project, which seeks to raise awareness of animal welfare issues and to promote and inform legislative and regulatory change. Learn more about both projects below.

Specialized externship opportunities are available for GW Law students interested in Animal Law to gain practical litigation, lobbying, policy, and general advocacy experience at local organizations working on behalf of animals. Participating organizations include Alley Cat Allies, Animal Welfare Institute, Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, and the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Students work alongside lawyers on a variety of projects on behalf of stray and feral cats, wildlife, farm animals, companion animals, and others. These opportunities allow students to gain practical experience in litigation, lobbying, policy, and general advocacy on behalf of animals in a variety of areas, including farm animals, stray and feral cats, wildlife, and the link between animal cruelty and human violence. 

The Animal Welfare Project is an independent effort of faculty and students at GW Law. The project seeks to raise awareness of animal welfare issues and to promote and inform legislative and regulatory change in order to advance animal welfare and improve the lives of animals in the District of Columbia, nationally, and internationally. Projects have included:

  • Testifying in support of replacing the pit bull ban in Prince George’s County, Maryland, with non-breed specific dangerous dog/potentially dangerous dog legislation.
  • Helping to draft and testifying in support of the DC Animal Protection Amendment Act of 2008, enacted by the DC Council.
  • Drafting the Animal Law in the District of Columbia pamphlet for the Animal Law Committee of the Environmental and Natural Resources Section of the DC Bar.
  • Researching and summarizing the criminal statutory and case law dealing with animal cruelty regulation and prosecution in coordination with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
  • Submitting comments to the various federal agencies on a variety of regulatory issues.

Current Projects

DC Beagle Freedom Law: This project involves drafting a new law for DC—Beagle Freedom Law—designed to give adoptable dogs and cats a chance at finding a home once their time in the laboratory has ended

Criminalizing Bestiality in DC (Proposed): This project involves drafting a new law for DC—criminalizing sexual assault of animals. Students will have the opportunity to engage in legislative research, drafting of the bill’s language, and compiling a report in support of the proposed legislation.

Criminal Law Summaries: Students research and summarize the criminal law, both statutory and case law, dealing with animal cruelty regulation and prosecution. These summaries are being prepared in coordination with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys developing training materials for prosecutors on prosecuting animal cruelty and fighting cases. View the state cruelty summaries.

Accomplishments to Date

State Pet Protection Order Manuals: Students research and prepare manuals for attorneys and advocates working with Domestic Violence victims with pets to help them understand the laws governing pets in protection orders and how they can best protect their pets. These manuals are being prepared in coordination with the Animal Welfare Institute. View the State Pet Protection Order manuals.

Legislative and Regulatory Comments: Students and faculty work in teams to research and analyze proposed federal, state and local laws, draft extensive comments designed to improve the proposal’s effectiveness for animals, and submit to the relevant authority. 

DC Animal Rescuer Law FAQ: After Katrina, AWP students drafted answers to frequently asked questions regarding the laws governing animal rescuers during a disaster.

DC Board of Veterinary Medicine Professor Joan Schaffner is the public member of the DC Board of Veterinary Examiners. Students worked to help review and update the laws and policies that govern veterinarians and animal facilities in the District of Columbia.

GW Animal Law Summit I March 2004, the Project hosted "Animal Law Summit: Reforming Animal Welfare Laws in the District of Columbia," a panel discussion on the District's animal welfare laws and proposals for reform. Panelists were local leaders in animal welfare and protection. Representatives from several animal welfare organizations in the DC area attended.

Animal Welfare Report February 2005, the Project hosted a press conference tom release a comprehensive report on the status of animal welfare in the District, including a description of current District laws, their enforcement, and recommendations for reforms. The report was presented to DC Councilmember David Catania and Department of Health Director Gregg Pane.

GW Animal Law Summit II February 2007, the Project hosted "Animal Law Summit II." Dean Lawrence announced the creation of the Samantha Scholarship in Animal Law; the Executive Director of WHS discussed the status of companion animals in the District's Shelter; Councilwoman Mary Cheh presented the Animal Protection Amendment Act of 2007; and Joan Schaffner announced and celebrated the first recipient of the Samantha Scholarship. Julius Fleischman, the benefactor of the Samantha Scholarship was so moved that he announced the establishment of a second scholarship in honor and memory of HoJo!

Animal Protection Legislation Representatives of the AWP worked with Councilmember Cheh and her legislative aide, Jeremy Faust, to prepare final legislation introduced to the DC Council as the Animal Protection Amendment Act This legislation addressed several animal welfare issues, including regulation of services affecting animals (boarding facilities, guard dogs), guidelines for care of animals used in public schools, humane education, spay/neuter, penalties for animal abusers, cross-reporting among agencies handling domestic violence and animal abuse, and more. June 2007 Professor Schaffner and representatives of the AWP testified before the DC Council on behalf of the Animal Protection Amendment Act. The Act (Bill 17-89) was ultimately enacted by the DC Council in June 2008.

DC Animal Law Pamphlet: The AWP published a pamphlet summarizing the law related to animals in the District for the Animal Law Committee of the DC Bar. See Animal Law in the District of Columbia.