Animal Law-- MSU professor serves as expert in the field


By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Legal rights for chimpanzees are not something attorneys generally run into every day.

How about cows, chickens, elephants, cats, and dogs?

This is an area of expertise for David Favre, a professor at Michigan State University College of Law who teaches Animal Law, International Environmental Law, and Property Law; and is editor-in-chief of the MSU Animal Legal & Historical Web Center at

In his most recent law review article, Favre suggests a path to rights for animals by the creation of the category "living property."

Favre's personal path to this point in his career started back in the 1970s with three pet cats and an article about Wildlife Rights. Thirty years later he lives with 45 Icelandic sheep, 70 chickens, five lamas, four cats, and two Great Pyrenees guard dogs.

"My living on a farm for the past eight years has broadened my view of animals and how humans should relate to them," he says. "It's important to take into account all the non-pet animals of this world."

Last July, Favre was honored with the Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award by The Animal Law Committee of the American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section. This award reflected his academic writing and his activities with the Animal Legal Defense Fund for more than 20 years.

"Being on the Board of ALDF gave me the opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of animal issues and to meet people around the world who care about animals," he says.

In 2004, he helped organize and host the first global conference on animals for lawyers.

"Since that conference we've had a network of attorneys around the world who are in contact about animal issues. It allowed me to travel to China and Brazil last year for animal legal conferences, and next summer I hope to travel to Switzerland for a legal conference."

Within the more academic world of the MSU Law College, besides his teaching, Favre has published a number of books and articles dealing with a wide variety of animal topics: elephants, ivory and international law; the risk of extinction and operation of the treaty protecting endangered species; the history of the anti-cruelty laws in the US; duty to provide care for animals and the use of animals in experimentation. His books include "Animal Law and Dog Behavior"; "Animal Law: Welfare, Interest, and Rights"; and "International Trade in Endangered Species."

Favre first started teaching the course in Animal Law ten years ago, and suggests there has been great growth of interests in the topic since then.

"In just over a decade animal law has gone from being taught at about a half dozen law school to it being taught at over 110, including many of the top schools," he says.

Animal law is a cross-section of almost every area of law, he explains - torts, property, contracts - all sorts of issues. Most animal law cases in private practice deal with issues such as dangerous dogs, divorce settlements, purchases or other property-related activities. There are wildlife issues, like suffering caused by the B.P. oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; or issues of animals mistreated in zoos or circuses.

"Perhaps the most serious animal issue before our society today is the conditions faced by animals held in cages by industrial corporate farms," he says.

As for the future of Animal Law, Favre says, "We're just at the beginning of significant social change that will bring animals increasingly into our sphere of personal and social concern. I will never run out of issues to write and teach about. It's an exciting time."

Published: Mon, Apr 18, 2011