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Wendy Ampolsk

'Animal Rights' Law?

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I recently rode the commuter train with the father of a young associate attorney who was looking to make his name in his practice. The young lawyer had been hired by a large, prestigious firm, but was worried about being buried "among the hoardes," unable to stand out and be noticed.

It was right after the huge scare about possibly poisoned pet food, and my commuter friend was strongly urging his son to enter the relatively unknown field of what he called "pet law." I explained that the recent food-poisoning cases would be rightly litigated under product liability suits, but this man was insistent that "pet law" would be the "med mal" of the future.Is he right?

My first instinct was to warn the young attorney to stay with his firm, to stay with the tried and true, not to rock the boat with something so risky. But is that the right advice? Is there room for practice areas to expand with the times?

Strangely enough, only one week later, I heard from a self-proclaimed "animal rights" attorney, wanting to write an article for us on the recent pet-food scare. When I talked to him, he said he was one of the few in the legal community, making a good living from all sorts of pet-related cases, from custody (which actually appears in family law cases) to accidental death, to owners distraught over sick puppies inadvertently bought from puppy mills, and so forth. He sounded completely happy and content with his practice, thrilled to be providing this service. Something to think about, maybe?

Is "pet law," or as he called it, "animal rights law," the next big practice area? There are an awful lot of pets in this country; and as frequently stated on major Web sites, they are spoiled as never before (I count myself among the spoilers). Would I call an animal rights attorney if something happened to my beloved pets? I would if I knew where to find one. Would you?

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