Crimes Against Animals

NOTE: This course is available in-person for JD/LLM/MSL students, or as an Online Section designed for LLM and MSL Distance Students only. Each section has its own course description. Check the current catalog or WebAdvisor to see which section is offered in any given year. See the note* below about eligibility for the Online Section for JDs, MSLs, and residential LLMs and MSLs.

Crimes Against Animals - Professor Jacob Kamins - In-Person

  • Course Number: LAW-459 
  • Course Type: Foundational
  • Credits: 2
  • Enrollment Limit: Determined by the Registrar
  • Description: Prosecuting animal cruelty crimes presents a host of unique issues compared to other types of criminal casework. Animals are legally property, yet as living beings they are also considered crime victims in some jurisdictions. This course will explore existing animal cruelty laws nationwide and will address the practical hurdles that arise when prosecuting cruelty cases, from live evidence issues to exemptions for standard industry practices, to institutional biases. Students will engage in several in-class simulations based on real-world examples and will hear from expert prosecutors and other practitioners working in the field of animal cruelty prosecution. Topics will include hoarding, animal fighting, expert witnesses, jury selection, ag gag laws, the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence, and more.
  • Prerequisite: none
  • Evaluation Method: Student presentations, class participation, and final exam
  • Capstone: no
  • WIE: no

Crimes Against Animals - Professor David Rosengard - Online Offering

  • Course Number: LAW-459-OL *LLM and MSL Distance Students only*
  • Course Type: Highly Specialized
  • Credits: 3
  • Enrollment Limit: Determined by the Registrar
  • Description:
    • Animals are susceptible to being involved in a wide range of criminal conduct. Animals may be stolen, passengers in vehicles involved in criminal activity, subjects of fraud, and so on in endless permutations. Most cases of this sort, however, do not constitute crimes against animals. Core to the concept of it even being possible for a crime to be committed against an animal is a recognition that certain criminal conduct victimizes animals. Crimes of this sort do not merely take place proximate to animals, but rather have such an impact on the animals in question that the act constitutes them as victims of the crime at hand. It is these sorts of criminal activities – those which victimize animals – that this course focuses upon.

    As such, this course will explore which conduct towards animals is implicated by criminal law, why some of that conduct has been defined as constituting crimes committed against animals, how those laws function, and who the players involved in cases resulting from these crimes are. We will examine these laws – many of which are often referred to collectively as ‘animal protection laws’ or ‘statutes against cruelty’ – both in terms of their substance and and their practical application.

    During this course, we will engage with perspectives hailing from across the criminal justice spectrum, including judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, victims’ rights attorneys, law enforcement agents, and political activists. Students can expect to largely focus on relevant jurisdictions within the USA (i.e. local; state; federal; tribal), with analogous laws from other countries brought in for purposes to facilitate both understanding of relevant domestic law, but also other fruitful approaches to addressing crimes against animals.

    This course is suitable for any student interested in criminal law, animal law, and especially the juxtaposition of the two. This course is particularly relevant for students who have an interest in preventing or responding to crimes against animals, who anticipate representing parties in cases resulting from these crimes, or who work in an animal field.

  • Prerequisite: none
  • Evaluation Method: Participation, final exam
  • Capstone: no
  • WIE: no

Notes for LC JDs, MSLs, and residential LLMs and MSLs:

*This class is for online LLM and MSL students. In-person students may petition the Associate Dean of Students, Libby Davis, and Global Animal Law and Advanced Degree Programs Director, Raj Reddy, to take the online version if they have a compelling reason for doing so: and

Those students should consult the distance learning policy prior to signing up for distance learning courses.