Animal Law and
Animal Owners
Presented by Tracy-Lynne Geysen
Australia has one of the
highest incidences of pet
ownership in the world – 33 million pets
live in approximately 8 million households.
 A 2006 survey revealed –
 85% of pet owners agreed their pet is part of the
family, like a child;
 57% of pet owners agreed their pet was their best
 38% of pet owners let their pet sleep in their bed;
 21% celebrated their pet’s birthdays.
It was stated by Former President of the
Australian Law Reform Commission, Professor
David Wiesbrot AM, that animal protection
may be ‘the next generation social justice
25 years ago environmental law as an area of
law was scoffed at.
Potentially very wide scope, but some of the key
issues include:
Why and how do animals matter?
 obligations owed to animals;
 animal welfare, animal interests and animal rights.
What is an ‘animal’ in law?
 detailed definition in Animal Care and Protection Act 2001
(Qld) s 11 (but differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction).
Legal status of animals
 animals as personal property.
Farmed animals
 cruelty and welfare, including in factory farming and
live export.
Animals used in research
 role of Animal Ethics Committees, accountability.
Wild animals
 protection, farming and killing of native species
 killing of so-called ’feral’ or ‘pest’ animals
 intersection with environmental law.
In a university setting two main ways in which ‘animal law’ is
‘black letter’ courses, surveying established doctrinal categories (eg
property, contract, torts, administrative law, succession etc) and
identifying legislation and cases which in some way concern animals.
 law-in-context courses, which take a critical approach to the way in
which animal interests are addressed in law.
Animal law, especially a ‘law-in-context’ approach, draws on non-legal
disciplinary knowledge including:
animal welfare science (scientific evidence of animal
 ethics;
 politics/political theory; and
 sociology.
In the United States:
First taught in 1986 in one law school, now taught in approx
75 law schools.
Center for Animal Law Studies (Lewis & Clark Law School,
Portland, Oregon) – offers a suite of courses in animal law.
Number of law journals established:
 Journal of Animal Law and Ethics;
 Animal Law Review;
 Journal of Animal Law;
 Stanford Journal of Animal Law and Policy; and
 Journal of Animal and Environmental Law.
In Australia:
First offered by UNSW in 2005.
Nine law schools offer or have offered animal law: ANU,
Bond, Flinders, Griffith, Melbourne, Southern Cross,
Sydney, UNSW, Wollongong.
Australian Animal Protection Law Journal established in 2008.
 Animal Law in Australasia (Fed Press) published in 2009;
Animal Law in Australia and New Zealand (Thomson).
Animal law as a practice area:
TLG Lawyers (now Couper Geysen – Family and
Animal Law) – first private practice in Australia to
specialise in animal law;
Barristers Animal Welfare Panels (Vic and NSW);
Animal Welfare Community Legal Centre (Tas);
Pro Bono Animal Law Service (PILCH in NSW and
In practice animal law is –
Taking action where animals have been
harmed and abused;
Defending animal activists;
Wrongful death;
Pet ‘custody’ cases’;
Dangerous dog cases;
Estate planning for pets;
Body corporate disputes;
Vet negligence.
Some examples –
wife retained the home, and the
bull terrier;
The husband argued he should
retain the dog;
 The court said the dog was a gift
from the husband to the wife.
Some examples –
couple spent 2 years and $150,000 in
legal fees contesting the post-separation
placement of their dog Gigi
 They wife produced photographs and
evidence from an animal behaviouralist to
show the court her lifestyle was more
suitable to care for Gigi and she had
always been Gigi’s primary carer.
Dangerous dog declaration overturned
Maxine the German Shepherd
Negligence by trainer
BELINDA the toy poodle
Mark Allen and Elly Yarrow will sue over the death of their dog.
A BRISBANE couple grieving the loss of their beloved dog Grommet
will become the first in Australia to sue for pain and suffering after
their maltalier was fatally mauled at a kennel.
Mark Allen and Elly Yarrow have hired one of the state's big guns to
try the test case, barrister Michael Byrne, QC, who also represents
accused wife killer Gerard Baden-Clay.
Mr Byrne has also represented former Bundaberg doctor Jayant Patel
and convicted killer Max Sica.
Mr Allen and Ms Yarrow, struggling to cope after
the shock death of their 10-year-old dog, have
asked for $25,000 in compensation from a
southeast Queensland kennel.
Ms Yarrow, 56, told The Courier-Mail that she
didn't want her companion to die in vain and
hoped a "Grommet's Law'' would change how the
legal system categorised animals.
"She was my daughter's but when she moved out Grommet stayed with us and moved with
us (from Adelaide) to Queensland.
"When we went overseas for four weeks two years ago, it was the longest time I'd been away
from her. I emailed her to see how she was going.'‘
The pair said they had not recovered since Grommet was fatally attacked by a large dog on
February 22.
Mr Allen and Ms Yarrow dropped off Grommet at the kennel before going to Hamilton
Island. Within 24 hours she was bit by another dog. She later died from her internal injuries.
Mr Allen, 52, said they tried to return to Brisbane straight after hearing Grommet had been bit
but could not get on a flight.
When they went to a vet, Grommet was given to them frozen. It was too much for the pair,
who later had Grommet cremated and her ashes taken to a favourite spot in Adelaide.
The couple said they could not get a straight answer from the kennel on how the tragedy
They submitted a Right to Information request to Brisbane City
Council, which revealed the attacking dog was left
unsupervised when Grommet was released nearby into an
exercise yard. BCC later euthanised the dog and issued the
kennel manager with an infringement notice over the incident.
It will be the first time a plaintiff has sued for damages beyond
an animal's replacement cost.
Grommet, a cross between a cavalier and a Maltese terrier, was
treated like a child by the two empty-nesters.
Elly Yarrow and Mark Allen are proceeding with a court action for pain and suffering
over the death of their dog Grommet.
"She was like a family member. It's the unconditional love. We moved houses because she
didn't like the old one,'' said Ms Yarrow, an occupational therapist assistant at the Royal
Children's Hospital's burns unit.
Mr Allen, a consulting manufacturing engineer, said they took the case to the law firm
when the kennel's insurers "insulted'' them by offering the cost of a replacement dog.
"We are both suffering severe grief symptoms. Elly is noticeably withdrawn (and) still
cries herself to sleep.“
Mr Allen attends counselling sessions to deal with his grief and Ms Yarrow attends a
weekly mediation group. Ms Yarrow said she had lost her sense of humour and purpose
at work.
A statement of claim will soon be filed in Brisbane Magistrates Court. Mr Byrne said he
was "hopeful'' of a win.
Tracey Jackson, of Couper Geysen - Family and Animal Law, said people had not
previously sued because the law considered animals to be property.
•NZ courts have awarded parties
compensation for emotional loss for their
•Acknowledgement that animals have
feelings and the changing status of
animals as property.