Careers in Animal Welfare Law: Job Options and Requirements

Oct 02, 2019

Animal welfare law is typically studied by those wanting to become animal welfare lawyers, law enforcement agents or lobbyists. Find out about the requirements for these professions, and learn about job growth and salary info for animal welfare law specialists.

Lawyers, humane law enforcement agents, and public relations specialists can all work in the field of animal welfare law. Public relations specialists need a bachelor's degree in journalism, law or political science, while lawyers need to graduate from law school and pass the bar exam to be licensed to practice law. The educational requirements for humane law enforcement agents vary.

Essential Information

Individuals working in animal welfare law advocate for the proper treatment of animals. This article highlights a few of the career options in animal welfare law. Depending on their career aspirations, candidates for careers in animal welfare law could pursue degrees in disciplines such as law or journalism and subsequently earn animal welfare certificates. They could also undergo training at an animal law enforcement academy.

Career Titles Lawyers Humane Law Enforcement Agents Public Relations Specialists
Education Requirements Law degree and participation in workshops and clinics in animal law Variable; attendance at a training academy for animal law enforcement Bachelor's degree in political science, law or journalism; an animal welfare certificate could be helpful
Licensure or Certification Licensure required for all lawyers Certification may be required N/A
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% 16% for all animal care & service workers 6%
Median Annual Salary (May, 2018)* $120,910 $36,330 for animal control workers $60,000

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Individuals have several options for working in animal welfare law. After graduating from relevant universities or training academies, they might pursue positions such as animal welfare lawyer, humane law enforcement agent and lobbyist.

Animal-Welfare Lawyer

Some animal activists choose to fight for animal rights in the courtrooms. Animal law is becoming more popular, and according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, 26 state bars have an animal law committee. Animal law lawyers may specialize in animal welfare, but animal law also pertains to other cases such as veterinarian malpractice, housing disputes over 'no pets' policies, and civil cases on death or injury to pets or companion animals. Animal law can overlap with criminal law, trust and estate law, family law, civil lawsuits, and disability law, according to the Indiana State Bar Association. To practice law, lawyers must first earn an undergraduate degree, preferably in a field that emphasizes communication, reading, researching, analyzing, and logical thinking, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, Prospective animal lawyers can also major in animal studies, animal science, or related field.

The next step is to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and apply to law school. A combination of the LSAT scores, undergraduate grades, work experience, and possibly a personal interview determine if a student is accepted into law school, according to the BLS. Classes in constitutional law, contracts, property law, torts, civil procedure, and legal writing lay the foundation for the first year and a half of law school. The second year and a half is generally spent studying a specialized field and gaining practical experience. Practice trials and working in legal aid offices help law students gain real world experience.

Some schools offer workshops and clinics in animal law, which may focus on animal protection issues. These experiences give students the opportunity to gain animal welfare-focused clinical experience that may include legal research and analysis, writing skills, litigation, negotiation, and advocacy. Students also work alongside animal welfare attorneys, helping conduct research and represent clients. Before students can practice law, they must first pass their state's bar exam. Students that qualify to take the bar exam have earned a college degree and graduated from an American Bar Association accredited law school, or one accredited by the proper state authorities, reported the BLS. For these and other kinds of lawyers, the BLS notes that employment could grow by 6% during the 2018 to 2028 decade. Although the mean salary earned by all types of lawyers was reported as $144,230 by the BLS in May 2018, those working for non-profits organizations often earn much less than their corporate counterparts. The lawyers earning the lowest ten percent of salaries earned $58,220 or less, per the BLS in May 2018.

Humane Law Enforcement Agent

In New York, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) employs humane law enforcement (HLE) agents for their HLE division, which investigates 400 to 500 animal cruelty complaints each month. Many other states or regions also have humane law enforcement departments that investigate citizen complaints of animal cruelty or neglect. HLE agents may remove the animals from dangerous environments, issue court orders, or arrest owners.

Each state or local agency sets its own requirements for humane law enforcement agents. Many regions offer training academies for animal law enforcement. Classes usually include animal law, animal handling, animal behavior, civil and criminal liability, arrest laws, investigation procedures, state laws, nutrition, and facility standards. Acquiring certification after training may be required in some states. The ASPCA states that prior experience as a police officer, park ranger, or peace officer helps set candidates apart from their competitors.

Although the BLS does not provide statistics for humane law enforcement agents, specifically, it does note that animal care and service workers earned a mean annual salary of $38,490 in May 2018. The BLS also predicted that these workers, who are able to rescue animals from abusive homes and often are the face of animal rights in the public eye, could expect to see job opportunities increase much faster than average from 2018 to 2028.


Animal welfare lobbyists are employed or retained by animal welfare advocacy groups. They present animal welfare issues to government officials to get animal advocacy legislation passed on state and federal levels. Animal welfare lobbyists complete research to help back up their proposals for animal welfare laws. This includes being knowledgeable about current issues pertaining to animal well-being.

In addition to reading various publications, lobbyists also communicate with professionals in relative industries. Animal welfare lobbyists attend events and meetings that concern animal interests to stay updated on new issues. Armed with all the latest research, lobbyists persuade legislators to pass laws that improve animal safety. In some cases, lobbyists prepare reports or presentations of their research findings and present them to legislators. Lobbyists may also help politicians outline legislation that supports animal welfare.

A degree in political science, journalism, law, or related field is beneficial for animal welfare lobbyists. Students can also earn certificates in animal welfare and advocacy where they learn to develop and implement policies, resolve controversy concerning humane animal practices, and encourage research to improve animal welfare. Lobbyists are constantly communicating and networking with politicians and interest group professionals, which makes good communication and people skills essential for them. Lobbyists are also well-versed on animal rights laws and concerns, and constantly stay informed of new issues. Lobbyists are required to register with the state and federal government, according to the Princeton Review. According to the BLS, public relations specialists, including lobbyists, made a mean annual salary of $68,440 in May 2018. The employment of individuals working as public relations managers and specialists is expected to grow by as much as 6% from 2018 to 2028.

Professionals in the field of animal welfare play crucial roles in preventing the mistreatment of animals, ensuring offenders are held accountable, and when necessary they promote public awareness and changes to the law that will protect animals from abuse or mistreatment.

Public relations specialists in the field of animal welfare may work on advocating publicly for changes to the laws regarding the treatment of animals, while animal rights lawyers may advocate for the rights of animals in courts. Humane law enforcement agents investigate allegations of animal cruelty.

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