I was recently asked whether I handle animal law mediation. And the answer is, “why yes I do.” I am a previous member of the New York State Bar Association Committee on Animals in the Law, New Jersey State Bar Association Committee on Animal Law, and the New York Lawyers’ Association Committee on Animal Law. I have also had experience litigating animal law cases and am a trained mediator.
I think that mediation is a great way to resolve dispute involving animals because oftentimes (1) the monetary damages may not be worth expensive litigation fees and court costs and (2) these types of disputes are extremely emotionally- charged. People consider pets like members of their family – and I get that. Mediation helps the parties work through the emotion and help the parties understand what the other side has experienced.
Some types of animal law cases that might be well-suited for mediation include:
1) Replevin cases (i.e., returning the animal);
2) Divorce/family law matters involving animals (e.g., custody/ownership of pets, horses, livestock);
3) Veterinary malpractice;
4) Pet Shop Lemon Law cases;
5) Landlord-Tenant or Co-op law cases involving animals;
6) Estate/Succession planning (i.e., perhaps you and your spouse/family don’t agree on estate planning for your pets/livestock/horses) or probate issues involving pets;
7) Breach of contract;
8) Dog bite cases (people or animals);
9) Partnership agreements concerning livestock or horses;
10) Neighbor disputes involving animals;
11) Prenuptial agreements involving animals.
The list can go on and on. I have said it once and will say it again: agriculture law is really every kind of law–it’s just geared towards a specific industry. Likewise, animal law is nearly every kind of all law — it’s just geared towards animals. “Animals” include all non-human creatures including (1) companion animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, etc., (2) horses, (3) livestock such as cattle, hogs, chickens, sheep, (4) fish (e.g., aquaculture), and (5) insects (e.g., beehives).
It’s important to note though that arbitration is different than mediation. On television, these words are used interchangeably but they are actually very different. Arbitrators are more like judges. They listen to evidence and make a ruling. Mediators are there to simply help facilitate the conversation to help the parties reach an amicable agreement. As a final reminder, mediation can take place at any stage in litigation: (1) before a complaint has been filed or (2) anytime during the litigation process.