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The legal system reflects society’s relationships with different animals and has a profound influence on how animals are treated. For centuries laws have considered animals to be “property” with little recognition of their sentience. Owners were able to treat their animals as they chose, like their car or a piece of furniture. Currently, animals have no legal rights to humane treatment or protection from abuse. But just as attitudes about our relationships with animals are evolving, the law is also changing – for better and for worse. The field that has come to be known as “Animal Law,” which includes any legal issue that involves animals, is filled with contradictions, conflicts and confusion. Cruelty to animals is now a felony in every state in the U.S., for example, but institutionalized exploitation that harms billions of animals is exempted from these same laws.

NAVS believes that the law can be a powerful tool for change. Working with dedicated animal advocates and enlightened elected officials around the country, NAVS uses the legislative process to help change existing laws and to influence the regulatory process to improve animal welfare, restrict the exploitation of animals and bring about positive changes that will eventually help to end their use in the name of science and advance greater justice for all animals.

Democracy is “messy” and navigating the legal system is challenging and can be a maze for even the most skilled professional. It is not just a linear “flowchart” of actions that need to be taken from the introduction of legislation to the signing of a bill to become law. It also involves the intrigue of the political process that is not immune to money, tradition and the power of vested interests.

NAVS helps to cut through the legal rhetoric by providing the information and opportunities for advocates to take constructive action on behalf of animals.

Through the use of all avenues of legal action—in the legislature, through the courts and in the regulatory arena—NAVS strongly believes that individuals can make a difference for animals. As part of these efforts, NAVS also supports educational programs on Animal Law issues at law schools, bar associations and at conferences.

What we do:

As a respected and credible source of information and perspective, NAVS increases awareness, changes attitudes and implements positive solutions to end the exploitation of animals in society. NAVS’ free weekly e-newsletter, Take Action Thursday, brings attention to pending legislation and legal trends. Through our online Advocacy Center, NAVS allows advocates to make their voices heard regarding legislation, regulations and policies that involve society’s use of and relationship with animals. NAVS also provides advocates, law students and legal/legislative professionals with extensive legal and legislative resources, empowering caring people to easily spread the word and take effective actions that extend greater compassion, respect and justice for animals.