Instructor(s): Lesli Bisgould

For graduate students, the course number is LAW7020HF.

Note: This course is offered every other year and may be offered again in 2019-2020.

The subject of animals and the law has emerged nationally and internationally as a new and important topic which has implications in many traditional legal subject areas. We will examine the unique role that animals play as living property in a legal system conceived by and for human beings. On the one hand, they are things that we eat and use in experiments. On the other hand, they are beloved family companions. How does the law handle the discord?

This ambiguity will provide the context for examining the history of - and the historical basis for - laws with respect to animals. We will trace these, from the animal trials which began in thirteenth century Europe through the development of anti-cruelty laws to the current struggle to cope with the conflicting implications of biotechnology and other industrial uses of animals. Throughout, we will critically evaluate the legal status of animals as "property" and consider whether that status is defensible in modern times, asking whether animals should be viewed as objects, as legal subjects, as legal persons or as something else entirely.

There are 4 components to evaluation in this course: - participation, which includes attendance and meaningful input into discussion (10%) - two written assignments, approximately 750 words each (20%) - 5,000 word end-of-term paper (60%) - a presentation in class discussing the subject of the student’s end-of-term paper (10%).

At a Glance

First Term
Perspective course


15 JD
5 Osgoode Hall students


Th: 6:10 - 8:00