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Don't Miss the Animal Law and Policy Opportunities This Summer at Vermont Law and Graduate School

students in an outdoor classroom during summer

Animal law and policy has had a presence at Vermont Law and Graduate School (VLGS)—and in its renowned Summer Session—for decades. Over the years, animal law and policy offerings have grown with new degree programs. Join us to learn from accomplished scholars and practitioners this summer in beautiful Vermont!

Open to students, professionals, and lifelong learners from across the country and the world, this summer’s animal law courses offer opportunities for anyone interested in the field—whether you’re trying to figure out if studying animal law and policy is the right path for you, looking to up your game in a related field, committed to becoming an animal advocate, considering a dual degree, or simply curious. For students enrolled at other law schools, this is an opportunity to take advantage of additional animal law course offerings and meet leaders in the field. Students can take a single weekend intensive course, come for a couple weeks, or spend the whole summer studying at VLGS. Those who don’t need course credits can choose to audit courses for just $400 per credit ($200 per credit for VLGS alumni). Vermont Bar Association Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit is available for all summer courses.

Undergraduate students may enroll in summer courses and the Farmed Animal Advocacy Clinic. They may also participate in the Summer Undergraduate Program in Environmental Law (application deadline May 1).

This summer’s residential animal law and policy courses include:

  • Ocean and Coastal Law: May 30–June 15, taught by Michael Jasny, Elizabeth Lewis, and Sarah Reiter (JD’13). Long neglected by lawmakers despite its essential ecological functions, the marine environment has increasingly been the focal point of conservation and natural resource management efforts. As a foundation for studying the laws that govern the marine environment, the course considers the natural components of estuarine, coastal, and marine ecosystems and the current conservation issues confronting them. We will review domestic and international laws and treaties relating to coastal management, pollution, protected areas, endangered species, fisheries, marine mammals, wetlands, marine spatial planning, and offshore energy resources, and examine alternative approaches to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. The course considers the effectiveness of these legal regimes in providing rational and comprehensive management and protection of marine resources in the face of emerging threats from climate change, crashing fish stocks, and energy shortages, focusing on current events such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the International Whaling Commission debate over commercial whaling, and climate change threats to the Arctic.

  • Animal Welfare Law: June 20-29, taught by Dr. Heather Rally and Mary Hollingsworth. In recent years, a broad and rapidly evolving field of law has developed concerning the welfare of animals that are used for a variety of human purposes, including food, entertainment, research, and companionship. Animals used for these purposes often endure a wide range of abuses that diminish animal welfare while also impacting humans.

    Public views about such uses of animals are rapidly changing, as evidenced by recent developments including Ringling Bros. shuttering its iconic circus after a decade of falling ticket sales, SeaWorld ending orca breeding after falling profits and stock prices, the National Institutes of Health ending its support of biomedical research on chimpanzees, the enactment of laws prohibiting the maintenance of cetaceans in captivity, changes in consumerism and human consumption away from animal products, and other developments. A unique aspect of the class will be to combine traditional principles of “animal welfare” laws and advocacy with laws typically applied in the “wildlife conservation” context, such as the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Act. Through a survey approach, this class will examine the role of law in these and other key steps forward in understanding and reforming the relationship between humans and animals and improving the condition of animals maintained for human profit and entertainment. 

    Students in the class will come away with an understanding of the role of legal institutions and regimes in promoting animal welfare, and how they are—and are not—working. Past and current litigation, regulatory, and legislative efforts on behalf of animal welfare will be covered, with case studies and current developments.

  • Biodiversity Protection: July 10-August 20 taught by David Takacs. Across the globe, wildlife and its habitat are increasingly threatened by human-caused habitat destruction, exploitation, poaching, illegal trade, invasive species, disease, and climate change. This course examines what biodiversity is, the growing threats to it, and U.S. and international laws to combat those threats. The course focuses on statutes, case law, environmental ethics, and current controversies to highlight legal, scientific, and political strategies for protecting biodiversity. Particular emphasis is placed on the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

  • Undercover Investigations of Animal Operations: June 1-4 taught by Meg York (JD'15): What are undercover investigations? Why do animal advocacy organizations conduct them? In this course, students will explore a variety of legal considerations as they relate to conducting undercover investigations of animal operations. Specifically, students will examine the intersection of criminal law, tort, and ethical issues, as well as what does and does not constitute actionable animal cruelty. We will discuss evidentiary issues, taking action/pursuing litigation, and corporate liability. We will examine how undercover investigations have changed the legal landscape for animals as well as the methods by which the industry has pushed back at this animal advocacy tactic. Throughout the course, we will discuss the ways in which undercover investigations and resultant prosecutions implicate social justice issues, assessing whether the stated goal of deterrent effect outweighs the potential disparate impact on individual low-wage workers.

Numerous additional summer courses can help students in their animal law and policy work, including Ecology, Environmental Crimes, Environmental JusticeThe Farm Bill, Farmworkers and the Law, The International Law of Food, and Law of Ecosystem Management.

Visit VLGS’s summer session website to learn more about the program and how to register.

Hot Topics Series

In addition to the course lineup, VLGS’s Environmental Law Center is also hosting numerous animal law and policy events this summer, including lunchtime Hot Topics lectures each Tuesday and Thursday at noon Eastern Daylight Time. Talks are held in person on campus in #012 Oakes Hall, and can be viewed live at

Thanks to generous funding from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Hot Topics presentations will also be delivered by two summer animal law media fellows.

Hot Topics talks are free and open to the public in person, with Vermont Bar Association CLE credit available, and will also be livestreamed. The full line-up for this summer will be posted online soon.


Learn more about the Animal Law and Policy Institute →