New York Animal Law Attorney

Fighting for Animals:
How to Prove Your Case

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Just like civil and criminal laws help to protect people, many states have laws in place to protect pets and other animals from being harmed. Whether you suspect your neighbor is abusing their dog or your pet was endangered by another person, there are legal options out there for animal lovers who need help. If you’re looking to learn more about New York animal law or need assistance taking legal action, bring your concerns to The Animal Law Firm’s defense lawyers.

New York Animal Attorneys You Can Trust

At The Animal Law Firm, we’re devoted to fighting for the underdog. We understand that legal issues involving animals may not always receive the attention they deserve, which is why our team works to effectively represent the rights of animals and their owners. By combining a myriad of skills and resources from our team of experienced attorneys, we provide one-of-a-kind legal representation that is dedicated to protecting your animal’s safety.

What Exactly Is Animal Law?

Many people are unaware that there are a variety of legal statutes that address animals and their welfare. In New York, animal laws encompass both the rights and protections of animals as well as the rights of victims who are attacked or endangered by animals. These laws allow for pet owners, witnesses of animal abuse, and victims of attacks to take legal action if they or an animal were endangered or injured.

Our New York Animal Law Services

There is a diverse range of cases that fall under animal law. Because our firm is focused on protecting both animal lovers and animals themselves, that is what our services prioritize. The following are just some of the animal law services that our team provides in New York.

Dog Bite / Pet Attack Defense

Unfortunately, many dog bite cases come with a negative stigma surrounding them – especially when certain breeds are involved. However, many judges and jurors don’t realize that many dog bites occur because the animal was provoked. For example, if an individual attempts to harm your dog and your dog bites them as an act of self-defense, you and your dog should not be punished. Reach out to our firm immediately if you are going to court for a dog bite case.

Ownership Disputes (Pet Custody)

When two pet owners can’t agree on who gets an animal when they part ways, they may have to take the issue to court. Pet custody is one of the most common animal law cases we see here in New York, as many couples adopt animals together and then can’t compromise when they separate. At The Animal Law Firm, we understand just how much your pet means to you, which is why we’ll do everything we can to represent your interests in court.

Factors that may impact a judge’s decision on pet custody include:

  • The interests of the animal
  • The interests of both parties
  • The ability of each party to care for the animal
  • Which party adopted or purchased the animal

Groomer, Pet-Sitter, and Trainer Defense

Because groomers, pet-sitters, and trainers all work with animals, they are often held liable for a variety of issues – even when they didn’t cause them. Our firm has experienced a wide range of groomer and trainer cases and understands how much your career means to you. We also understand that accidents and issues can occur with animals, no matter how professional you may be.

Whether someone is upset that their dog didn’t take to your training or their animal gets sick after you watch them, some claims can’t be backed by sufficient evidence. To resolve these issues properly and keep your reputation clean, it’s essential that you talk to one of our skilled animal lawyers.

Veterinary Malpractice Representation

When you take your animal to a veterinarian, you put an immense amount of trust in their services. Unfortunately, many animals suffer at the hands of vets who are secretly unqualified, aggressive, or negligent. If you believe your vet hurt your animal, you must collect whatever evidence you can and bring your case to our team as soon as possible. Veterinary malpractice is unlawful in New York and should never be tolerated.

Service and Emotional Support Animal Representation

Most states, including New York, do not recognize service animals as pets. This is because service animals provide impaired individuals with critical assistance both in and out of the house. Service animals have the right to go anywhere their owner goes because they are trained to perform helpful and life-saving tasks, unlike pets and other trained animals.

However, an emotional support animal (ESA) is not the same as a service animal. While emotional support animals may assist disabled or ill individuals, they do not have the same responsibilities as service animals. If you’re running into issues with New York’s service animal or ESA laws, feel free to reach out for assistance.

Pet Trusts and Estate Planning

To many people, their animals are their entire world. This often leads them to make arrangements for their pets in case something happens to them and their pet is left behind. Our firm has experience forming pet trusts as well as assisting with estate planning involving animals. If you’re looking to legally document how you want your pet to be cared for after your passing, it may be smart for you to include them in your estate plan.

Assistance and Defense for Shelters, Rescues, and Animal Organizations

At The Animal Law Firm, we consider ourselves lucky to be able to work with animal lovers who run shelters, rescues, and other organizations devoted to the welfare of animals. Our team not only has experience helping shelters keep up with paperwork and legal qualifications, but we also have experience defending them against unfair claims. If your animal organization requires legal assistance, don’t wait to reach out.

Equine Law

Equine law refers to legislation and legal issues that involve horses. These laws work to protect horses as well as the people who own, rent, and ride them. Because riding a horse can be a dangerous activity, New York recently implemented an equine activity liability law. This piece of legislation states that a professional rider, activity sponsor, or any equine group cannot be held responsible if someone is injured or passes away from the dangers of equine activities.

Civil Rights Defense When Police Officers Harm or Kill Your Animal

An officer of the law cannot simply shoot or harm your animal because they want to. It is unlawful to shoot a dog or any animal that does not present immediate danger to the situation. Unfortunately, New York residents have lost countless pets to aggressive, negligent law enforcement who shoot and critically injure their animals. If your innocent animal was hurt or killed at the hands of law enforcement, do not wait to take legal action and advocate for your pet.

Defense for Animal Rights Activists

The Animal Law Firm takes great pride in being one of the few legal teams that provide defense services to animal rights activists across the country. We’ve seen firsthand how people who want to protect animals are put into vulnerable and even threatening situations, which is why we do everything in our power to protect their rights. If you or someone you love are dealing with legal issues because you defended an animal’s rights, talk to our lawyers immediately.

Why Should You Work With an Animal Attorney?

Trying to take care of your animal and yourself while attempting to handle important paperwork and legal proceedings can feel impossible when you’re doing it on your own. When you work with a New York animal lawyer, you allow yourself to share your stressors with a professional who knows how to handle them.

Below are just a few reasons why you should consider hiring one of our animal attorneys.

We Have Extensive Knowledge of New York’s Animal Laws

While most people are aware of the requirements that come with owning animals, many do not have a firm grasp on animal laws. This can put you in a frightening position if legal issues occur. Working with one of our animal attorneys gives you access to our comprehensive legal knowledge and allows you to find support during complicated times. Our insight into civil and animal laws has helped us solve a wide range of difficult cases.

We’re Familiar With a Myriad of Paperwork, Claims, and Legal Proceedings

Legal matters can be difficult to navigate, but they can be especially challenging when animals are involved. Whether someone filed a claim against you and your animal or you’re fighting for custody of your pet, our team has the insight needed to help you properly address paperwork, file or respond to claims, or go through legal hearings.

We Have Negotiation Experience

Negotiation is the very core of any legal case. No matter how severe your situation may be, there will always be the opportunity for you and your lawyer to advocate for your rights and negotiate a fair settlement. By working with an animal lawyer with strong negotiation skills, you can feel confident going into court or responding to a claim because you have help from a professional.

We Are Passionate About Animals’ Rights

Not every lawyer has the skills needed to advocate for animals and their rights. That’s why our firm works to provide accessible animal law services across the country. At The Animal Law Firm, we’ve seen how misunderstandings and accidents can quickly turn into massive issues. We are passionate about animals and protecting animal lovers and are always prepared to see how we can make a difference in your case.

We Have Helped Countless Clients Find Resolutions

While coming to a resolution isn’t always easy, having an animal lawyer on your side can help you receive a fair settlement and ensure your story is heard. By combining our negotiation and courtroom experience with our extensive knowledge of animal laws, our animal attorneys have helped countless clients find resolutions to complex cases. If you’re unsure whether you have a substantial case or you’re wondering how to defend yourself against a claim, ask our lawyers for help.

What Is Considered Animal Cruelty?

According to New York legislation, animal cruelty occurs when one or more individuals “unjustifiably” injure or kill an animal. Animal cruelty, which is also considered animal abuse, can involve intentionally overworking, torturing, maiming, mutilating, or severely neglecting any animal that you are supposed to care for. If you suspect that someone is abusing their animal and you can’t get animal rescue or local law enforcement to help, ask our team what legal options you have.

Animal cruelty can present itself in the following forms:

  • Refusing to feed or provide water to suffering animals
  • Hoarding animals
  • Organized animal fighting
  • Maiming or mutilating animals
  • Torturing or harming an animal excessively
  • Leaving animals outside in unsafe conditions for an extended period of time
  • Excessively punishing an animal to the point of injury or death

What Is the Difference Between Animal Cruelty and Neglect?

Technically speaking, severe neglect is a form of animal cruelty. However, the main factor that separates the two is the intention of the individual involved. Generally, animal cruelty occurs when an individual intentionally harms an animal through unjust, excessive, and harmful behaviors.

Neglect, on the other hand, occurs when an individual is not supplying an animal with the basic resources and care they need to live a healthy life. Because neglect may not always be intentional, there are some instances where it may not be considered unjustifiable cruelty. Animal neglect can look like:

  • Not providing animals with adequate food or water
  • Not providing animals with adequate shelter
  • Refusing medical care for animals who clearly need help
  • Making an animal’s shelter too hot or too cold, which ultimately decreases their health
  • Denying an animal any basic necessity that helps them to live a better life

New York’s Exotic Animal Laws

Both the state of New York and New York City have strict exotic animal laws. However, NYC’s laws are even more harsh due to its large population and lack of space. It is crucial that any New York resident looking to adopt a wild or exotic animal understands these laws to avoid legal issues or having their animal taken away. It’s also important to adhere to these laws so that wild animals can receive the care they need to live a happy life.

In New York, it is illegal to own, harbor, sell, exchange, release, or barter wild and dangerous animals. Wild and dangerous animals include, but are not limited to:

  • Big cats. Including leopards, tigers, lions, jaguars, mountain lions, lynxes, cheetahs, cougars, and more.
  • Dangerous zoo animals. Including bears, rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, elephants, and more.
  • Large canines. Including foxes, wolves, coyotes, hyenas, and undomesticated dogs.
  • Large or venomous reptiles. Including crocodiles, alligators, pythons, anacondas, komodo dragons, monitors, and other dangerous reptiles.
  • Primates. Including chimpanzees, orangutans, lemurs, and any other primate.
  • Sea mammals. Including dolphins, manatees, sea lions, seals, whales, and other large sea mammals.
  • Deer and deer-related animals. Including white-tailed deer, elk, caribou, antelopes, and more.
  • Predatory birds. Including large eagles, hawks, vultures, falcons, and more.

Animals that are legally allowed to be pets in New York include:

  • Domesticated dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses
  • Reptiles such as small, nonvenomous snakes and lizards
  • Certain small birds, such as parakeets, pigeons, parrots, canaries, hens, and chickens
  • Small animals such as hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and chinchillas
  • Legally approved small fish that are not endangered, native, or wild

New York’s Dog Laws

To keep other people and their animals safe and healthy, New York implemented multiple laws that dictate the responsibilities of dog owners. If you own a dog in New York, it’s essential that you educate yourself on this legislation to avoid any issues coming up in the future. The following are some of New York’s primary laws on dogs.

  1. Dog Licenses (New York State AGM Law C.69, §7-109)The state of New York requires every dog owner to acquire a license for their pet once they reach four months of age. The license will detail your dog’s characteristics, such as their birthday, eye color, sex, and age, as well as their vaccination record. To apply for a dog license, you must submit a form in the county you reside in. Your dog will need to wear it on their tag whenever you take them out. This helps others know they are safe and helps you find them if they get lost.
  2. Unleashed Dogs (NYC Health Code §161.05)Dogs are only permitted to roam off-leash in certain cities. However, in most big cities, your dog will most likely have to remain on its leash. For example, in New York City, an owner is responsible for controlling their dog at all times by keeping them restrained. A dog may not be unrestrained in public places or unfenced areas and must remain on a leash at all times. If an owner lets their unleashed dog get away and it harms another person or animal, they can be held liable in court.
  3. Nuisances and Sanitation (New York State Public Health Law C.45, §13-1310)It is the duty of dog owners or individuals in charge of dogs to clean up after their animals on streets, sidewalks, lawns, or any other public areas. If a dog owner is found violating this law, they may be fined up to $250. This law was implemented not only to help keep large cities clean but also to ensure that these cities are safe from biohazards and potential sanitation issues. However, these laws may not always apply to individuals with disabilities or service dogs.
  4. Dangerous Dogs ((New York State AGM Law C.69, §7-123)If someone is injured by a dog or witnesses a dog attack, they have the right to file a complaint and report the dog as dangerous. When someone reports a dangerous dog in New York, the case will go to a judge who will review a variety of factors to determine whether a dog is a threat. Generally, a dog will not be ruled as dangerous when they acted in self-defense because they thought something was a threat.However, if a dog unjustifiably attacks someone and seriously injures or kills them as a result, they will most likely be ruled as dangerous. When a dog is declared dangerous, there are a variety of consequences that may follow, ranging from their owner being fined to the dog requiring a muzzle or confinement. If someone accuses your dog of being dangerous without sufficient evidence, our team can defend you and your pet against false allegations.

What Should You Do If Someone Takes Your Pet in New York?

Whether you split up with your spouse and they took the dog without your consent or someone picked up your outdoor cat and refuses to give them back, our attorneys have experience with pet custody cases here in New York and can help you take legal action. While pet custody cases may be complicated, our team is prepared to do whatever we can to get your beloved animal back.

If someone took your pet without your consent, follow these steps to start a pet custody case in New York.

  1. Retain an Animal Attorney. Once someone has taken your pet, whether without your knowledge or after a long fight, you should retain an animal attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can evaluate your case and help you determine whether you have a substantial claim to file. If you have an adequate case, they can assist you in filing for pet custody and help you navigate the varying legal proceedings.
  2. Collect Evidence that Demonstrates Your Ownership. To be able to fight for custody of your animal, you’ll need to gather as many documents that prove your ownership as possible. These documents can include vaccination records, your dog license, your adoption papers, and any other records that you believe demonstrate your relationship with the animal in question. If you’re unable to prove your relationship with the pet, it will be challenging to fight for legal custody.
  3. File a Complaint for Pet Custody. As of 2021, individuals can now file legal claims regarding pet custody in New York. To file a claim, you’ll detail your relationship with the animal and the current custody issue at hand. Your lawyer can assist you with filling out the proper forms and ensuring you submit the complaint to the proper court.
  4. Fight for Custody. If your claim is accepted by the court, you will then have the opportunity to demonstrate why you believe you should have custody of your pet. In some cases, these matters may be settled privately outside of court, but if they become contentious, they must go to litigation. A judge will base their final pet custody decision on a variety of factors; however, the most important is the “best for all concerned” standard.
  5. Wait for a Final Decision. After considering what is optimal for both parties and the animal involved, a judge will make a final decision on pet custody. In some cases, the judge may decide it’s better for just one person to keep the pet if they have a strong connection. Other times, though, a judge may grant shared custody and order both individuals to coordinate physical custody of their pet.

When Is a Pet Considered Abandoned in New York?

According to New York State’s AGM laws, an animal is considered abandoned when:

  • The animal is left to die in a road, street, alley, field, or other unsafe place.
  • The animal is disabled and left alone in an unsafe place for more than three hours intentionally.
  • The animal is placed into the care of a rescuer, veterinarian, groomer, trainer, or other animal organization/service provider, and the owner does not come back for them.
  • An animal is found roaming and clearly has no owner, food source, or shelter.

Unfortunately, our firm has had many clients who have animals left behind with them. This is because groomers, trainers, kennels, and other businesses often find themselves with unwanted animals and don’t know what to do. If someone abandoned their animal and left them with you, you must file a legal notice and alert them that you have the animal.

If you alert the original owner of their potential abandonment and they do not reply, the animal will be considered abandoned officially after 20 days. If you do not have the space or capacity to care for the abandoned pet properly, you have the right to take them to a shelter or rescue, but you must notify the owner again. Being involved in a pet abandonment case is stressful and emotional, which is why we implore you to seek assistance from our compassionate team.


Q: Can You Still Live With Your Emotional Support Animal If Your Landlord Has a No-Pets Policy in New York?

A: According to fair housing laws in New York, a landlord must make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, impairments, and certain medical conditions. This means that generally, an emotional support animal will be exempt from a no-pets policy and should be able to live with you in New York. Your landlord can only deny your emotional support animal if they can prove the animal living with you will cause them harm in the end.

Q: What Is the “Best for All Concerned” Standard in Pet Custody?

A: While pet custody deals with the physical custody of an animal, it is not treated the same as child custody in New York. When a judge has to make a decision in a pet custody case, they use an approach known as the “best for all concerned standard.” This simply means they will consider factors that impact the life of the animal as well as both parties involved. The goal of this method is to make a decision that is “best” for everyone.

Q: Can You Receive Damages in a Veterinary Malpractice Case?

A: Yes. Because New York’s law considers animals to be a form of “property,” a negligent vet who harms or kills your animal can be held liable. This means you can file an injury claim against them. If you’re successful, you can receive one or more kinds of damages. Common damages awarded in veterinary malpractice cases include coverage of the animal’s medical care, compensation for emotional suffering, coverage to replace your animal, and even lost wages.

Q: What Is New York’s 90-Day Pet Law?

A: The 90-day pet law is a piece of legislation that allows residents to bypass their landlord’s no-pet policies. This law gives any individual who keeps a pet “openly and notoriously” in their home for 90 days the right to keep that pet if their landlord doesn’t take legal action against them. This means that if you adopt a dog while living in a no-pet apartment and your landlord is clearly aware that you have one and does nothing, the animal can permanently stay after 90 days.

Q: What Happens If You Don’t Have a Dog License in New York?

A: It is unlawful to own a dog without having an official license for them in New York. If you are found with a dog over four months old and do not have a license, you may be fined up to $250. If you refuse to get a license and ignore the fines from your previous notice, your dog may be taken away from you as a consequence. Make sure that you apply for a license as soon as your dog is of age to ensure you can own them legally.

The Animal Law Firm: Legal Services for Animal Lovers in New York

Here at The Animal Law Firm, we’re proud to say that we put animals first. We’ve seen countless cases handled poorly because animals are involved, and we are dedicated to advocating for both animals and their owners. If you or someone you love has a legal situation involving an animal in New York, contact The Animal Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with one of our renowned attorneys.



We know how important your furry family member is to you. Whether they have no legs, two legs, or four or more legs, our priority is making sure you and your pet receive the best representation possible.

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