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State bar considering animal law section

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The Indiana State Bar Association is seeking input from members on the possible addition of an animal law section.

The idea of adding an animal law section had been discussed in the past, but nothing ever came of it. Rebecca Huss, professor at Valparaiso University School of Law, contacted the bar association about trying to see if there was any interest in starting the new section.

Huss, who was named guardian/special master of the dogs in the civil forfeiture case of NFL quarterback Michael Vick, said 16 state bar associations already have similar sections and the American Bar Association has an animal law committee.

Animal law is growing across the country and it's better for Indiana to join with the other bar associations in the beginning as opposed to waiting, Huss said.

"We don't want to be the last ones setting up a section," she said.

The animal law section would provide members a forum to discuss legal issues, how to educate clients, and talk about laws in Indiana and how to interpret them. Huss emphasized that the section would be diverse and inclusive, and that many people may not realize they practice animal law, such as someone who works with trusts or prosecutors working on animal cruelty cases.

The first step in adding the section is to determine whether there is enough interest. If there is, the next step is to form a committee and create bylaws and a newsletter. The last section added to the state bar was construction in 2004.

Maryann Williams, director of section services at the ISBA, said she's already received several emails from interested attorneys. If you'd like to see the bar association create an animal law section, contact Williams at mwilliams@inbar.org. She said the bar association will be gauging the level of interest for about three months.

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