Want to Learn More?

Want to Learn More?

Important Dates

Fall Semester Begins

August 12th, 2024


Fall Application Deadline

May 19th, 2024

Why Do I Need a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) Degree in Animal Law?

Do I Need an MSL Degree

Are you a non-lawyer interested in protecting animals? Are you concerned about animal welfare and want to make an impact in the lives of nonhuman animals? Do you wonder which educational qualification can best position you to help protect animals? If the answer to any of the questions above is “yes”, a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) in Animal Law from the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) at Lewis & Clark Law School can help you meet your goals.

Animal welfare is increasingly being recognized as an important public policy issue across the globe. As a result, animal protection is already an established topic in many fields of knowledge and is increasingly becoming an emerging topic in new fields of study. Knowledge of laws affecting animals can help professionals from all backgrounds. Our MSL in Animal Law Program allows non-lawyers to familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of Animal Law and to build on their existing skill sets to generate a positive impact for animals.

Our MSL Degree in Animal Law is designed for non-lawyers who want to focus on animal law in advocacy, academia, research, public policy, and more. The degree prepares graduates to work with animal protection organizations in roles where they would need to have a firm grasp of animal protection laws and issues, animal law-related policy and/or regulatory work, animal law education, and more. Candidates seeking the MSL degree include veterinarians, academics, scientists, journalists and animal advocates currently working in nonprofits, who want to engage in informed advocacy, and those who wish to braid animal law research and policy into other areas of scholarship.

CALS offers the MSL Degree in both in-person and online formats. The fully asynchronous Online MSL degree has the additional flexibility of allowing students to start the program in either the Fall or Spring semester and to graduate in as little as four terms. If you are working a full-time job, have personal obligations, or both, the Online MSL degree provides flexibility because students watch lectures and complete their work asynchronously by assigned due dates.

You might still be wondering: “Do I need an MSL Degree in Animal Law? How will an MSL in Animal Law benefit me?” There are numerous ways in which an MSL degree can help your career in animal welfare and protection. 

First, non-lawyers can benefit from understanding how the legal system works to protect (or even exploit) animals and can use this knowledge to improve the lives of animals through the law. The rights and interests of animals, as well as animal-related activities, are regulated in the U.S. by federal laws, as well as state statutes, and local ordinances. Similar statutory schemes exist in countries around the world, with the content of the law varying by jurisdiction (even within the same country or state). In order to promote changes in any system, it is essential to have a solid grasp of how the system works.

Second, studying animal law helps non-lawyers gain the ability to identify the strengths and limitations of the law as an instrument to improve behaviors and societal values. Non-lawyers may be surprised to learn that some of the most exploitative and cruel practices that are inflicted on animals are largely legally condoned. Thus, having a legal background in animal law provides an understanding of many of the issues that impact animals’ lives, and this substantive legal knowledge empowers non-lawyers to change these institutionalized cruel practices. 

Lastly, the MSL degree allows non-lawyers to explore the legal systems and animal laws of the U.S. and on a comparative basis, other countries. The study of differences and similarities between the legal systems of different countries enables professionals to identify how animals’ interests are being advanced through law in various parts of the world, with professionals being able to replicate those advances in their own countries.

Our Animal Law MSL alumni are well-equipped to improve the lives of animals following graduation. For example, MSL graduate Dr. Anna Birgitta Wahlberg (Finland, MSL ’23) is a university lecturer in public law at the Åbo Akademi University, Finland. In addition to her animal law teaching and scholarship work in Finland, Dr. Wahlberg has been instrumental in advancing a constitutional bill to create fundamental rights of animals within the Finnish Constitution, which was also the focus of her projects within her classes in the MSL program. Due to the tireless work of Dr. Wahlberg and her colleagues at the Finnish Animal Rights Law Society, the proposal to include fundamental animal rights in the Finnish Constitution was introduced as a Bill to Parliament in late 2022. 

As the President of the Finnish Animal Rights Law Society, Dr. Wahlberg and her colleagues work to develop the legal status of animals as well as carry out research and organize seminars and events related to animal law.

Frequently Asked Questions

CALS’ Animal Law LLM is designed for U.S. and international law graduates and attorneys seeking to focus on animal law in practice, teaching, research, academia, or policy. On the other hand, the MSL in Animal Law degree is designed for non-lawyers who want to focus on animal law in advocacy, academia, research, public policy, and more.

Animal Law MSL graduates are equipped to work for animal protection organizations or for other employers in positions where a knowledge of animal law would be helpful or even required, but where the position would not require practicing law. Such areas include lobbying work for a state or national animal protection entity, including wildlife, equine, aquatic, companion, and farmed animal law organizations, as well as those indirectly related to animal protection, such as plant-based food law, and environmental justice organizations. Other careers include animal law education, journalism, science, outreach and advocacy, policymaking, and more.

No, the Animal Law MSL does not allow graduates to sit for U.S. bar exams or practice law.

Applicants must hold or obtain by the start of their matriculation a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited U.S. or international institution. Neither an LSAT nor GRE score is required to apply.

You can find a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions about the MSL degree, admission requirements and curricular offerings on our MSL FAQ page.

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