Students at the University of Virginia School of Law are learning how to represent some furry friends. A new class this fall is exploring issues surrounding animal law.
Mimi Riley is a professor at the law school and said animal law is a growing area in the legal field. "Animals are more valuable to people. In some cases animals have a different kind of value and so you are seeing cases that are testing the limits of what that value should be," said Riley.
Part of the students' curriculum looks at animal cruelty like a case in Orange County where a woman is facing criminal charges after 20 emaciated horses were seized from her farm in August.
“Just because the relationship people have with their own pets, you're seeing prosecutions for animal cruelty that might not have existed because people weren't aware of what the law was," said Riley.
There are less sinister topics the students are discussing as well. "There are practical questions like you know how animals are treated as property or how you can leave things to animals or can you leave things to animals in your will," said Corey Clay, third year UVA law student.
Some students said what they are learning will be useful on a case by cases basis.
"Whenever I do have the opportunity to make a change and to affect the animal law field, I absolutely will take that," said Sarah Cummings, 2nd year UVA law student.
In January, celebrity game show host Bob Barker donated a million dollars to the law school to establish the program.