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Legal Beagle: Diary of a Canine Counselor

By Linda A. Cawley

Legal Beagle is an informative autobiographical account of the legal career of a specialist in dog law.

247 pages
New Horizon Press (1996)

Reviewed by: Eric Howard

Linda Cawley's dog law practice has resulted in her appearance (along with a transvestite) on a daytime TV talk show, and, of course, on a news show during the O. J. Simpson trial that was examining the issue of how Kato the dog might be questioned. The cases described in the book are such natural news stories that it is a surprise that she is not more famous. Her career began in San Diego when, after she handled a dog case successfully and a newspaper story about it appeared, her phone was ringing constantly the next Monday morning. Although since then she has appeared various times before courts that make it very clear that they would rather not be hearing the case of the purloined puppy, she has won many cases for her clients and helped right numerous wrongs.

Consider, for example, the case of the man who barked back at a dog. Brought into criminal court on animal cruelty charges after he barked back at a neighbor's dog, Cawley's client was facing penalties that weren't funny. Cawley prepared well for trial, impeached witnesses, and got a not guilty verdict after her client took the stand to demonstrate exactly how he barked back at his neighbor's large, friendly dog. The record showed that both witness and defendant agreed that the defendant's barking was more of a ruff ruff-ruff sound than a bow-wow-wow sound. Other cases, such as those involving divorces, have no leavening of humor, but in the book's many examples, Cawley's love of dogs and competence as a lawyer never fail to impress.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that pet law is a growing practice area. According to an article on the subject in the May 24, 2000, edition of the Los Angeles Times, the number of attorneys registered with the Animal Legal Defense Fund has recently increased to 600.

Eric Howard is associate editor of Los Angeles Lawyer.