Animal Rights



Representative Matters


Deans Cows

Animal Rights Law includes:

  • Animal welfare
  • Law enforcement and defense of cruelty investigators
  • Wildlife management
  • Zoning of animal rescues/businesses
  • Litigation
  • Advocacy Efforts

Animal law is a growing and diverse area of the law in which Young/Sommer attorneys have represented not-for-profit corporations, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, citizens’ groups, municipalities and individuals. This area of expertise includes animal welfare issues, advocacy for wildlife species, tort liability, including law enforcement and cruelty investigations, and land use issues arising from animal rescue and fostering operations.

Animal law issues arise in the context of zoning applications and enforcement proceedings, enforcement of animal cruelty proceedings, enforcement of dangerous dog proceedings, individual tort actions and environmental assessments. Our attorneys are well-versed in these practice areas and have represented clients on all sides of these issues.

On an issue of first impression in the Federal Appeals Court, Second Circuit, in New York, Young/Sommer obtained a significant legal precedent for SPCA investigators threatened with civil liability for their animal cruelty investigations. The Second Circuit held that those investigators could not be held liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for civil rights violations. The Second Circuit agreed with Young/Sommer that, while in some instances an SPCA is a state actor, that the individuals are entitled to the qualified immunity defense and not subject to civil rights liability.

In addition, New York State continually develops and expands its programs for wildlife management; this process includes consideration of lethal and nonlethal methods for wildlife management. It is crucial for wildlife advocacy groups to participate in the State’s decision-making process and submit comments and alternative strategies for the State to consider. Our attorneys are equipped to advise and assist advocacy groups through this process.

Young/Sommer has worked extensively with national and local animal rights and animal welfare organizations, municipalities and individuals in finding solutions for these diverse animal law issues. Young/Sommer has success in reaching collaborative resolutions and when necessary is experienced to handle any necessary litigation.

The firm’s Animal Rights practice group includes Dean S. Sommer, Jeffrey S. Baker, James A. Muscato, II, Kristin Laviolette Pratt, Jessica R. Vigars and Sue H.R. Adler.


The following Young/Sommer attorneys represent clients in this practice area.

Dean S. SommerDean S. Sommer

Dean S. Sommer (Partner) concentrates on the litigation and/or negotiation of environmental and toxic tort matters addressing the release of hazardous substances, hazardous waste, petroleum and solid waste into the environment. Chambers USA, in its 2004 Guide, stated that Mr. Sommer is “a noted litigator” whose “expertise is on show in Superfund, RCRA and CWA issues.”


Jeffrey S. BakerJeffrey S. Baker

Jeffrey S. Baker has extensive experience in environmental, zoning and land use law. He has represented both the public and private sector, including major environmental organizations in the permitting and opposition to major commercial and industrial projects.


James A. Muscato IIJames A. Muscato II

Jim Muscato is a partner and his practice focuses on environmental and energy law and litigation. Jim assists clients in environmental permitting, State Environmental Quality Review Act issues, alternative energy project development, pollution cleanup and litigation.


Kristin Laviolette PrattKristin Laviolette Pratt

Kristin Laviolette Pratt (Associate) has been practicing environmental law, commercial litigation, and real property law at Young/Sommer LLC since 2005. Kristin has represented both corporate and individual clients before the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in negotiating regulatory proceedings as well as before local government boards.


Sue H.R. AdlerSue H.R. Adler

Sue H.R. Adler, of Counsel since 2007, has handled complex litigation in federal and State court for the past 30 years. Ms. Adler has extensive experience in all aspects of civil litigation, including litigation strategy and risk assessment, pretrial discovery, motion practice, trials, and appeals.


Fabrikant v. French, 328 F Supp 2d 303, 310-12 (ND NY 2004)

Fabrikant v. French, 722 F Supp 2d 249 (ND NY 2010); affd on appeal, 691 F3d 193 [2d Cir 2012]

Macris v. Matta, 2012 NY Slip Op. 08701 (2d Dept. 2012)

The firm successfully defended an appeal made by landowners who sought $400,000 in property damages allegedly stemming from the acts of wild beavers on the… Read More