A day in the life ... of a pet
You thought Johnnie Cochran had his hands full. This
guy's clients are animals, and he has a bone to pick with people
who abuse them.
||Law Offices of Jeffrey Delott, in New York City
||from $175 per hour
Did your Rover get run over? Did the vet kill your
snake by mistake, and now you don't have a leg to stand on? Though
the law doesn't always recognize pets for what they're worth, Jeffrey
Delott is fighting to make sure that every dog has his day -- in
The Manhattan lawyer has been a trailblazer in New
York fighting for pets' rights.
"Pets used to be work animals, but they are more domesticated
and have become companions," Delott says. "It's a special relationship
[between owner and pet.]"
Pet lemon law
So Delott dedicates the majority of his practice
to disputing cases involving pet custody, evictions because of pet
ownership, injuries by or to the animal, and malpractice by a pet's
caregiver. He also fights for the "pet lemon law" to protect owners
when the breeder or pet shop fails to disclose problems with the
Delott spends the day making phone calls, researching
laws and writing briefs in animals' favor. He also has speaking
engagements and responds to the numerous e-mails and phone calls
he gets for consultations. Ironically, though, his four-legged clients
can't visit him. His landlord doesn't allow pets in his office building.
Though Delott insists his work is much like any other
lawyer's practice, he recognizes that his clients need special recognition.
Often pets are viewed legally as possessions or objects, but Delott
insists they require different consideration under the law. "You
can't tell me that breaking a dog's leg is the same as breaking
the leg of a table," he says. "I am not telling you to equate a
cat with a human being, but a dog is closer to a friend or relative
than a chair on the floor."
The majority of his clients are not eccentric old
biddies. In fact, most are under 50 and just keeping their pet's
best interest at heart. "There is nothing really eccentric about
that at all," Delott says.
Delott graduated from the University of Pennsylvania
Law School in 1984, and he enjoyed a prestigious legal career in
a big firm. His career path slipped its leash when he married a
woman whose Maltese "was her life." The newlyweds began
to wonder what would happen to the dog if anything ever happened
to them. With the help of the American Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals, they lobbied for the right to leave the dog
Now he wins five-figure settlements for a variety
of cases, including one in which a lizard fell off its vet's table
If it sounds funny, Delott points out that he is working
to change the laws in his state to protect our favorite companions.
"I am trying to do this as seriously as possible," he says.
-- Updated: April 2, 2003