Animals are routinely deprived of their homes, their liberty and even their lives. Yet, they are not guaranteed a lawyer to speak on their behalf. Since 1989 Lawyers In Defense Of Animals, Inc. ("LIDA") has provided that voice in New Jersey.

LIDA is committed to representing the interest of the proverbial "underdog" whether he or she takes the form of wildlife, farm animal or companion animal. Through its cooperating attorneys who work on a reduced fee or pro bono basis, LIDA works within the legal system and educates others to work within the legal system to send society the message that animals are not property but are sentient beings with inherent rights.

Fundamental among those rights is the right to counsel for every animal that faces loss of life or significant loss of liberty.

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About Us

Lawyers In Defense Of Animals, Inc. (LIDA) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation which has been working on behalf of animals in New Jersey since 1989.

LIDA's members are lawyers, law students, and animal lovers who support the goals and philosophy of LIDA. The knowledge, integrity and tenacity of our members and their unwavering focus on the interest of the animal at issue has earned LIDA the respect of the animal legal community.

We have a working relationship with prosecutors, SPCA agents, municipal and county health departments, animal control officers, veterinarians, rescue groups and shelters throughout New Jersey.

A growing awareness of the rights of animals and a burgeoning recognition of animal law as a discipline has increased the ranks of attorneys who seek to handle major impact litigation. LIDA, through its participating attorneys, also welcomes and handles these matters. LIDA attorneys are unique, however, in their willingness to provide representation for the multitude of seemingly mundane matters which those who share their lives with animals will routinely confront. While incrementally advancing the cause of animal rights with each such case, the impact for the individual animal involved is monumental. For the dog on death row, the cat whose guardian is evicted, or the Trap Neuter Return (TNR) colony whose caretaker faces prosecution, LIDA's intervention often makes the difference between life and death.

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Right to Counsel

Imagine being on death row with no legal representation. For countless dogs charged under the State's "vicious" dog act that is precisely their predicament. All too often they are prosecuted for simply acting as dogs - protecting their homes and their families. These cases are emotionally charged and often times politically motivated placing the dog and her guardian at a distinct disadvantage vis-a-vis the State. Frequently, the guardians are told to surrender their dogs for euthanasia or face high fines and prosecution. Those whose guardians do not succumb to the intimidation and who exercise their right to a trial must be prepared to pay legal fees, impound fees, which mount daily, expert fees, veterinary costs and court costs.

The plight of the death row dog is symbolic of all animals for whom LIDA is seeking to establish and assert rights within the legal system. It is mirrored by:
  • the colony of Trap Neuter Return (TNR) cats being torn from their home and caretaker;
  • the bull indentured to the rodeo;
  • the geese being rounded up for extermination.
Where conviction carries potential consequences of significant magnitude, the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees humans the right to counsel. Non-human animals facing significant curtailment of their liberty or even loss of their life have no such right.

LIDA believes that the fundamental right to counsel should extend to all animals who face a loss of life or a significant loss of their liberty.

LIDA cooperating attorneys work on a pro bono or reduced fee so the dollars go further but money is still required for legal fees, expert fees and court costs. The stock market is referred to as bullish or bearish but the truth is that neither bulls, bears or other wildlife nor farm animals or companion animals invest in the market, have bank accounts, or even stash money under the mattress. This is not the currency of their lives. Money, however, is necessary if LIDA is to continue to fight for their interests within our legal system. For all of these animals your dollars provide the key to the courthouse and may mean the difference between life and death.
Your contributions to the LIDA Right To Counsel campaign will help:
  1. Provide a lawyer to represent the interest of every animal facing loss of life or significant loss of liberty.
  2. Balance the scales of justice by providing money for experts, investigators, and court costs.
  3. Counter intimidation with education - educating guardians as to their rights and responsibilities.
  4. Ensure that LIDA's victories translate into lives saved - providing the financial resources to implement court orders and negotiated settlements, and to support LIDA rescue.
Please give generously so LIDA can continue its work.

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LIDA Cases

Police shootings of pit bulls and dogs mistaken for pit bulls have reached epidemic proportions. Civil rights actions can and should be filed against the police in these circumstances. Those whose guardians are of modest means have no legal recourse and their death or disability goes uncompensated and the officers' wrongful actions continue undeterred.

LIDA cooperating attorneys filed suit against the offending officers who LIDA believes often shoot pit bulls and those they mistake for pit bulls because of who they are, not what they did.

Animals are routinely evicted from their homes: A cat colony is evicted because a municipality suddenly decides to implement or enforce a no feeding ordinance. Dogs and cats face homelessness along with their guardians because a town decides to pass or enforce a limit law. Guardians along with their animals face displacement because a co-op or condo association imposes mounting fines alleging violation of a no pet provision of the governing documents.

Because the number of animals they shelter often subject them to unwanted attention, those who provide foster homes for rescue groups and shelters and those who do rescue themselves disproportionately find themselves on the receiving end of eviction notices or municipal charges. Having depleted their funds on the care of the animals these latter individuals rarely have funds for legal fees.

When other attorneys fail to accept these cases due to financial limitations of those seeking counsel, LIDA cooperating attorneys provide guidance and representation on a pro bono or reduced fee basis.

Shelters and rescue groups face a multitude of situations which entangle them in the legal arena. A foster home is sued for injuries allegedly inflicted by one of its fosters. An animal becomes ill after adoption allegedly infecting the adopter's other animals. A shelter animal stressed by its surroundings bites.

LIDA cooperating attorneys provide much needed guidance and legal support for these not-for-profit corporations.

Two cases exemplify LIDA's role in representing rescue groups: In the first a municipality sought to have animal control confiscate animals from a severely overcrowded environment. A private rescue group agreed that the animals needed to be removed but wanted to ensure that sufficient time would be provided to find foster homes for the large number of animals. A LIDA cooperating attorney protected the interests of the animals by representing the group at the court hearing.

The result of LIDA's intervention was a Court Order which authorized the rescue group to act and provided it with a realistic time frame within which to accomplish its mission. Animals were rehomed rather than euthanized.

The second case involved a more tragic scenario. The executor of an estate had abandoned the formerly indoor cats of the decedent outside in the dead of winter. Prior to the involvement of rescue many cats had already succumbed to the cold and to starvation. Once involved, the rescue group worked tirelessly through difficult conditions to ensure the survival of the remaining cats. Bills for veterinary care mounted. When the SPCA brought charges against the executor a LIDA cooperating attorney intervened on behalf of the rescue group. The plea agreement which was ultimately achieved not only provided for the defendant to pay fines to the SPCA but also that the defendant reimburse Rescue for a portion of the considerable sums expended. LIDA represented the interest of the animals by securing the financial resources necessary for the rescue to continue its lifesaving efforts on behalf of the cats.

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Puppy Adoption

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is LIDA and what does it do?
LIDA is Lawyers In Defense of Animals, Inc., a small but dedicated network of New Jersey licensed attorneys with expertise in animal-related legal matters. LIDA becomes involved with legal matters in which an animal's well-being, or even its life, may be at stake. LIDA's emphasis is on the animals and how to use the legal system to help them. LIDA cooperating attorneys work to protect the animals and, as a result, indirectly help the people who animals are the subject of a situation that requires attorney advice or assistance.

2. What kinds of legal cases does LIDA get involved with?
The kinds of legal matters in which LIDA cooperating attorneys can help are as various as the situations where animals are in jeopardy. For example, LIDA cooperating attorneys have petitioned the courts to enjoin deer and bear hunts; they have appeared in court to keep feral cat colonies from being destroyed; they have established trusts for companion animals; they have represented those facing eviction because they would not relinquish their companion animal; and disabled individuals who were told they could no longer have their therapy animal. LIDA cooperating attorneys have litigated vicious dog cases and have worked to close down "pet shops" and breeders who mistreat animals.

3. Can LIDA help me if I have a legal problem involving one of my animals?
It depends on the situation, whether legal issues are involved, whether court appearances or litigation are likely, and whether LIDA cooperating attorneys are available. The best thing to do when you are in an animal-related situation that you anticipate will require legal expertise is to contact LIDA at that time. A LIDA representative can discuss your problem with you, determine whether you need legal assistance, and try to locate a LIDA cooperating attorney who can assist you.

4. Does LIDA only help if I have to go to court?
No. It is much more common for a LIDA cooperating attorney to offer advice that helps people deal with or control the situation for which they contacted LIDA in the first instance. LIDA cooperating attorneys can negotiate, attend a conference, review documents such as releases or contracts, help you obtain public records, research the law, and so on. In many instances, animal-related matters do not go to court, and are resolved without the time and expense generated by litigation.

5. I do not live in New Jersey. Can LIDA help me anyway?
Right now, LIDA cooperating attorneys are primarily licensed in New Jersey and practice law in New Jersey. If you live in another State, LIDA may be able to refer you to a similar organization in your state.

6. Can I become LIDA cooperating attorney?
LIDA welcomes new attorneys willing to "sign on" because there are always more animals who need attorneys than there are available attorneys. If you are licensed in New Jersey, and would like to join LIDA as an attorney, please e-mail LIDA and a LIDA member will contact you directly.

7. I am not an attorney. Is there anything else I can do for LIDA?
Yes. Several LIDA members are paralegals, some are associated with animal rescue groups and animal rights organizations. Some members simply want to work with the legal system for the benefit and protection of all animals, companion, domestic, and wild. Yes, you can join LIDA as a non-member.

8. How does LIDA fund its operations?
LIDA is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-for-profit corporation. It relies solely on donations and membership fees. To donate, click here.

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Kitten Adoption

Contact Us

If you wish to get in touch with LIDA please feel free to contact us using the following information.

Linda Niedweske, Esq: 973-401-0064
Isabelle Strauss, Esq:: 732-255-4696
Marie Ansari, Rescue Liaison 908-756-7521

For general information: info@njlida.org
For information regarding animal adoption: adoption@njlida.org

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