Bruce Wagman has dedicated his career to defending and improving animal lives. He is the only lawyer in a leading United States firm focusing solely on animal law. Bruce is the author of Animal Law: Cases and Materials, the main casebook for law school courses, and the lead author of A Worldview of Animal Law, the only global survey of animal law. He focuses on using his legal experience and creativity to foster a kinder world for all species.

Bruce has experience in virtually every aspect of the law pertaining to animals. He takes on issues including the use of animals in entertainment, biomedical research, animal agriculture/food production, animal cruelty, and wildlife control; as well as individualized cases involving dog bites, animal custody disputes, and injuries to, and caused by, animals. Bruce’s forte is his passion for each of his cases and his proven ability to turn that passion into winning arguments. He takes an “eyes on the prize” approach to litigation matters, always seeking to avoid trial while working toward a positive result for his clients. 

Bruce’s clients include numerous animal protection organizations as well as private individuals.  He has worked on behalf of many species, including birds, cats, chickens, chimpanzees, cows, deer, dogs, dolphins, ducks, elephants, elk, gorillas, horses (domestic and wild), lions, mice, monkeys, pigs, sharks, turkeys, and wolves.

  • Experience

    • National Meat Association v. Brown (U.S. Supreme Court) – Defended California law requiring humane treatment of animals too sick or injured to stand or walk; prevailed at the Ninth Circuit.
    • Front Range Equine Rescue v. Vilsack – Obtained temporary restraining order preventing the initiation of commercial horse slaughter for human consumption; part of a multifaceted administrative/legislative program to end horse slaughter in the United States.
    • Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest – Negotiated release of chimpanzees subjected to decades of biomedical research, and founding member of board of directors providing the chimpanzees’ permanent sanctuary in Washington State.
    • Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Woodley — Using unique North Carolina law, ALDF successfully sued animal abusers, resulting in rescue of approximately 350 dogs and 21 birds from an animal hoarder who kept the dogs warehoused in squalid conditions. After winning the dogs, Bruce assisted with the appeal, physical rescue, rehabilitation and long-term foster care for all of the dogs.
    • Chesley Morton et al. v. Georgia Department of Agriculture — Oversaw team that sued the state of Georgia Department of Agriculture to enforce Georgia's Humane Euthanasia Act and help put an end to the illegal and inhumane gassing of domestic animals in Georgia's animal shelters.
    • Chimps, Inc. v. Primarily Primates — Represented two sanctuaries and fought for and obtained permanent homes for nine gibbons and two chimpanzees that had been taken from a situation where they were exposed to daily neglect and cruelty.
    • Animal custody – Bruce has represented clients in several cases involving disputes over pets, which range from mediation and negotiation to extended civil litigation.
    • Dog bites/vicious and dangerous dogs – Bruce defends the owners of dogs threatened with designation as “vicious” and/or “dangerous”, in order to prevent the imposition of restrictions or euthanasia after bite incidents.
  • Credentials


    • University of California - Hastings College of the Law, J.D., 1991, magna cum laude
      Order of the Coif
      Thurston Society
      Hastings Law Journal, Articles Editor
    • Columbia University School of Nursing, B.S.N., 1981
    • Cornell University, B.S., 1979

    Bar Admissions

    • California
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
    • U.S. District Court for the Central District of California


        Hon. William H. Orrick, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (1991–1992)

        Judicial Extern — Hon. James Browning, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit (1990)

        Professional Memberships

        American Bar Association

        Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section


        Bar Association of San Francisco

        Appellate Practice Section

        Teaching Appointments

        Adjunct Professor, Animal Law:

        • University of California Hastings College of the Law
        • University of California, Berkeley – Boalt Hall School of Law
        • Stanford Law School
      • Insights


        Litigation Involving Shelters

        Symposium: Animal Shelter Law

        Seattle, Wash.

        Spreading the Word

        Animal Law Committee Newsletter

        News Release

        Five Schiff Hardin Lawyers Named to 2016 Northern California Super Lawyers, Rising Stars Lists

        The Super Lawyers selection methodology includes a statewide nomination process, peer review by practice area, and independent research on candidates.

        In The News

        Sharks Need Friends, Too

        Partner Bruce Wagman was highlighted in this American Lawyer article for his defense of the California laws that prohibit the possession and distribution of shark fins and operate to stop the cruel practice of shark finning.


        Companion Animal Controversy – Custody Disputes and Dangerous Dog Litigation

        The Bar Association of San Francisco’s Arbitration Section

        San Francisco, Calif.

        Shelter Law

        Animal Law Committee Newsletter

        In The News

        New Mexico Succeeds in Legal Fight to Bar Horse Slaughter

        Partner Bruce Wagman was quoted in numerous publications after a court order prohibited a horse slaughter operation from ever operating in New Mexico.

        In The News

        Wild Horses Couldn’t Keep Them Out of Court

        Partner Bruce Wagman was quoted in this Courthouse News Service article after Front Range Equine Rescue sued the Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Board of Land Appeals over a federal breeding program.


        Constitutional Animal Law

        Animal Law Committee Newsletter


        Animal Law For All Practitioners

        Los Angeles, Calif.

        Other Publications

        • "Growing Up with Animal Law: From Courtrooms to Casebooks," in Turning Points In Compassion: Personal Journeys of Animals Advocates (2015)
        • "Animal Law: Cases and Materials," Fifth Edition (co-author) Carolina Academic Press (May 2014) — the first casebook for animal law courses in law schools, first published in 2000
        • “Orca Welfare Law Is a Strong Step Forward,” Daily Journal (Mar. 19, 2014)
        • "A Worldview of Animal Law," (co-author) Carolina Academic Press (Jun. 1, 2011)

        Speeches & Presentations

        • “Litigation Involving Shelters,” Symposium: Animal Shelter Law (Oct. 5, 2016)
        • “Animal Law For All Practitioners,” (Oct. 12, 2015)
        • “Who Gets the Animals?” Companion Animal Custody and the Law (Oct. 6, 2015)
        • “From Legislation to Litigation: Progress and Hurdles in the Puppy Mill Battle” (Sep. 26, 2015)
        • “Litigation as a Means of Changing and Interpreting Law,” (Sep. 18, 2015)

        Bruce is a frequent speaker at animal welfare legal conferences. He also teaches animal law classes at three Bay Area law schools and is a guest lecturer at law schools across the country.

      • Citizenship

        Pro Bono Activities

        Bruce engages in significant pro bono work, both in his litigation and consultation practice. He is a board member and advisor to several organizations including Marin Humane Society, Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, and the United States Equine Rescue League. He is also a member of the Panel of Experts for the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance.