ISAR’s founder, the late Helen Jones, was one of the early pioneers in what would become known as the Animal Rights movement. She fervently believed that humans have a moral responsibility to animals that can be satisfied only by working toward an end to their suffering and exploitation. 


International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation chartered in 1959 under the laws of the District of Columbia, United States of America. ISAR’s sole mission since its inception has been to use law, education, and legislation to promote and advance Animal Rights. 

ISAR was incorporated under the name of National Catholic Society for Animal Welfare, and renamed Society for Animal Rights in the 1970s. In the 1980s, to better identify the organization’s mission, the word “International” was added. Having been chartered in 1959 – over sixty years ago – ISAR is one of the few original non-shelter animal protection organizations in the United States.  

International Society for Animal Rights was likely the first organization in the United States to express in its corporate name the moral principle guiding our mission. 


A half-century ago, at Society for Animal Right’s annual meeting in 1972, Professor Holzer first articulated his vision of using the law on behalf of Animal Rights.  His speech, entitled “Lobbying in the Courts,” explained how rights-oriented groups such as the NAACP, ACLU, National Consumer League, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others, had successfully used the American legal system to foster their political, religious, cultural and economic agendas. Professor Holzer emphasized that, for better or worse, “if five members of the Supreme Court of the United States can be convinced that a given thing should or should not be done, opposition of even the United States Senate, House of Representatives, and President can be overcome. One can ‘lobby’ successfully in federal and state courts simply by convincing only a few judges.”

After Professor Holzer’s speech, during the infancy of the Animal Rights law movement Harvard University’s Office of Government and Community Affairs sponsored an in-depth study of the emerging Animal Rights/Welfare movement. The study examined the movement’s tactics, strategies, and long-term goals. Harvard recognized that there was a conceptual dichotomy in the movement by observing in its Report that “philosophically, animal rights/welfare groups can be classified as abolitionists or regulationists. The abolitionists, such as International Society for Animal Rights . . . constitute a minority within a movement. They are, however, also the most diligent, tactical, and clear thinking. They use the law, publications and education to work for their ultimate goals.” (Italics added.) 


Helen Jones’s profound insight –that the essential strategy for securing and enhancing Animal Rights was through law, education, and legislation – is the mission that ISAR has been loyal to for decades. To implement that mission, during those years ISAR developed and fostered a wide variety of programs. 


In her seminal law review article, “The Birth of Animal Rights Law: The Role of Lawyers in the Animal Rights/Protection Movement from 1972-1987,” Joyce Tischler, Esq., founder and former president of Animal Legal Defense Fund, “explored the roots of a large scale, organized movement, which started in the early 1970s in the United States, spearheaded by attorneys and law students with the express purpose of filing lawsuits to protect animals and establish the concept of their legal rights, regardless of the species of the animals or the ownership interest of humans.” In that article, Ms. Tischler identifies as “the first animal rights lawyer” in the United States, ISAR’s long-time chairman, Professor Henry Mark Holzer.

Ms. Tischler credits Professor Holzer with three accomplishments crucial to establishing the field of what today is known throughout the world as “Animal Law. With the support of ISAR, he 

    1. Brought the first federal (Jones v. Butz) and first state (Jones v. Beame) lawsuits to explicitly invoke the moral concept of “Animal Rights.”
    2. Founded the Animal Rights Law Reporter, which became “the legal clearing house for animal rights law information.” 
    3. Organized the “First National Conference on Animal Rights Law” – an undertaking, in Ms. Tischler’s words, “[t]he significance of which cannot be overstated.” 

In Jones v. Butz, on behalf of a wide-range of plaintiffs Professor Holzer challenged sections of the federal Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act on the ground that its religious exemption – which effectively nullified the act’s protection for countless livestock animals – violated the religious freedom provisions of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

In Beame, Professor Holzer on behalf of ISAR’s Helen Jones and ISAR itself, sued to close the Central Park zoo in New York City on the ground that the treatment of the animals confined there violated the anti-cruelty statutes of the State of New York.

The Animal Rights Law Reporter began publication in 1980. Each issue began with a segment entitled, “In the Courts,” which outlined significant court cases involving animals, and contained a section entitled “In the Legislatures,” where recent animal-related laws were discussed. “In the Legal Literature” provided updates on pertinent legal articles. Finally, the Reporter included quarterly “Bulletin Board” and “Available Resources” sections, and an “Editor’s Comment” written by Professor Holzer. 

In 1981, Professor Holzer and ISAR organized and sponsored the “First National Conference on Animal Rights Law,” attended by Joyce Tischler and other lawyers interested in Animal Law. At that conference, for the first time Professor Holzer publicly articulated to a group of lawyers his vision for using law and the legal system on behalf of animals. Throughout the conference he consistently used the phrase “Animal Law.”

Largely thanks to Ms. Tischler and a few colleagues, the major result of the Conference was to coalesce the attending lawyers and others into an informal network of like-minded individuals, and to identify the tools necessary to create an entirely new, separate field of law—one which would take its deserved place among other long-recognized practice areas such as corporate law, property law, criminal law, and many others. That network transitioned into the effective Animal Legal Defense Fund.

A decade later, ISAR and Professor Holzer organized and sponsored a conference in Washington, D.C., entitled “Killing the Crisis, Not the Animals: An International Symposium on Dog and Cat Overpopulation,” an infamous source of Animal Rights’ violations.

The conference’s prestigious attendees included Maneka Gandhi. At the conclusion of the conference, Gandhi was quoted as saying “By attending ISAR’s International Symposium on Dog and Cat Overpopulation I learned a great deal and ISAR probably changed all of India as a result.” It certainly has!  

Throughout the ensuing years, Professor Holzer and ISAR provided general legal information, analyses, and guidance to the Animal Rights law movement. 

In addition, they have counseled animal rights/welfare organizations on legal topics, developed widely distributed reports on animal legal issues, presented seminars on animal rights/welfare subjects  participated in Animal Rights/Welfare symposia, advised the Pet Assistance Foundation on legal issues affecting animals, helped educate the public about the legal rights of animals, contributed to the creation of Animal Rights literature, and produced considerable writing on the subject of Animal Rights and the use of law to further them. 

Professor Holzer and ISAR have filed amicus curiae (“friend-of-the-court’) legal briefs on behalf of International Society for Animal Rights and other animal protection organizations, consulted with the lawyers for the parties, and, for example, submitted non-constitutional amicus curiae briefs in the California Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of the State of California.   

Constitutional amicus curiae briefs filed by ISAR in the Supreme Court of the United States include United States v. Stevens and Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc v. City of Hialeah, Florida). (Joining Professor Holzer on the briefs was Lance Gotko, Esq. of the New York City law firm Friedman Kaplan Siler & Adelman.)  

The Stevens brief was in support of the federal government’s argument that the statute criminalizing the making, selling, or possessing depictions of “crush videos” and other torture and killing of animals was constitutional. 

In the Hialeah case, Professor Holzer and Mr. Gotko on behalf of ISAR and eleven other animal protection organizations filed amicus curiae briefs in the Supreme Court of the United States in support of the City of Hialeah’s ordinance that prohibited the Santeria cult from sacrificing animals as part of its alleged religious ceremony.  


United States

Today, there are scores of federal and state cases involving animals pending in trial and appellate courts throughout the United States, presenting issues of experimentation, hunting, farming, sport, education, spay/neuter, breeding, and more. ISAR has advised some of their lawyers, and supported some of the cases financially. 

There is a burgeoning interest of lawyers, law schools and the legal profession in Animal Law. 

Thousands of pages of Internet research on Animal Law are available. 

Model statutes, many drafted by Professor Holzer, are appearing throughout the United States in legislative bodies from city councils to the Congress of the United States. 

ISAR’s “SEEDS” program awards recognition to scores of individuals and non-profit organizations for their outstanding contributions to the field of animal law. 

Courses on Animal Rights law have been taught in dozens of law schools of America. ISAR is proud to be a financial supporter of this important program.

There are several law school casebooks available for the teaching of those courses. 

Various animal law conferences of national scope are held throughout the United States annually. 

Academic journals studying Animal Law are proliferating in colleges and law schools in the United States.   

Animal Rights Law Reporter – a critical element of Animal Law’s founding – has become part of the permanent online collection of the Animal Legal and Historical Center at Michigan State University College of Law. 

Lewis & Clark Law School’s Center for Animal Law Studies continues its LL.M program in Animal Law, supported financially in part by scholarship grants from ISAR.  

International Homeless Animals Day. (IHAD™), conceived and commemorated by ISAR in 1992, (IHAD™), will celebrate its thirtieth consecutive year in 2021. 

Billboards—almost exclusively ISAR’s—appear throughout the United States, mostly sending the spay/neuter message. 

Animals Today Radio—the only broadcasting and streaming program of its kind in America—marked its twelfth anniversary in 2020. Since its inception in 2009, ISAR has been its principal sponsor.  


ISAR has been gratified to see that the Animal Law movement that began in the United States continues to gather strong momentum in our country.  Equally gratifying, is that throughout the world other individuals, entities and even governments have embraced our noble cause. 

Just one of many examples is an action taken recently by the Congress of the Republic of Peru. 

As a public health policy, the law requires mandatory spaying and neutering of dogs and cats in order to reduce pet overpopulation. The legislation also requires local government to provide low-cost sterilization services to pet owners.

In translation from Spanish, the following is the statement of Peru’s Congress’s mission:

. . . to achieve the highest level of protection and welfare of pets, whatever their circumstances. The sterilization of animals and their responsible buying . . .  and selling, as fundamental pillars to avoid overpopulation and abandonment. The International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR), postulates mandatory sterilization regulations.” 

At least several Animal Law conferences are held throughout the world annually.

Scholarly journals devoted to Animal Law are being published.

ISAR has consulted with, and financially supported, a foreign NGO in a major Animal Rights legal case.  Other Animal Rights cases are pending in other countries.

ISAR LL.M scholarship grantees, Tess Vickery (Australia) and Diego Plaza (Chile) are working effectively in their home countries. 

More and more lawyers, law schools and the legal profession are developing interest in Animal Law.

There are thousands of pages of Internet research available on the subject of Animal Law. 

Model statutes, many drafted by Professor Holzer, are appearing elsewhere throughout the world.

International beneficiaries of ISAR’s “SEEDS” awards are engaged in Animal Rights law activities throughout the world, including but not limited to Slovakia, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Spain, New Zealand, Chile, India and Peru. 

Courses on Animal Rights law have been taught in dozens of law schools in America and elsewhere including India, Australia, and Spain.  

The Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law—a new organization, likely to become a major intellectual force in the Animal Law field—is sponsoring an “Animal Rights Law Essay Competition 2020-2021.” In the Centre’s words, “The first prize is kindly sponsored by the International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR).” 


Predicting the course of philosophical, moral, cultural, or legal change is problematic at best, because it is the task of a society’s intellectuals to change its ideas. At root, it was ideas that drove the American founding, and other ideas that drove its antithesis. It has been ideas that has driven the recognition of Animal Rights, and its natural consequence of Animal Rights law.

Thus, while in furtherance of Helen Jones’s and International Society for Animal Rights’ decades-old mission we will continue to support the Animal Rights/Animal Law programs and activities we have in the past, going forward ISAR will plow new ground. We will seek and support the underlying rationales for Animal Rights/Animal Law, as they are found in intellectual and scholarly sources such as books, journals, Master’s theses, Ph.D. dissertations, and the like.

[1] Henry Mark Holzer is Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn Law School.

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