Animal Law Areas of Practice

Administrative Law:  

  • Want to challenge and appeal an action by animal control officers or humane investigators who capriciously label your companion animal as “dangerous” or “potentially dangerous”? Victimized by an illegal impound? Deprived of your constitutional rights due to lack of due process? Disagree with a permit denial?

Mr. Karp estimates having evaluated and/or handled over 1000 such cases, including those that have changed or clarified the law, such as Mansour v. King Cy., 131 Wash.App. 255 (I, 2006) and Downey v. Pierce Cy., 165 Wash.App. 152 (II, 2011). Mr. Karp has also co-authored Defending Against Dangerous Dog Classifications, 128 Am.Jur. Proof of Facts 291 (2012).

Antiharassment and Domestic Violence Protection: 

  • Sometimes a batterer will use a companion animal to threaten,  monitor, or injure his victim. Or, one will assault or neglect a pet in  order to emotionally disturb the pet’s guardian. Other times, an ex-spouse will compel the children to act cruelly toward family pets and wild animals.
  • Aside from potential criminal liability, such behavior could be grounds for modifying or terminating custody or visitation and  enforcing a restraining order to prevent future contact with the  children.

Mr. Karp has successfully prosecuted and defended against antiharassment and domestic violence protection orders involving animals.

Bailee Liability: 

  • The groomer left your Toy Poodle unattended on the grooming table, resulting in his strangling death.You caught your handler or trainer physically abusing your Golden Retriever. The dog walker failed to control the leash and let your Doberman dash out into traffic and perforate a lung. Your cat sitter inadvertently converted your indoor feline into an outdoor tomcat.

Mr. Karp has handled hundreds of cases pertaining to bailees (i.e. groomers, trainers, handlers, walkers, sitter’s, kennel operators, agisters, sire owners) charged with treating or caring for your companion animal.

Bites & Attacks: 

  • Companion animals, exotic and domesticated, can cause severe internal and cosmetic injury, as well as considerable pain and suffering from bites, scratches, frights, and menacing behavior. Where no provocation or trespass has occurred, the law provides financial recompense to mauled animal victims or those injured while evading a pursuing animal.

Mr. Karp represents both plaintiffs and defendants involved in civil animal injury litigation, and estimates having evaluated and/or handled over 1000 such cases, including those involving bites to human beings. Mr. Karp  gave a talk entitled “The Legal Anatomy of a Dog Bite” at the Dec. 27, 2012 Best of CLE: Encore of Excellence program hosted by the Washington State Bar Association. He also chaired and presented at the Dog Bite Institute of Sept. 23, 2009, hosted by the WSBA and Animal Law Section. Mr. Karp has authored Causes of Action for Loss of or Injury to an Animal by an Animal, 38 Causes of Action 2d 281 (2008).

Civil Rights: 

  • Failed your biology class because you refuse to engage in vivisection or dissection? Does this prevent you from obtaining your B.S. or diploma? Fired from a job as a metro bus driver because you refuse to hand out “Jack in the Box” coupons for free hamburgers to all passengers? Denied unemployment benefits because you quit a job at a pet hospital after witnessing the lead veterinarian attempt to cover up abuse or malpractice? Put on administrative leave for speaking your mind on animal-related issues in the workplace?

If you have lost a job, been denied a government entitlement, or had your educational opportunities detoured because of a religion, creed, or sincerely held belief in the sanctity of animal life (such as vegetarianism or veganism), Mr. Karp, a vegan and Buddhist, can advise you on animal welfare-based constitutional (1st Amendment) and statutory (Civil Rights Act) rights. 


  • A collection agency threatens to seize your companion animals to satisfy a judgment. The Chapter 7 trustee asks that you sell your pets to retire various debts. A stable keeper has refused to relinquish possession of your thoroughbred, citing the Agister Lien Statute and intimidating you with plans to cart off your horse to a rendering plant if you do not pay the bill plus 25 percent interest. Or perhaps someone has maliciously killed your cat or stolen your dog, prompting a race to bankruptcy court to eliminate the debt you are owed.

Fight efforts of lien holders to use the courts and law enforcement to kidnap family members to pay off debts. Ensure that guilty parties pay for harm they inflicted to you and your animals. Mr. Karp has extensive experience in lien foreclosure, animal forfeiture, and pursuing nondischargeable debts in bankruptcy.

Criminal Law:

  • Charged with assault or murder for having defended your companion animal from fatal or serious bodily harm? Arrested for engaging in animal welfare-based civil disobedience and animal rights demonstrations? Facing a gross misdemeanor for having your “dangerous” dog outside the proper enclosure and not restrained? Has the prosecutor threatened you with a class C felony for a tussle where your dog, with no history of aggression and in response to teasing, bit a teenager? Looking to privately prosecute an animal abuser?

Mr. Karp has filed numerous private citizen criminal complaints and defended criminal defendants in felony and misdemeanor cases involving animal nuisance, dangerous dog violations, and robbery. He also authored a treatise Challenges to Pre- and Post-Conviction Forfeitures and to Postconviction Restitution Under Animal Cruelty Statutes, 70 ALR.6th 329 (2011) and Power of Private Citizen to Institute Criminal Proceedings without Authorization or Approval by Prosecuting Authority, 90 ALR.6th 385 (2013).


  • Whether you adopt a companion animal before or during marriage, or in the course of a relationship with a domestic partner, roommate, or significant other, you may encounter the terrible conflict of negotiating visitation, financial support, and the primary residence in the event the relationship ends angrily.Did an animal rescue or animal control agency wrongfully adopt out your dog or coerce a surrender? Has your neighbor held your horse hostage after it broke through a fence? Wrestling with the old adage, “Finders keepers, losers weepers” or “Possession is nine-tenths of the law”? If you have already lost possession or are fighting to keep possession, contact an animal law attorney to help reunite you with your nonhuman companion through visitation, custodial exhanges, or permanent custody.

Mr. Karp estimates having evaluated and/or handled over 1000 such cases, whether involving lost-found disputes, liens and foreclosures, replevin, or contractual enforcement, including one highly publicized case involving a nonprofit rescue organization caring for dogs seized by law enforcement due to suspected animal cruelty and defending the organization (and dogs) against the criminal defendant’s efforts to restore the dogs to her possession. Mr. Karp has also authored Proof in Animal Custody Disputes, 141 Am.Jur.POF.3d 349 (2014).

Disability Law:

  • Disgracefully ejected from a supermarket for having brought in your service animal? Denied housing for you and your psychiatrist-prescribed therapy feline? Improperly charged a pet deposit for shared accommodation with a guide dog? Has a municipality banned certain species or breeds in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act? Did an irresponsible party cause harm or death to your service animal? Obtain full compensation after injury, maiming, or death to your service animal. Request all statutory remedies and professional training out-of-pocket costs, gear, and grooming supplies. Receive acknowledgment for the hundreds of hours individuating your replacement service animal, as well your loss of right to travel, to quiet enjoyment and solitude, and emotional distress.

Mr. Karp has handled numerous service animal/emotional support animal access cases on behalf of tenants, patrons, and government beneficiaries. He also recently authored a treatise on assistance animal litigation to be published in American Jurisprudence Trials.

Landlord-Tenant and HOA/COA Law:

  • Tenants want to enjoy the responsibility and privilege of sharing their family life with companion animals, especially when they have relied upon oral and written assurances from a landlord that, despite what the rental agreement say, they may cohabit with nonhuman animals. Mentally or physically disabled individuals may seek the accommodation of a therapy or service animal without incurring additional deposits or restrictions on suitable housing, as provided under federal and state law. Landlords want to know that their properties will remain clean and habitable for future tenants, and that any companion animals who share tenancy will not present a threat or nuisance to neighbors. Occasionally disputes erupt among members of a condominium or homeowners association relative to the right of a unit owner to keep or maintain a particular animal.

Mr. Karp has handled and/or evaluated over 250 cases representing lessees, renters, condominium and home owners in cases against landlords, management companies, and boards of several homeowners associations (“HOA”) and condominium owner associations (“COA”), ensuring that well-behaved animal inhabitants (and those who love and rely upon them) do not face involuntary homelessness or death.

Police and Civilian Shootings:

  • With disturbing frequency, itchy-fingered law enforcement officers lacking appropriate training in perceiving canine threats  slay dogs without legal justification. Even when use of force may be warranted, they fail to neutralize the threat humanely and by the least lethal means possible. The aftermath of such a shooting may leave not only a deeply grieving guardian, but also the sense of invasion stemming from the prelude of an illegal search or the postlude of false arrest and physical brutalization.
  • Civilians may also take the law into their own hands, dispensing vigilante injustice through the muzzle of a firearm or pneumatic weapon. While State statutory and common law offers the defense of justifiable canicide, many times the shooter jumps the gun by injuring or maiming an animal without any plausible defense.

Mr. Karp has handled and/or evaluated over 100 officer-involved shootings of dogs and over 100 civilian-involved shootings of dogs and cats. He has also authored Causes of Action in Intentional Tort for Loss of or Injury to an Animal by a Human, 44 Causes of Action 2d 211 (2010) and Cause of Action Under 42 U.S.C.A. s 1983 for Death of or Injury to Animal, 48 Causes of Action 2d 527 (2011), and Use of Force Against and By Animals141 Am.Jur.Trials 1 (2015).

Products Liability:

  • Did that spray stop fleas from biting but also poison your rabbit? Perhaps a dog chew or plastic bone fragmented into edible pieces that resulted in an intestinal tear or airway obstruction? Although intended to benefit animals, manufacturers may produce toys or accessories for companion animals that lead to tragic endings.

Mr. Karp has experience determining what sort of action, whether individually or as part of a class, to take against corporate entities that market and sell defective pet merchandise.

Veterinary Malpractice:

  • Did you bring in your dog for a routine spay only to have her bleed to death? Put up your cat for boarding with your veterinarian only to return from your trip to find, instead, that they put him down?Have reason to believe that your veterinarian or her assistant treated your companion animal with gross negligence, causing infection, serious trauma, or death? In addition to filing a complaint with the Veterinary Board of Governors when warranted by the evidence and scientific authority, contact an animal law attorney to explore your legal recourse and seek to heighten the standard of care afforded by the veterinarians to their nonhuman animal patients.

Mr. Karp estimates having evaluated and/or handled over 1000 such cases, including those that have changed or helped clarify the law, such as Sherman v. Kissinger, 146 Wash.App. 855 (I, 2008) and Sexton v. Brown, 147 Wash.App. 1005 (I, 2008, unpub.). He estimates having prepared over 100 veterinary board complaints, more than one of which resulted in the Veterinary Board of Governors issuing a Statement of Allegations or Statement of Charges against the respondent. Mr. Karp also donates his time to assist current and former veterinary employees wishing to file whistleblower complaints against veterinarians who engage in unprofessional and unethical conduct without the fear of retaliation. Mr. Karp has authored Litigation Concerning Veterinary Medical Malpractice, 123 Am.Jur. Trials 305 (2012).

Wrongful Death:

  • We all know that companion animals often mean more to us than a laser printer or even a piece of heirloom jewelry. Did the police shoot and kill your dog under questionable circumstances? Was your service animal killed while traveling in your car? Resist the temptation to let insurance companies treat her like a crumpled bumper and request compensation under your personal injury/bodily injury coverage. Did the neighbor’s Chow throttle and eviscerate your Chihuahua? Do not settle for mere “market value,” an inapplicable measure of damages perpetuated by insurance companies and defense attorneys as an excuse to provide you with only a nominal recovery, especially if you adopted a dog from the shelter. Demand intrinsic value and full compensation for the accidental killing or intentional murder of your beloved companion – be it loss of use, companionship, friendship, protection, security, other special skills or capabilities, and any emotional distress that may have followed from a malicious and cruel death.

Mr. Karp estimates having evaluated and/or handled over 1000 such cases, including those that have changed or clarified the law, such as Womack v. von Rardon, 133 Wash.App. 254 (III, 2006), Damiano v. Lind, 163 Wash.App. 1017 (III, 2011), In re Lababit, 415 Fed.Appx. 839 (9th Cir.2011) and 2009 WL 7751426 (9th Cir.BAP 2009), and Criscuolo v. Grant Cy.,540 Fed.Appx. 839 (9th Cir.2011) and 2014 WL 527218 (E.D.Wash.Feb.10,2014). Mr. Karp has authored Causes of Action in Intentional Tort for Loss of or Injury to an Animal by a Human, 44 Causes of Action 2d 211 (2010) and Cause of Action Under 42 U.S.C.A. s 1983 for Death of or Injury to Animal, 48 Causes of Action 2d 527 (2011).

Image care of professional animal photographer Carol Whitfield of ClooneyDog & Friends.