ONE STEP INTO LINDA CAWLEY’S LAW office and you know right away this ain’t exactly Mackenzie, Brackman. The lone decoration is a photo of her two German shepherds, Dar and Anke. A copy of Dog World sits on the coffee table, and when she hands you her business card, it reads CANINE CONTRACTS AND LITICATION.
The 31-year-old attorney has let her business go to the dogs, and for good reason. As the country’s only known specialist in dog law, Cawley handles about 100 cases a year, covering everything from the criminal defense of biters and barkers to civil suits involving veterinarians and breeders and over custody squabbles following a divorce. (The solution in one husband-wife dispute: Hubby gets Bowser on major holidays.) Says Cawley, who has carved out a comfortable living with fees ranging from $500 (for the simple dog nip) to $10,000 (for longer jury trials): “There are just a lot of legal issues about dogs that people aren’t aware of.”
The daughter of an investment-banker father and a homemaker mother, Cawley grew up in Cleveland with two brothers and a pet collie. After earning her law degree at the University of Denver, she joined an entertainment-law firm in La Jolla, Calif. Then four years ago, when she decided to buy Dar, she read the breeder’s warranty and noticed that “none of what they showed me appeared to me legally binding.” Determined to offer her services to others in the same situation, she placed an ad (under “Dog”) in the phone book. That led to a local newspaper article, and “suddenly it really snowballed. Everybody started calling.”
Two years ago Cawley opened her own practice in Denver, where she now shares a four-bedroom home with Dar and Anke (each of whom has his own room). Though licensed to practice in four states and consulted by attorneys across the U.S., she admits her specially sometimes draws snickers from legal colleagues…until they have a dog problem themselves. “Then,” says Cawley with a smile, “they’re the first to call for advice.”