Director Ian Robertson

Professional Profile

Dr Ian Robertson is an internationally recognised LEGAL SPECIALIST ON THE SUBJECT OF ANIMAL LAW. His professional expertise and activities address a broad range of subjects involving animals including, for example, animal welfare, biosecurity, food safety, and trade. 

Ian originally trained as a VETERINARIAN and had his own chain of veterinary practices providing services for owners of farm and companion animals. Ian became a MEDIA PRESENTER on all things animal and developed an interest in how the animal law impacted animals and people. He subsequently sold his veterinary practices and added a law degree with the specific intention of specialising in the area of animal law.

Ian has been litigating, teaching and advising as an animal law legal specialist for over fifteen years, which includes almost a decade working in COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT. His experience includes working as a PROSECUTOR for the New Zealand government (Ministry for Primary Industries) and STATEWIDE SPECIALIST on animal welfare related matters in Australia.

His wider roles include being the DIRECTOR of International Animal Law, past and present roles as a BOARD MEMBER of selected non-government organisations and regulatory bodies (including the Veterinary Council of New Zealand, and the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations), and position as an external associate of the OIE (World Animal Health Organisation, New Zealand Collaboration Centre). He is also a LAW LECTURER and PUBLISHED AUTHOR on the subject of animals, welfare and the law.

With Ian's experience regarding government and prosecution decisions, his firsthand insights as to the power role of politics, and the impact of courtroom outcomes on the lives of animals and their owners, Ian has taken the sometimes misunderstood and potentially controversial stand in being LEGAL DEFENSE COUNSEL and PRINCIPAL of GUARDIANZ LAWYERS AND CONSULTANTS ( This specialty law practice provides a broad range of consultancy and legal services on animal-related issues.




"There are only a handful of people in the world who have been trained in both law and veterinary science. This gives Dr Robertson the advantage of being able to combine practical veterinary experience with his training as a lawyer, and provide realistic insights from two of the key disciplines affecting how the law deals with animals".

Dr David Bayvel
Previous President, OIE Animal Welfare Working Group

In memorandum: Sadly, Dr David Bayvel passed away in 2015. He was a quiet but powerful voice in animal welfare globally, and among his many achievements, he also made a significant contribution to the development of International Animal Law. 

Qualifications and Professional Appointments:

  • Bachelor of Law (LLB)
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc)
  • Registered Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court (NZ)
  • Registered veterinarian (New Zealand and England)
  • Member of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS)


  • Principal: Guardianz Lawyers and Consultants
  • Director: International Animal Law
  • Director: Animal Law Professional Development
  • Director: Global Animal Welfare Authority (Online Learning)
  • Trustee: Animal Welfare Law Matters (Charity)
  • External Associate: OIE Collaboration Centre (NZ)
  • (Previous Member of the New Zealand Veterinary Council, NZ)


  • Law Lecturer  – Animals, Welfare and the Law
  • Animal Law In Practice (Online Learning) VetScholar
  • Ongoing/previous Guest/Adjunct Law Lecturer at:
  • School of Veterinary Medicine, Massey University (New Zealand)
  • School of Veterinary Medicine, Nottingham (England)
  • School of Law, University of Leeds (England)
  • School of Law, University of Canterbury (New Zealand)
  • School of Law, University of Auckland (New Zealand)

Specialist fields:

  1. Animal law legal specialist
  2. Legal defence counsel: Animal law, biosecurity, food safety, and trade
  3. The role and responsibility of the professional in issues of animal welfare
  4. Governance of animal welfare in context of national and international issues
  5. Balance and lawful prioritisation of animal welfare in law, ethics, and science.
  6. Solutions to animal abuse and related human violence
  7. The development of animal law as a distinct legal discipline



 Public Speaking

"Ian Robertson presents his expertise in an authoritative yet entertaining style that leaves you wishing for more because he has a unique and innovative approach to blending veterinary medicine with animal welfare and the law. It would be difficult to find a more credible or engaging speaker with such a wide range of knowledge and experience".

Dr Lila Miller, DVM

Vice President, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)Assistant Professor at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, and Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, USA


Ian is an internationally recognized specialist in matters of animal welfare and law whose presentations have dealt with everything from global governance of animal welfare to the responsibility, accountability and liability of professions and individual professionals in animal welfare issues.

“When I began my career as an animal law specialist, the idea that animal law might one day become a distinct legal discipline was met with a range of responses that demonstrated misunderstanding (i.e. "it's just meat law, isn't it?" ), dismissiveness (i.e. "we teach real law here"), to recognition of animal law as a developing legal discipline (i.e. "...animal law is just 20 years behind environmental law"). 

In the last decade, it's been increasingly recognised that issues of animal law affect not just animals, but people as well. For example, just a few of the subject areas that involve issues of animal law  include questions of sustainability, food safety, disease control, international trade, climate change, and environmental conservation. In my various roles as an animal law expert, I repeatedly point out that people and animals share the same planet, and have a linked future, so what's good for one is frequently good for the other".

In addition to his legal and courtroom expertise, Dr Robertson also brings insights from his hands-on knowledge as a veterinarian, businessman, and television presenter of "all things animal". Ian's work as an animal law legal specialist has him working as a defence counsel and legal advisor within New Zealand and Australia, a consultant in England and Europe, and an educator on both sides of the planet. His commitment to the development of animal law, accompanied by his own experience, "war stories", and insights as a veterinarian, prosecutor and advisor, also have him appearing as keynote speaker and law lecturer dealing with a wide variety of issues involving animals, and assisting stakeholders including government, non-government organisations, the professions, and industry. 

"Society increasingly expects animals to be treated better, and there's the additional reality that in a global environment there are global sized risks. The costs of "getting it wrong" are enormous for the people involved and the animals. So on the understanding that "prevention is still better than cure", it's simply good practice to get a competent animal law expert at the decision table where matters involving animals are involved".


Dr David Bayvel, previous President of OIE Animal Welfare Working Group said:"

There are only a handful of people in the world who have been trained in both law and veterinary science. This gives Dr Robertson the advantage of being able to combine practical veterinary experience with his training as a lawyer, and provide realistic insights from two of the key disciplines affecting how the law deals with animals".


To inquire about having Dr Robertson as a keynote speaker and/or presenter at your next function please use the Contact page of this website.

"Dr Ian Robertson is an engaging speaker who, as a result of his veterinary and legal expertise, presents a unique perspective on a number of prominent animal issues"

Dr Kate Millar
Director, Centre for Applied Bioethics
University of Nottingham, England







Presentations, Courses and Publications

BOOK: "Animals, welfare and the law" (2015)

In this objective, practical and authoritative introduction to animal law, the author reveals the fundamental principles of the human-animal relationship and how those have, or have not, been translated into contemporary animal welfare law.  

The book explains what criteria establish a lawful use of animals, and how an accurate understanding of those criteria is important to evolving standards of animal protection, and the responsibilities of all those whose interests, livelihoods or activities involve animals. In recognition of the shared planet and global marketplace, the book also puts the subject of animal welfare law in the context of wider issues including climate change, disease control, biosecurity, food safety and food supply. With those issues in mind, the book identifies 29 key principles which constitute essential understandings for people involved in debating, critically assessing, and guiding the evolution of society’s national and international rulebook of animal welfare law. 
Relevant to companion, farm, captive (zoo and laboratory) and wild animals, the book has international application in countries with both established and developing legislation. 
In a society where people demonstrate enormously divergent views about animals that range from non-human individuals to pure commodities; animals are one of many stakeholders which have interests that the law seeks to appropriately balance and prioritise by assigning responsibilities, accountabilities, and potential liabilities. Based on successful law courses run by the author, and his own expertise as an animal law lecturer, prosecutor and specialist legal adviser,  the book combines practical hands-on insights from science, ethics and law to provide an essential introduction and understanding of what informs society and the law regarding animals and their welfare. 

Past Presentations

  • "What does it mean for the law to recognise animals as sentient?" - November 2017
  • "Sentience: The third evolution of animal law" - November 2017, New Zealand
  • "Essential animal law for professionals and service providers" - October 2017, New Zealand
  • "Defining sentience through the legal lens" - September 2017, Webinar
  • "The animal law war: Is it being fueled by law and lawyers?" - June 2017, USA
  • "Sentience: The third evolution of animal law" -June 2017, USA
    "Veterinarians through the legal lens" - June 2017, New Zealand
  • "3 practical ways to minimise the clinical veterinarian's risk" - November 2016, New Zealand
  • "Are veterinarians still the animal's hero?" - October 2016, New Zealand
  • "Regulatory control systems for responsible training of dogs using electronic collars" - October 2016, Scotland
  • "Regulatory control systems for responsible training of dogs using electronic collars" - October 2016, Holland
  • "Sentience" - leadership or window-dressing in New Zealand's law? - July 2016, New Zealand
  • "Do brachycephalic dogs "suffer"? - June 2016, New Zealand
  • "Animal welfare for professionals" - June 2016, Victoria University, Australia
  • "Animals, welfare and the law" - May 2016, Victoria University, Australia
  • "Veterinarians and the law" - June 2015, Massey University, New Zealand
  • "Pets, petcare products, and the law" - May 2015, England
  • “Managing the risks of animal welfare: Practical advise for corporates and NGO's"-  May 2015, England
  • "When do animal welfare investigators need to call an expert?" - August 2014, Australia
  • “Safeguarding pets with supervised use of quality pet products"-  October 2014, England
  • "Fundamentals of applying animal welfare legal responsibilities to veterinary practice"-  Massey University, October 2014, New Zealand
  • “Enforcing “good practice”,“scientific knowledge” and “law’s (minimum) standards” -  ANZCCART conference, July 2014, New Zealand
  • “Protecting the veterinarian in their animal welfare legal responsibilities"-  NZVA conference, June 2014, New Zealand
  • "Legal practice of animal law" - April 2014, USA
  • "Animal welfare for the enforcer" - March 2014, New Zealand
  • “The role of the veterinarian in criminal animal welfare investigations"-  December 2013, New Zealand
  • "Applying fundamental animal law principles to pet products" - October 2013, England
  • “Yes, the law does expect veterinarians to know the legal meaning of animal welfare" -  October 2013, New Zealand
  • “Powers and Responsibilities of appointed Inspectors (Level 2)" - June 2013, New Zealand
  • "Sentience in New Zealand animal welfare law" - October 2013, New Zealand
  • “Understanding the role of the veterinarian in animal welfare through the legal lens"-  May 2013, New Zealand
  • “Global governance of animal welfare"-  May 2013, England
  • Keynote speaker: Is there any such thing as "animal welfare rights" for animals in the international marketplace? April 2013, Brazil
  • “Powers and Responsibilities of appointed Inspectors (Introductory Course)" - March 2013, New Zealand
  • “Animal welfare and Law" - Course at Auckland University Law School,  January 2013, New Zealand
  • “Animal welfare and Law for professionals" - October 2012, New Zealand
  • “Animal welfare and Law for Enforcement" - November 2012, New Zealand
  • "The 3P's of animal welfare investigations" -  September 2012, England
  • "Balancing the emotion of animal issues with objective decision making"- New Zealand, February 2012
  • “Animal welfare" for professionals" - October 2011, Australia
  • “Animal welfare law: A changing strategic animal welfare issue" -  August 2011, Australia (Australian Animal Welfare Strategy)
  • “Animal welfare prosecutions"-  July 2011, New Zealand 
  • “Risk management of animal welfare”-  June 2011, England
  • “Forensic pathology in animal welfare"-  June 2011, England
  • “Legally protecting professionals who want to do "the right thing"-  June 2011, New Zealand
  • “Risk management of legal liabilities for veterinarians and veterinary nurses ”- June 2011, New Zealand
  • “Animal welfare professionals: How (not) to get sued"-  May 2011, Australia
  • “Talking law, vets, and horses - identifying those who may be criminally responsible"-  May 2011, Australia
  • “Are veterinarians returning the (animal) victim to the (human) abuser?"-  May 2011, Australia 
  • "The 3P's of animal welfare investigations" - January 2011, England
  • “Putting animal welfare in perspective: The role of animal welfare in international issues" - February 2011, Ireland
  • "Understanding legal responsibility and enforcement of animal welfare law in industry- October 2010, New Zealand
  • "Ethical, Legal, and Enforcement perspectives on the future of the poultry industry" - October 2010, New Zealand. 
  • "My Kingdom for a horse - the veterinary profession and the law"  - Pan Pacific Veterinary Conference, May 2010, Brisbane, Australia. -  
  • "Animal Welfare and the law - the role and liability of veterinarians in large animal practice"  - Pan Pacific Veterinary Conference, May 2010, Brisbane, Australia.
  • “How to conduct a good animal welfare investigation" – May 2010, England 
  • “Animal Welfare in Animal Law”  – October 2009, Germany
  • “Powers and responsibilities of Inspectors under the Animal Welfare Act 2006" – September 2009, England
  • “What’s law got to do with it? (Part 1): Identifying the legal liability of the veterinary nurse” – September 2009, England.
  • “What’s law got to do with it? (Part 2): Practical law for the practising veterinary nurse” – September 2009, England
  • “Powers and responsibilities of Inspectors under the Animal Welfare Act 2006" – April 2009, England
  • "The veterinary pathologist as an expert witness”  – Veterinary Pathology Conference, Palmerston North, New Zealand. November 2008
  • “Law, Welfare and Animal Entertainment: The bull in bullfighting” – Spain, Feb 2008
  • “Recognising animal abuse and an indicator of human violence” – Women and domestic violence conference, London, England. March 2008
  • “Understanding the Law about Animals” – University of Lincoln, March 2008
  • “A legal duty to report suspected animal abuse - are veterinarians ready?” Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, Oxford, England. September 2007 
  • “The concept of sustainable agriculture necessitates a duty of stewardship in contemporary animal welfare legislation” – Vienna, Austria. October 2007
  • “Translating the bioethical animal into a legal animal for animal welfare legislation”, IX Annual Swedish Symposium on Biomedicine, Ethics and Society. June 2007-
  • “Identifying the global legislative benchmarks of Animal Welfare” - ALDF Conference, Harvard Law School. March 2007 



Journal Papers and Articles

  • "People and animals, a New Zealand perspective" - June 2017, The Sommer Foundation, France
  • "To feel or not to feel; that is the legal question" - New Zealand Law Journal, February 2017
  • "The legal definition of sentience in New Zealand law - leadership or window-dressing" - Criminal Bar Association, February 2016
  • "From vet to lawyer: The continuation of caring for animals and people" - Vetscript Magazine, October 2015
  • "How to practice your craft safely" - Vetscript Magazine, July 2014
  • "29 Fundamental Principles of Animal Welfare and Law" (Book) -
  • "Protection of New Zealand wildlife under the Animal Welfare Act (NZ) - USA, April 2014
  • "A stronger sentence was needed"- New Zealand, May 2013
  • Guidance for veterinarians: Dealing with cases of suspected or actual animal abuse and family violence (2013) (Contributor and legal review)
  • "Legal obligations for the large animal veterinarian"- Australia, September 2012
  • "Normal behaviour of the legal animal is more than just "what they do in the wild" - SSRN online journal,, May 2012
  • "Defining the legal meaning of "research" for the veterinarian" - New Zealand Sheep and Beef Veterinarians, March 2012
  • "What NZ animal production veterinarians must know in order to be an animal welfare expert"- Boehringer Ingelheim, December 2011
  • "The legal definition of recklessness in animal welfare" - Acquitalk, Criminal Bar Association of New Zealand, October 2011
  • "Meaning well - but what would you do?" (Veterinarians putting welfare in to practice)
  • "The legal definition of recklessness in animal welfare" - Acquitalk, Criminal Bar Association of New Zealand, October 2011
  • "Recklessness: The implications of the first case for the veterinary professional" - Vetscript Magazine, September 2011
  • "Protecting the veterinary paraprofessional: The case for separate consideration" - (Proceedings) New Zealand VeterinaryAssociation Conference, July 2011
  • "Protecting the veterinary professional in the shifting animal law landscape" - (Proceedings) New Zealand VeterinaryAssociation Conference, July 2011
  • "Responsibilities of the professional in industry" - (Proceedings) New Zealand Poultry Association, November 2010
  • "Liabilities under the Animal Welfare Act 2006" - (Proceedings) World Poultry Association, November 2010
  • "Being reckless about animal welfare" - Acquitalk, Criminal Bar Association of New Zealand, September 2010
  • "Animal welfare and the "Emotional Link" - New Zealand Law Society (Official Publication) Law Talk, 30 August  2010
  • "Animal welfare in Animal Law" - Welfare Pulse, August  2010
  • "Do your practice procedures put your professional kingdom at risk?" - Vetscript Magazine, July 2010
  • "Veterinary Nurses (NZ): The legal responsibilities that accompany registration" - The New Zealand Veterinary Nurse, June  2010
  • "Conflicts of animal welfare interest for the veterinarian" - Brisbane PanPacific Veterinary Conference Proceedings (CD), June 2010
  • "Liability for "emotional harm" by animal-service providers who trade of the "emotional link" - LawTalk (New Zealand), 2010
  • "Legally protecting and compelling veterinarians in issues of animal abuse and domestic violence"  - New Zealand Veterinary Journal, June 2010
  • "Taking body condition scoring from the paddock to the courtroom"- Vetscript Magazine – June 2010
  • "Legal risks in the veterinary apology"- Vetscript Magazine – March 2010
  • "Avoid putting vet on the spot"- Dairy News – August 11 2009 Read>>
  • “Minimising the risk of the veterinarians' legal liability” - Vetscript Magazine – August 2009 Read>>
  • “The link between animal abuse and human violence” - Biosecurity Magazine - Issue 80, 15 December 2007 -
  • “Animal law issues canvassed at Harvard conference” - Biosecurity Magazine - Issue 77, 1 August 2007 -
  • “I don't want half a dog ...” - , Biosecurity Magazine - Issue 73, 1 February 2007 -  

Book Chapters

  • A legal duty to report suspected animal abuse - are veterinarians ready? In, A. Linzey, ed. The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence. Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK: Sussex Academic Press. 2009 p. 263 – 272 More>>
  • New Zealand Wildlife and Law in Wildlife Law: A Global Perspective, 2008.  Raj Panjwani (Editor) Edition 2 (in print).  
  • The concept of sustainable agriculture necessitates a duty of stewardship in contemporary animal welfare legislation -  Part 7 in Sustainable Food Production and ethics: (Wageningen Academic Publishers, 2007, p. 263 - 268 


  • Foundational principles of animal welfare and law: - (2015)
  • Noah’s Notebook – Veterinary Cat Care (Wellington, GP Publications, October 1998)
  • Noah’s Notebook – Veterinary Dog Care (Wellington, GP Publications, October 1998)
  • Pet Care Handbook (Auckland, Hodder & Stoughton, 1994)


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