Florida State University SALDF Celebrates National Justice for Animals Week
Most students love their companion animals, but don’t see themselves practicing animal law in their career. During National Justice for Animals Week, Florida State University College of Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (FSU SALDF) wanted to show its law school community how animal law permeates and affects most traditional areas of the law, including environmental law, criminal law, and more. Every day that week, the chapter hosted a breakfast talk with professors discussing their animal law experiences, and a lunch meeting focusing on interesting areas of animal law. FSU SALDF provided plant-based food at these events, to entice attendees and expose students to delicious vegan options, thanks to a grant from the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The chapter kicked off National Justice for Animals Week with Professor David Markell, who teaches environmental and administrative law. Professor Markell has worked with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States. He spoke about the intersections between animal and environmental, natural resources, and land use law. As advisor to FSU’s Environmental Law Society, he also discussed collaborating with FSU SALDF on future events.
“As a 1L, I really appreciate clubs like SALDF that provide me with opportunities to remind myself why I came to law school.” – Anastacia Pirrello, 1L
Monday’s afternoon presentation was Aquatic Animal Law, presented by FSU SALDF President, Laurel Tallent. Thirty students joined them for a discussion on fishes’ cognitive abilities, overfishing, aquaculture, case law regarding aquatic animals, and the Animal Welfare Act. Are fish considered “animals” in the eyes of the law? This question is currently a hot one in Florida due to prosecutors bringing felony animal abuse charges against three Florida men who dragged a living shark behind their high speed boat.
Tuesday morning, the chapter hosted Professor Tricia Ann Matthews, who teaches animal law at FSU. They discussed the future of animal law and career options.
“Professor Matthews’s passion for animal law is really inspiring. We have a long way to go but realizing how far we have come from [her] stories makes a better future seem like a real possibility.” – Laurel Tallent, 2L.
On Tuesday afternoon, FSU SALDF hosted Eric Abrahamsen, a former Leon County criminal prosecutor. About thirty students joined the chapter to learn about his initiative to prosecute local animal fighting cases.
“Mr. Abrahamson’s talk on dog fighting was so illuminating. I had no idea that it was still so prevalent, especially in Leon County! His passion is contagious – it made me consider changing my career path to prosecute those who would [exploit] animals!” – Taylor Patton, 3L
On Wednesday morning, students met with FSU Professor Hannah Wiseman, who teaches land use and energy law. The conversation included a very robust discussion of how animals are affected by land use regulation and the mining of natural resources, and environmental law’s impacts on animal biodiversity.
“I was very impressed by the broad range of students’ knowledge regarding animal and environmental law topics…I learned a lot from the students about animal law issues of which I was previously unaware.” – Professor Wiseman
For lunch on Wednesday, thirty students joined FSU SALDF for a presentation by Lisa Glunt from the Leon County Humane Society. She discussed how law students and attorneys can work to better protect animals by bridging the gap between animal rescues and the law.
“It was…eye-opening to learn about the deficiencies in our legal system and how there is still much improvement to be made regarding enforcement and ensuring animals are not returned to inhumane conditions. I hope with more awareness on this issue, positive changes will be made.” – Amber Jackson, 2L
“The talk with the Leon County Humane Society was an illuminating look into the ground work done by local organizations in the furtherance of animal [protection.] As law students, it is easy to get lost in our school work, but this event was an important reminder of the things we are working to change….This event gave color to pressing animal rights issues, which will…help us become better advocates.” – Young Kang, 1L
Thursday morning, Professor Robert Atkinson, who teaches property law and a class on Law and Literature, met with students over breakfast to discuss animals as property and animals in literature. Starting out with a warm excerpt from the Mahabharata regarding animals, Professor Atkinson discussed how literature shows the loving relationship between human and nonhuman animals. The group discussed the disconnect between humans’ love for animals and the law’s view of animals as mere property.
“Professor Atkinson brought forth his vast knowledge on….religious and cultural norms as they relate to animal law. This is a perspective not heard of often. It was a very thoughtful and inspiring chat.” – Sophie Luchin, 2L
For Thursday’s lunch, the chapter hosted Marci LaHart, an attorney who specializes in animal, public interest, and environmental law. Marci gave students a valuable glimpse into what it’s like working in a private animal law practice.
“It was really cool because she covered so many different types of cases you can have involving animals… [she] gave more recent real-world examples and focused a lot on Florida law.” – Madeline Ann Brezin, 2L
“It was really great! I didn’t realize how widely the different jurisdictions of Florida range in their laws and enforcement…” – Katie Stolz, 2L
Thursday afternoon, FSU SALDF students met with criminal law Professor Sam Wiseman. He discussed his recent article, Labeling, Localism, and Animal Welfare, which advocates for improved labeling of animal products.
On Friday, FSU SALDF hosted its Puppy Social at a local dog park. Twenty five students, local attorneys, and Florida Bar Animal Law Section members and their four-legged pals enjoyed plant-based pizza and cupcakes in the Florida sunshine.
“Coming to law school, I couldn’t imagine I would meet a group of such caring and like-minded people. It’s both empowering and encouraging to know that we’re all out here trying to accomplish the same thing.” – Camille Vazquez, 1L
FSU SALDF believes that giving back to the community is a huge part of being a lawyer. On Saturday morning, students joined Pets Ad Litem, a local animal legal protection organization, to help clean up the road outside of their local animal shelter for Tallahassee’s Adopt-a-Street Program.
“The cleanup was a great way to give back to the community while networking with local attorneys!” – Jasmine Henry, 2L.
FSU SALDF’s National Justice for Animals Week was a huge success! See what some other students had to say about it:
“Although I had very little background in animal law prior to [National] Justice for Animals Week, each event drew me in and left me informed of the various interplay between animals and the law.” – Katie Stoltz, 2L
“I haven’t had the opportunity to learn much about animal law during law school, so the events were good windows into the field. They got me thinking about the role animal law will play in my career after graduation.” – Rose Rosas, 3L.
“Students and faculty alike noticed all the different, engaging speakers and interactive events SALDF put together [that] past week. There was something for just about everyone. I think many participants walked away from these events seeing they can make a difference in the lives of animals, even if they don’t end up having a full-time job dedicated to animal law. I’m so proud of our SALDF! The students are amazing.” – Professor Matthews
“The FSU SALDF chapter continuously impresses me with its passion and devotion to animal law. The events it hosts are well organized, with engaging speakers, and it continues to demonstrate through its actions why it is one of the best student organizations at FSU Law.” – Joseph Schimming, 2L
“Being able to talk informally with [our professors] was a great opportunity to learn more about animal law and how it interacts with different sectors, from administrative law to food law.” – Chelsi Straubinger, 1L
“I absolutely loved National Justice for Animals week at FSU Law. The events during the week engaged in all aspects of animal law from a variety of perspectives.” Ashley Englund, 1L
This spotlight was submitted by FSU SALDF President, Laurel Tallent.