University of New Mexico School of Law SALDF Fights for Animal Protection

The University of New Mexico School of Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (UNM SALDF) chapter has been working to introduce animal law to the school’s law students, professors and surrounding community, many of whom are interested in bringing the discussion into the classroom. The chapter has already seen interest spike in students who love and want to protect animals and are just now being introduced to animal law.

The chapter began the 2016-17 school year by hosting three speaking events. The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Senior Pro Bono Manager Tom Linney kicked the year off with his presentation on
animal law and the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s work to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals within the legal system. They received great feedback on Tom’s presentation:

“I found the presentation very interesting. Prior to it, I had known that animal issues under the law are especially difficult to contend with, but this really put it into perspective how much more work needs to be done in the field… [It was] a great introduction to what [the Animal Legal Defense Fund and SALDF] are doing.”  —Ann, 1L

“I had no idea that the Animal Legal Defense Fund even existed…Quite co-incidentally, someone reached out to me [with an animal law issue] right after that …I pointed her to aldf.org and suggested she contact them….It was nice to have an answer for her! I have their brochure and will send a donation as well as sign up for their newsletter. Thanks for organizing the talk!”  –Cyndi Johnson, Director/Assistant Dean for Information Technology at UNM School of Law

“I enjoyed Tom Linney’s presentation, although it is hard to see the pictures of the abused animals, it is also important because it is reality. I didn’t realize that there were actual jobs [in] animal law and so much legislative work going on. I attended….because I absolutely love animals and I wanted to know more about animal law.”—Rebecca, 1L

In November, the chapter hosted a panel on Careers in Animal Law, which included Jessica Johnson, Chief Legislative Officer for Animal Protection Voters of New Mexico, and Yolanda Eisenstein, a Dallas animal and nonprofit attorney and author of the book, “Careers in Animal Law.” They discussed their own career paths and opportunities for creative lawyering in the field. In December, UNM SALDF collaborated with the law school’s Environmental Law Society on an event on wildlife, Blood Ivory: Wildlife Trafficking in the United States. Sue George, a wildlife conservation lawyer and director of the Wild Friends Program at UNM School of Law, discussed the history of wildlife trafficking, its global impacts, the people involved and efforts the U.S. has made and is currently making to help stop wildlife trafficking.

At each speaking event, the chapter has offered delicious plant-based food for the attendees (which they received many compliments on! You can apply for a SALDF project grant to support your chapter’s event here.) UNM SALDF will continue its speaker series during the spring 2017 semester with events on the link between domestic violence and animal abuse, Albuquerque’s new specialty court, the Pre-Adjudication Animal Welfare (P.A.W.) Court, the Bernalillo County Animal Cruelty Task Force, animal welfare on tribal lands and animal testing.

In addition to hosting speakers, UNM SALDF members have also attended conferences. One member attended the New Mexico Humane Conference, where she networked with potential speakers and created an opportunity for law students to ride along with Albuquerque Animal Control Officers. The UNM SALDF president attended the Animal Law Conference in October 2016, presented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Animal Law Studies and Lewis & Clark Law School’s SALDF chapter. The chapter hopes to send even more members to next year’s conference.

UNM SALDF members are also active in their community through their volunteer work and fundraising. They helped Animal Humane New Mexico prepare for its biggest annual fundraiser, the Doggie Dash and Dawdle, a 5K run and carnival. They fundraised over $400 for their chapter by hosting a dog wash at Long Leash on Life, a local companion animal supply store. Award-winning photographer Sophie Gamand generously let the chapter use one of her joyful photographs of wet dogs on the poster for the event. UNM SALDF is also active with the State Bar of New Mexico Animal Law Section.

Over the coming years, UNM SALDF hopes to continue its speaker series, volunteer work, and fundraising to bring awareness of animal law to their legal community in a fun, accessible, intersectional way.  They are grateful to the Animal Legal Defense Fund for all its encouragement and support!

This student chapter spotlight was submitted by Christal Weatherly, president of UNM SALDF.

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