Where Are They Now? Jessica Johnson
Jessica Johnson is Grassroots Advocacy Manager for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in Washington D.C. “Everything I do is to help pass humane legislation on the federal, state, and local level,” Jessica says. She organizes grassroots workshops, teaches people how they can be more effective advocates, and holds receptions on Capitol Hill to engage legislators with animal protection issues. Jessica says she meets activists who want to make a difference for animals yet find the political process confusing. “My job is to break down barriers to advocacy and facilitate efforts to improve animal protection. Many voices speaking together are more powerful than just one voice.”
The field of animal law attracted Jessica because she wanted to provide justice for those who have been wronged. Jessica grew up in the Midwest but attended law school at Lewis & Clark’s Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), a collaborator with ALDF, in Portland, Oregon, where she was inducted into the Cornelius Honor Society. Studying animal and environmental law allowed her to combine her passion for animals with her desire to be involved in policy work. She was Managing Editor for the Animal Law Review and a member of her Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter, and helped to plan annual Animal Law Conferences; by her third year, she was co-director. “We are so proud of Jessica’s contributions to animal law,” says Pamela Hart, Director of ALDF’s Animal Law Program. “She has demonstrated outstanding grassroots leadership in her work to ensure humane laws for animals.”
Jessica is dedicated to ensuring that humane laws protect animals and unsuspecting animal lovers too. For example, Jessica is a tireless advocate of federal and state laws that crack down on puppy mills. In college, she unsuspectingly purchased her dog, Brody, from a puppy mill breeder. Having decided on a German shepherd puppy, she drove five hours across Minnesota to pick him up from a remote location. She was horrified to find pens crammed full of 50 or 60 dogs. “I know many people, who are like I was, who have their heart set on a certain type of dog. They find a breeder on a website or they go to a pet store and the next thing you know, that person has contributed to the puppy mill problem.” Always choose shelter dogs, she urges; so many animals in shelters are just waiting for a forever home.
Puppy mills are just one reason why animals need advocates. She advises animal lawyers that “getting as much experience as possible is going to help get you where you need to go. Academia is important for learning the essentials. But when it comes to getting the necessary skills that will help you in future positions, there’s no better way to do that: intern with an organization, volunteer to help a lawyer, or volunteer with a political campaign if you’re interested in policy work.” Jessica interned for Farm Sanctuary and the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center, among other groups. Jessica has also volunteered with La Plata County Humane Society as well as for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. She lives with Brody and her roommate’s dog, a pit-bull mix, and the pups are the best of friends.
Among ALDF’s many efforts to support the field of animal law is our growing network of Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters on law school campuses throughout the U.S. and Canada. SALDF chapters provide a forum for education, advocacy, and scholarship, aiming to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. In this continuing series of updates on former SALDF members, ALDF is proud to spotlight Jessica Johnson.