Where Are They Now? Alexis FoxOctober 12th, 2012
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 Alexis Fox.
Animal Law is not just an occupation for Alexis Fox, but a calling: a way of being in the world. She sees herself as part of a larger animal protection movement, and she is certainly helping pave the way for others.
Her passion has driven her to leadership. Not surprisingly, Alexis quickly rose from her position as a legislative extern and law clerk with the Humane Society of the United States to her current position as the Humane Society’s Massachusetts state director. Alexis oversees all legislative and lobbying activities in Massachusetts, from corporate to legislative campaigns. For example, she is working to pass a state bill, H458, that would ban gestation crates for pregnant sows and veal crates for baby calves.
Alexis holds a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School and was a visiting fellow at Georgetown University Law Center. At Lewis and Clark, Alexis specialized in animal protection law. During her studies, Alexis took an animal law course with Pamela Frasch, assistant dean of the Animal Law Program and executive director of the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), a center in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Lewis and Clark that focuses on experiential education and trains students for careers as leaders in animal law and public policy.
Animal protection issues began to take hold of Alexis as an undergraduate at Maine’s Bates College, where she started a campus vegetarian club. Later, Alexis became a law clerk for ALDF, where she worked on exciting and challenging cases, such as a Kentucky shelter case and puppy mill/breeder issues. She “absolutely loved” her time with ALDF and was inspired to work with Joyce Tischler, ALDF’s founder and the “mother of Animal Law.” Alexis says working with Joyce and the attorneys at ALDF was thrilling and “gave me insight into the idea that real people create change for animals: real people who have an idea of the way society should be better, and who go out and make that change happen.” To work with ALDF, Alexis says, was to be inspired every day.
As a law student, Alexis codirected a SALDF chapter (the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund), at Lewis and Clark, where she studied with the nation’s top animal welfare attorneys. For her, this experience, especially participating in the annual Animal Law Conference at Lewis and Clark Law School, was “a beautiful immersion in the world of animal protection.” In her first year, she attended the conference; by the second year she helped organize it, and in her third year she presented at it, in front of her colleagues and mentors. She served on a panel about the Michael Vick dogfighting case and presented her article, “Using Special Masters to Advance the Goals of Animal Protection Law,” which was published in the law review journal Animal Law.
In her article, Alexis creatively used an obscure law to develop a legal theory addressing a problem many humane organizations and law enforcement face, especially in large scale cases: determining the placement of animals with a “special master.” She argued this would advance the goals of the animal protection movement in key ways. Animal victims would be ensured care by the special master after being rescued from abusive situations. Additionally, in the process of appointing a special master, the court order would add a “best-interest-of-the animal” analysis into the proceeding, which is ‘another drop in the bucket’ for the goal of elevating animals above the legal status of “property.” As she says, “a good lesson for animal law students and attorneys is that animal law touches on every type of law.”
In addition to being the state director of HSUS, Alexis is also an adjunct professor at Emerson College, where she teaches a course in Leadership for the Communications Department. She sees this course as a wonderful opportunity to hear from leaders all over Massachusetts. As if all this weren’t enough, Alexis also organizes seminars in Effective Animal Advocacy.
The future of the animal protection movement, she says, will possibly include an environmental perspective, such as demonstrating the unsustainability of animal agriculture and the environmental impact of factory farming. When “rivers are not swimmable and neighbors can’t breathe” changes are on their way. Alexis is especially drawn to fighting issues of animal suffering in farmed animal agriculture, and has been her whole life. “I remember it dawning on me one day that there are animals inside those buildings—animals wake up every day, and go to sleep every day, in those horrific industrial warehouses. And that is how I came into the animal protection movement.”
Outside of her position with the Humane Society of the United States, Alexis is active in personal volunteer opportunities. For example, in her free time, she helps run the Massachusetts Humane PAC. Massachusetts voters care very much about animal welfare” Alexis says. One step for animal advocates to consider is the importance of standing up for humane candidates. She explains “when lawmakers stand up for animals, we will stand up for them.”
Her advice to law students: follow your passion, and follow it completely. She always thought it would be smart to have a plan “A” and a plan “B” as a law student, but she became so focused on protecting animals she never got around to plan B. In the end, Alexis totally focused on her love for animals and desire to be involved in the movement. “That passion helped me” she says.
“Alexis was an extraordinary SALDF leader while in law school” says Pamela D. Hart, director of the Animal Law Program at ALDF. “It’s no surprise that she continues to be a shining example for others as she blazes her own path, making the world a better place for animals.”
Alexis lives by the ocean in Newbury, Massachusetts with her two cats, Venus and Luna.