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Animal Legal Defense Fund Partners with Judicial Group on Groundbreaking Publication

Animal Legal Defense Fund partners with National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

In July 2019, the Animal Legal Defense Fund participated in the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ 82nd Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida. There, NCJFCJ debuted two first-of-their kind projects undertaken with the Animal Legal Defense Fund: a resolution on animal cruelty — Resolution Regarding Animal Cruelty and Its Link to Other Forms of Violence, and a groundbreaking new publication for judges, a Technical Assistance Bulletin exploring “The Link” between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence. The Conference also featured a panel of three judges (including NCJFCJ President, Judge John Romero) discussing ways juvenile and family court judges can address animal cruelty in their courtrooms.

At their July Conference, NCJFCJ announced its new resolution on animal cruelty — an official policy statement of the organization. By signing and releasing this resolution, NCJFCJ became the first national judicial organization to formally acknowledge animal cruelty as a crime of violence, and the link between animal cruelty and other forms of violence including domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse. The resolution further directs NCJFCJ member judges to take steps to address animal cruelty issues that arise in their courtrooms. Such steps include considering the safety of animals in the home when granting protection orders, when making custody arrangements, and when addressing allegations of domestic violence. Finally, in the resolution NCJFCJ pledges to provide resources and training to assist judges in these efforts.

The publication of the resolution coincided with the release of NCJFCJ’s Technical Assistance Bulletin entitled “Animal Cruelty Issues: What Juvenile and Family Court Judges Need to Know.” The sixty-page book was co-authored by NCJFCJ staff and Animal Legal Defense Fund attorneys with contributions from several judges. The Bulletin contains everything juvenile and family court judges need to know about the Link and how it affects their work; from sociological research, to relevant statutes, to suggested best practices. “There is a well-documented link between animal cruelty and many of the issues juvenile and family court judges encounter daily, including domestic violence and child abuse,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund is honored to partner with NCJFCJ to create the first ‘bench book’ helping juvenile and family court judges better understand and address animal cruelty issues.”

The conference itself consisted of three days of panels and sessions exploring the challenges faced by juvenile and family court judges. Three judges — Judge John Romero, Judge Rosa Figarola, and Judge Phillip Taylor — conducted a panel on the link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence. During the presentation, the judges shared research on the link and described how the link had affected the way they view and handle cases in their courtrooms. For example, Judge Figarola noted she is more attune to “red flags” signaling potential animal abuse now that she is aware of the link, and is able to intervene to help animals in those homes. Judge Romero reflected on the importance of considering the human-animal bond when placing children in foster care, analogizing it to the bond between siblings. Finally, Judge Taylor emphasized the need for communication and collaboration between various courts to ensure best outcomes for families, including their companion animals.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund thanks the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges for spearheading this important work to inform judges and to improve the lives of families, children, and animals who have been subjected to violence.

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