ALDF’s “Mother of Animal Law” Receives Advancement of Animal Law Award

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on July 29, 2009

She rolls her eyes when we refer to her as the “Mother of Animal Law” here at the office, but Joyce Tischler is, singularly, the person most responsible for the development and advancement of the field of animal law. This week the American Bar Association TIPS Animal Law Committee will honor Joyce by granting her the Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award.

Joyce didn’t set out thirty years ago with a plan to boldly pioneer and champion a new field of law. She had her sights set on the manual typewriter on which she hammered out some of her earliest complaints and pleadings to the courts on behalf of animals. Joyce simply knew that as a young attorney she wanted to put her law degree to work protecting animals.

But she quickly realized she was not alone. Her work struck a nerve with other law professionals who wanted to help animals as well. She organized meetings for some of the interested local attorneys in San Francisco, and she began to correspond with other attorneys from all across the country. Unwittingly, the Mother of Animal Law had given birth to a movement.

A core group of these compassionate law professionals became the founding members of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Over the next 26 years, with Joyce serving as its Executive Director, ALDF filed countless groundbreaking lawsuits and laid the foundation necessary for animal law to be taken seriously as a field of law in law schools, law firms and Bar associations across the country.

Although ALDF remains the only specifically animal law-focused organization, today nearly every animal protection group has lawyers and a legal strategy to complement their work. In addition, there are now 140 student chapters of the Animal Legal Defense Fund in law schools across the U.S. and Canada, including every one of the nation’s top ten law schools, and more than 110 law schools now teach an animal law class. And, last year, ALDF entered into collaboration with Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon to create the first-of-its-kind Center for Animal Law Studies.

It is not characteristic of Joyce to make much of her role in building this movement. Indeed, one of the things that define Joyce to anyone who knows her is her combination of strength and humility. But her persistent advocacy and clear leadership has been a force for change that would not be denied. It is my honor to say both congratulations and thank you from myself and everyone at ALDF and, most importantly, for the animals whose voices have been heard clearly and without fail through the voice of the Mother of Animal Law.