Does An Animal Advocate Have the Ear of the President?

Posted by Dana Campbell, ALDF Attorney on January 23, 2009

So, I’m going through last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine article on the key members of (now) President Obama’s staff and I see that Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein will be heading up a department in the new administration. My brain suddenly slams on the brakes and says "Whaaaat? Really?" The same Cass Sunstein who is a noted and prolific writer and speaker on animal law and Constitutional standing, among other topics? The same Cass Sunstein who spoke at the 2001 Animal Law Conference at Lewis and Clark Law School and later modified his remarks there into an article on Enforcing Existing Rights for the Animal Law Journal (Volume 8)? The one who took his dog Perry on camera for an interview with Greta Van Susteren and who later established a scholarship fund in memory of Perry for law students interested in animal welfare? That Cass Sunstein?? Surely that has to be good news for those of us working on behalf of animals.

I next checked to see what Professor Sunstein would be doing: he will be in charge of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, established in 1980 to review draft regulations and do other stuff related to regulatory policy-making and analysis. Frankly, I couldn’t really put my finger on what exactly the agency does, but it sounds boring. Nevertheless, and most importantly, I believe the animals do now have a known scholarly advocate within the executive branch of the federal government, a person who by his own statement is a longtime friend and colleague of President Obama while they were both teaching at the University of Chicago Law School. I plan to spend some time with ALDF early this year trying to figure out how to make the most of that influential connection to the President.  Advice and ideas from readers will be accepted and appreciated. Let’s not squander this possible opportunity to talk about and push the welfare of animals in a national forum.

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