Lansing School Marks a Milestone in Emerging Field of Animal Law

Posted on August 20, 2007

Thomas M. Cooley Law School Forms the Nation’s 100th Student Chapter of the Animal Legal Defense Fund while ALDF Attorneys Advise on Local Dog Fighting Case

Lansing, Mich.
– Students at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School have partnered with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to form the landmark 100th student chapter of the national non-profit group, whose mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. With the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s support, students at the school’s new chapter will join the ranks of hundreds of other student chapter members nationwide, taking on projects such as: advocating for the addition of animal law courses to curriculums; hosting speakers, debates, panels, and conferences; writing law review articles for journals dedicated to animal law; tabling on campus to raise awareness about animal issues; and volunteering to do legal research and writing for local law firms.  

ALDF’s milestone 100th student chapter at Thomas M. Cooley is one of numerous examples of the growing field of animal law at work in Michigan. Currently in Lansing, attorneys from ALDF are working with both Ingham County Animal Control and the Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in the prosecution of Delton Durane Jones. Jones was charged with a host of dog fighting crimes after police executed a search warrant for drug related crimes at his Lansing residence, only to discovery evidence of a dog fighting operation as well. This past April, ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program Director Scott Heiser, himself a former elected prosecutor, gave a half-day presentation at the Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers spring conference in Traverse City, discussing issues including animal hoarding, the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, and providing testimony in criminal animal cruelty cases. In an ALDF report, Michigan was ranked one of the top five states in the nation for its progressive anti-cruelty laws.

The first Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter was established in 1992 at Lewis & Clark Law School; 15 years later, there are more than 100 chapters at law schools throughout the U.S. and Canada, at top schools including Yale, Harvard, Stanford, NYU, and Northwestern. Three other Michigan schools–Michigan State University, University of Michigan, and University of Detroit-Mercy–already have active SALDF chapters.

“SALDF chapters are an instrumental part of a growing national movement towards recognizing the important body of law known as animal law,” explains Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “An SALDF chapter can be a powerful forum on campus for education and scholarship aimed at understanding this area of law and the impact it has on animals. Most importantly, SALDF chapters are in a unique position to powerfully advocate for changing laws to better protect animals.”

Background: What is animal law?

More and more law students and attorneys are looking to use their degrees to protect and advance the interests of animals, and to recognize that, despite animals’ legal categorization as “property,” there are special relationships between humans and animals that the law should account for.

Animal law is a combination of statutory and case law in which the nature – legal, social or biological – of nonhuman animals is an important factor. Animal law encompasses companion animals, wildlife, animals used in entertainment and animals raised for food and used in research. Animal law permeates and affects most traditional areas of the law, including tort, contract, criminal and constitutional law. 

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