New Student Group Helps Bring Animal Law Class to University of Texas Law

Posted on July 18, 2008

Published on the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Law website

Austin, Texas–The
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) at The University of Texas
School of Law has successfully added Animal Law as a course offering
for the first time in the Law School’s history.

Animal Law is being taught this spring by adjunct
professors Susan Hightower, a senior associate at the Austin trademark
boutique of Pirkey Barber, and Texas Assistant Attorney General Lisa
McClain. “The course examines the current legal status of animals in
the United States through the study of regulatory and case law.”

SALDF was established as a student organization in
the spring of 2006. It is affiliated with the Animal Legal Defense Fund
(ALDF) in Washington, D.C., and shares their mission to protect the
lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system.
SALDF aims to provide a forum for education, advocacy, and scholarship
in animal law to the UT community.

“I have always cared deeply for animals and felt it
my duty to work towards improving their welfare,” said Thomas Linney,
president of SALDF. “Being a part of this organization is exciting
because our chapter is the first of its kind at UT and also because
animal law is a dynamic and rapidly changing field,” Linney said.

There are currently about 10 active members and over 80 people on the School of Law’s e-mail list, Linney said.

promotes the stronger enforcement of anti-cruelty laws and more humane
treatment of companion animals, wildlife, and animals that are raised
for food and research. They also work to educate students that the
relationship between animals and the law goes beyond animal fighting,
factory farming, inhumane sport hunting, puppy mills, and the
Endangered Species Act.

The growing field of animal law includes criminal
law encompassing domestic violence and anti-cruelty laws; animal
custody disputes in divorce or separations; veterinary malpractice
cases; housing disputes involving “no pets” policies and discrimination
law; damages cases involving the wrongful death or injury to a
companion animal; and enforceable trusts for companion animals under
Uniform Trust Code provisions being adopted by states across the

There are currently over 50 student organizations at The University of Texas School of Law, including 12 student journals.

About Professors Hightower and McClain

became one of the Pirkey Barber firm’s founding attorneys in June 2006
after practicing for five years in litigation and intellectual property
law at the Austin office of Fulbright & Jaworski. She also is a
council member of the State Bar of Texas Animal Law Section, a board
member of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, and a volunteer with
Austin’s Town Lake Animal Center and Pets America Partnership, which
trains volunteers to supervise shelters for pets who are evacuated with
their families in the event of a disaster.

Hightower graduated with honors from Stanford Law
School in 2000, and then clerked for the Honorable Jacques L. Wiener
Jr. of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, where
Hightower volunteered twice with animal rescue groups following
Hurricane Katrina. Prior to attending law school, she earned a master’s
degree in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and worked
for nearly six years as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press.

McClain is an Assistant Attorney General in the
Transportation Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas.
She represents the Texas Department of Transportation in environmental
and eminent domain proceedings in federal and state court and in
administrative proceedings. McClain has practiced environmental law
almost exclusively for nine years in both the public and private

McClain earned her J.D. at South Texas College of
Law and then clerked for the Honorable Frances H. Stacy, U. S.
Magistrate Judge, Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. She
then earned a Master of Laws degree in Environmental and Natural
Resources Law at Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark
College. While at Lewis & Clark, McClain was fortunate to take the
Animal Law course taught by Pamela D. Frasch, who is a co-author of the
text Animal Law: Cases and Materials
and who serves as vice president of legal affairs for the Animal Legal
Defense Fund. McClain served two and a half years as the chair of the
Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, and she currently serves
on the Board of the Texas Humane Legislation Network. She volunteers
regularly at Town Lake Animal Center.

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