Animal Legal Defense Fund Grant Aids Animal Law Clinic in Developing Courtroom Animal Advocate Program Trainings
A grant from the Animal Legal Defense Fund will support the groundbreaking work of the Courtroom Animal Advocate Program of the Animal Law Clinic at the UConn School of Law, including creating new scholarship and trainings relating to CAAP programs, and expanding efforts to establish similar programs in other states. The grant will also support research and programming, including development of an animal care education program for offenders prosecuted in minor cases of animal cruelty, and advocacy guides to serve as a go-to resource for CAAP legal advocates.
Associate Dean Jessica Rubin founded the Animal Law Clinic in 2018 to train lawyers and law students to serve as advocates for justice in animal abuse cases under Connecticut’s pioneering Desmond’s Law. The clinic has also helped establish a courtroom animal advocate program in Maine.
“The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s generous grant will allow our clinic to continue helping the courts adjudicate cases of animal cruelty and will enhance our efforts to address the underlying causes of animal abuse with education and training,” Rubin said. “We’re grateful and proud to work with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which is on the forefront of efforts to promote animal law education programs.”
The clinic’s teaching fellow, Tara Cooley, added, “It’s wonderful to collaborate with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to expand our efforts. It’s an impactful partnership that combines the organization’s vast criminal justice network with UConn’s innovative work.”
“Animal victims need representation in the criminal justice system, and Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs uniquely position legal advocates to speak specifically to the interests of the animals,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Animal victims are unique, as they can’t testify to their treatment and are regularly living evidence which many courts are not experienced in handling. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is thrilled to formalize this partnership with UConn Law School, which has been at the forefront of implementing this important program.”
As of Aug. 1, 2022, the Animal Law Clinic has handled 93 animal cruelty cases in which dogs, cats, cows, rabbits, and other animals were victims of maltreatment. Acting as advocates for justice under the direction of Rubin and Cooley, the clinic’s students have presented courts with information about cruelty cases and relevant law and made recommendations on outcomes.
The student advocates’ work has extended to reviewing police reports, body camera footage, veterinary records and applications for diversionary programs. They have argued in court and participated in pre-trial conferences and plea negotiations.
Short Film Released with Actress Anjelica Huston in Support of States Adopting Courtroom Animal Advocate ProgramsHuston narrates the Animal Legal Defense Fund film demonstrating the impact legal advocates can have on behalf of animal cruelty victimsFebruary 15, 2022 Press Release
A Courtroom Animal Advocate Program (CAAP) bill, S.2868/A.4533, which would allow law students and volunteer lawyers to advocate for animal victims in cruelty criminal cases, unanimously passed the New Jersey Senate. The bill is sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and endorsed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.February 19, 2021 Press Release