Student Chapter Spotlight

Spotlight: Catherine Awasthi

Catherine Awasthi is a 2021 recipient of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Advancement in Animal Law Scholarship.

Catherine Awasthi is a 2021 recipient of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Advancement in Animal Law Scholarship. This award honors students who demonstrate a commitment to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission: “to advance the interests and protect the lives of animals through the legal system.” Recipients are actively involved in their Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter while in law school and show promise in the field after graduation.

Catherine is entering her third year of law school at Florida State University College of Law where she will serve as pro bono director for the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund Chapter. She is also vice president of the FSU Law Moot Court Team and a member of the Environmental Law Society. Additionally, Catherine works as a legislative intern for the Florida Press Association and volunteers pro bono for Pets Ad Litem in Tallahassee, Florida.

What Animal Legal Defense Fund student chapter activities are you proudest of and why?

Due to the pandemic, there was a concern among the board members that our students and our members would lose interest in animal law. Over the past year, I can proudly say that our ALDF student chapter was one of the most active student groups at the law school. I am proudest of our partnership with the Environmental Law Society at FSU law, and the joint panel we organized together to simply introduce students and members to prominent people in both fields. Networking was something we feared to lose during the pandemic, so this event was crucial to maintain our relationship for student internships and pro bono work in animal law. I also am proud of organizing an “animals in legislation” speaker who really opened up possibilities for students to make a difference, as FSU Law is steps away from the state capitol and lawmakers.

Any other noteworthy experience?

Our students at FSU Law really stepped up when our county animal shelter put out a message that some items were in critical need. We helped to advertise a way for students to safety drop off donations and were able to provide more than 250lbs of dog and cat food. We also organized a pre-exam stress relief “paws & paint” event outside on the lawn of the law school, where students could bring their dogs to let them paint something to hang next to their law degrees! Finally, we were able to hold a socially-distanced “Dogtorate” graduation ceremonies for our third-year graduating members, because we know how much patience it takes to live with a law student!

What is an animal law related goal of yours for the upcoming academic year?

As a former President and now the Pro-Bono Director for the upcoming year, I will continue to provide students with networking opportunities to do volunteer work in the animal law field. The pro-bono work I have done thus far was extremely fulfilling and impactful, so my goal is to grow the program overall. With the pandemic less likely to impact in-person events, I also plan to help organize a visit to an animal rescue that takes in animal rescues from CAFOS and other harmful agricultural operations. I want to be able to educate students on farming cruelties and then continue to create a culture of transitioning away from animal products, starting with an initiative with our campus sustainability office to provide more vegan options for students on campus. Finally, we have fostered a great relationship with the Florida Director of the U.S. Humane Society, and I hope to build on that with a panel of local legislators involved in drafting animal law legislation, in order to offer guidance for students interested in lobbying and legislation.

What are your plans/goals for post-graduation?

My goal for post-graduation is to work for a team of ocean and coastal advocates, while also working on cases involving animal welfare. Although my career is likely to focus on coral and marine mammals, I will always seek opportunities to offer my skills to advocate for any animals. My mentor in the animal law world has provided me with a great foundation for taking on pro bono cases, so I plan to offer my services whenever I am able. I also plan to be a mentor for both my student chapter and any students interested in pursuing a career in animal law. Finally, my goal is to become a member of the Animal Law Section of the Florida Bar Executive Council.

What is one piece of advice that you’d like to pass on to other Animal Legal Defense Fund student chapter leaders?

Look for opportunities and ideas for keeping students engaged from the ALDF Student Chapters page – this provided me with good ways to introduce tough subjects to students. Also, attend conventions when possible, they offer a well-rounded selection of discussion ideas that you may be able to localize with your own chapters.

Learn more about the other 2021 Advancement in Animal Law Scholarship winners.

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