Student Chapter Spotlight

University of North Carolina School of Law

The University of North Carolina (UNC) Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter was established by Elizabeth Overcash in 2009. She entered law school knowing she wanted to help animals, and quickly created a strong foundation for the chapter. She successfully petitioned for a course dedicated to animal law and organized frequent guest lectures on animal law topics.

By the time I arrived at UNC in 2011, UNC’s Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter had lots of members, activities, and plans to do even more. I joined as the treasurer and made sure we raised enough funds to keep up with our many events.

We brought dogs from the local animal shelter to the law school each month (several have been adopted by students), successfully lobbied for Meatless Mondays on campus, screened documentaries, and tabled for five weeks to educate students on five animal issues (food, experimentation, pets, clothing, and entertainment).

To fund our activities, we sell animal-themed UNC Law shirts, clean the law school fridge, hold vegan bake sales, sell food for vegetarian Thanksgiving, and even sweep UNC’s basketball arena after games. Our biggest fundraiser is the Pet Photo Contest, and all the money goes to local animal charities. For this event our faculty compete for the title of cutest pet, and the students get to see the animal-loving side of their favorite teachers. Thanks to some very cute pets and competitive professors, this event has raised over $1,600 in the last two years.

Our greatest accomplishment was in 2012 when we held our first annual Animal Law Symposium and brought 100 legal professionals, students, and community members to learn about animal law issues. This was the only animal law symposium in the Carolinas, and it tapped into a lot of energy among animal lovers in the region who wanted to come together and advance animal law locally and nationally.

I was elected president later that year and felt so fortunate that Elizabeth had left such a strong and active animal law chapter as her legacy. We continued expanding into new areas and recruited our largest ever executive board with lots of enthusiastic first year students.

We coordinated joint events with the newly-formed animal law chapters at Duke and North Carolina Central’s law schools, created an Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter lending library, brought in animal rights activist Jake Conroy and journalist Will Potter as speakers, and helped PETA bring their interactive factory farming exhibit to our school’s quad.

Our second symposium in 2013 brought even more people to our school to enjoy panels discussing issues like local trap-neuter-return (TNR) ordinances, animal legislation in North Carolina, and equine law. We love bringing together so many different people dedicated to advancing animal law and help spread ideas, knowledge, strategies, and experiences. Both years, this event was supported by a chapter project grant from Animal Legal Defense Fund.

The most rewarding part was having the privilege of inviting our chapter’s most accomplished alumni to give a presentation on her groundbreaking work in animal law. Elizabeth Overcash traveled from Virginia, where she now works as an Evidence Analyst for the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and discussed the case she has been working on against Global Captive Breeders LLC. Her work helped lead to the largest animal seizure in California, the arrest of the owners, and 223 felony charges of cruelty-to-animals.

And I’m also excited to say we now have Veronika Sykorova and Stella Kreilkamp, who jumped in and organized our symposium as first year students, leading our chapter as President and Pro Bono Chair.

On top of our other regular events, this weekend they have co-sponsored a pro bono project with the American Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee where law students and others will receive training in the Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers (HEART) program. With this training, they will then go to North Carolina public schools and teach elementary school students about treating animals with compassion and kindness.

We are also excited to be part of the Animal Legal Defense Fund family. They have helped fund our events as well as made it possible for several UNC students to attend the phenomenal Animal Law Conference at the Lewis & Clark School of Law. We also enjoy connecting with other Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapters both locally and nationally. In the Spring of 2013 we joined with chapters across the country to participate in National Anti-Cruelty Day, a national day of outreach that raised awareness about animal cruelty and funds for Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program.

So at UNC we are very proud of our first few years as a chapter, and very optimistic about our future!

This chapter spotlight was submitted by Zach Ferguson, former University of North Carolina Student Animal Legal Defense Fund president and 2013 recipient of an Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship.

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