National Justice for Animals Week

February 19–25, 2024

The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s National Justice for Animals Week is an annual event dedicated to raising public awareness around crimes committed against animals. This includes learning what criminal cruelty is under the law, and how we can all work to build stronger laws, prevent criminal cruelty, hold abusers accountable, and vindicate the interests of animal cruelty victims.

Each year’s event features suggested actions and a representative — an animal whose experience with the justice system helps illustrate the law’s power to do more for animals. The annual week of awareness is capped off with the announcement of America’s Top Animal Defenders — the list of prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officials, animal rescuers, lawmakers, animal legal advocates, and others who champion the cause of animal crime victims.

Check out the NJFAW Project Kit, designed for student chapters to help with planning and ideas!

Animal Representative

Bella the dog

Bella is the representative for this year’s National Justice for Animals Week.

Bella, a 7-year-old shih tzu, was brought to a veterinary clinic with injuries indicating severe abuse, such as fractured ribs, broken teeth, bruising, and abrasions. Bella’s veterinary team reported the case to authorities, citing Illinois’ “mandatory reporting” requirement. Bella and another dog were lawfully removed from the abusive home, and Bella’s abuser was charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty. Both dogs have since been adopted into loving new homes.

Read the full story about Bella and previous years’ representatives.

Take Action

Here are actions you can take to raise awareness about animal crime victims.

  • Familiarize yourself with your state animal protection laws.
  • Have a plan: identify which agencies in your community are responsible for responding to criminal animal cruelty — and know how to report to them if you witness a crime against an animal.
  • Sign up for Action Alerts so you can take action on national and local animal issues.
  • Don’t just read the news — make it! Write a letter to the editor about an issue involving animals in your area.
  • Connect with the Animal Legal Defense Fund onFacebook,Instagram and Twitter. Share this page with #NJFAW, #Justice4animals and #aldf!
  • Join the Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter at your law school. Chapters are encouraged to host events to raise awareness about criminal justice issues in animal law. Please see the list of suggested events and projects below.

Suggested Events & Projects for Student Chapters

Suggested Speaker Topics

  • From US v. 53 Pitbulls to Desmond and Franky’s Laws: growing options for attorneys and law students to give voice to the needs of animal crime victims in court.
  • Ag-Gag legislation, which criminalizes whistleblowing of egregious animal cruelty on factory farms.
  • Criminal anti-cruelty laws: an overview of the laws in your state, exciting legislative developments, and how statutory carve-outs complicate protecting certain animals, like farmed animals and wildlife, from cruelty.
  • The connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty.
  • Vindicating Victims, Preventing Cruelty, and Doing Justice: a panel of perspectives on animal crimes in the justice system.
  • Animals at the Intersection of Criminal and Constitutional Law: searches, seizures, and religious freedom.


  • Stronger Laws to Protect Animals Like Bella

    Stand up and be heard. Animal cruelty is a serious crime. Animal abusers are five times more likely to hurt other people. Strong sentences for abusers protect people and animals alike. Robust cruelty laws keep our communities safer for everyone.

    Take Action
  • You Can Protect Animals

    Since 1979, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has led the charge to win animals the legal protection they so desperately need—and deserve. Your generous gift will assure that we can continue to take on cases that advance the interests of animals.

  • Stop Animal Cruelty

    Every day, animals are abused and killed. Their abusers frequently do not face any consequences – it’s still extremely common for animal cruelty to go unpunished. Without you, animals have no voice. Sign the petition.

    Take Action

Top Animal Defenders

Animal cruelty cases are complex, requiring determination, creativity, and persistence. Each year for National Justice for Animals Week, Top Defenders are selected for addressing animal cruelty in their communities, despite the challenges they encountered in doing so. The accomplishments of these individuals collectively represent justice for animal victims of cruelty and an increased protection of this vulnerable population in the future. These professionals have gone above and beyond for animals this year.

Learn more about this year’s Top Defenders.

  • Bark Nation
    Metro Detroit, MI
  • Elaine Fehrs

    Assistant District Attorney, District of South Carolina | Milwaukee, WI

  • Joyce Glass, Esq.
    Fund for Animal Cruelty Treatment of Suffolk, Inc | Guilford, CT
  • Jonathan Gottfried
    Assistant United States Attorney | San Juan, PR
  • Jill Hollander
    Fulton County District Attorney’s Office | Atlanta, GA
  • Kelly McLaughlin
    Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office | Detroit, MI
  • Glen Pye
    Hot Spring County Sheriff’s Office | Malvern, AR
  • Judge Jennifer B. Ranji
    New Castle County Family Court Judge | Wilmington, DE
  • Lara Sisto, DVM
    VCA Arboretum View Animal Hospital | Downers Grove, IL
  • Uinta County and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
    Evanston, WY