National Justice for Animals Week
Feb 24 - Mar 2, 2019
The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s National Justice for Animals Week is an annual event dedicated to raising public awareness about animal abuse, how to report it, and how to work within your community to create stronger laws and ensure tough enforcement.
Each year’s event features seven days of actions, and a “mascot” – 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 Ten Animal Defenders – the list of top prosecutors, law enforcement officials, lawmakers and others who champion the cause of animal crime victims.
Justice the horse is the mascot for the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s National Justice for Animals Week 2019. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has brought a groundbreaking lawsuit on Justice’s behalf — that, if successful, will be the first to establish that animals have a legal right to sue their abusers in court.
At the time of his rescue in March 2017, Justice, who is eight years old, was suffering from starvation, frostbite, and other grave injuries due to his former owner’s failure to provide him with basic care — including food and shelter. The horse was 300 pounds underweight, weak, and had a difficult time walking.
Justice’s abuser pleaded guilty to criminal animal neglect in 2017. But she agreed to pay restitution only for the cost of Justice’s care prior to July 6, 2017. Our lawsuit seeks damages for Justice’s care from this date and forward. The funds will go into a trust to pay for Justice’s ongoing needs.
Justice is now being well cared for at Sound Equine Options, an Oregon nonprofit horse rescue and rehabilitation organization. Because of his injuries and the expense of caring for him, it has been hard to find him a permanent home and a family of his own.
One big hope is that this lawsuit will help, in that regard. Another is that this lawsuit will bring about some progress in the law, so the legal status of animals matches what we as a society already recognize: they are sentient beings with their own lives and interests, and they deserve our respect.
There are seven actions you can take—one for each day of the week.
- Be prepared. Know what to do when you witness animal cruelty.
- Familiarize yourself with your state animal protection laws.
- 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
- Table during lunch or class breaks (we can provide free materials!). Request them by February 3, 2019.
- Hold a film screening.
- Email or call your representative about pending local, state, or federal legislation. Check city and state government websites for current legislation, or contact us to see if there is pending legislation in your area.
- Organize an Animal Legal Defense Fund Benefit Day by contacting a local vegan/vegetarian restaurant or animal-friendly business to see if they would donate a percentage of their total daily sales to Animal Legal Defense Fund.
- Host a guest speaker.
- Find more project ideas here.
Suggested Speaker Topics
- 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 or exciting legislative developments, or how certain animals like farmed animals are exempt from them.
- The connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty.
- The prosecution of animal cruelty cases.
- Your chapter can apply for a project grant to support your event. You can also receive a grant for a student chapter banner to use during National Justice for Animals Week and other chapter events. If your chapter has any questions, please contact the Student Programs Attorney.
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.
America’s Top Ten Animal Defenders 2018
Jessica Rubin, director of legal practice program, University of Connecticut Law School. Professor Rubin was instrumental in creating Desmond’s Law, which created the nation’s first statutory animal advocate position in criminal cruelty cases. Professor Rubin is among the first attorneys approved to volunteer as an animal advocate.
Diana Urban, state representative, Connecticut. Rep. Urban sponsored Desmond’s Law, which allows judges in criminal animal cruelty cases to appoint advocates for animal victims. The law honors the memory of Desmond, a shelter dog who was starved, beaten and strangled to death by his owner, who, despite having admitted his guilt upon arrest, was able to avoid jail time and have the crime left off his record after rehabilitation.
Tom Demmery, assistant chief of police, Hollywood, Florida. Ollie the pit bull was stabbed 50 times and left in a suitcase to die. Demmery treated the case with the seriousness it deserved, and instructed detectives to “treat this like a homicide.” They found the abuser, who is now behind bars facing charges of animal cruelty.
Patrick Harrington, prosecutor, Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Recognizing the need to address the county’s uptick in animal cruelty situations, Harrington assembled an animal advisory committee. The group includes a deputy prosecutor, animal control officers, veterinarians and local animal advocates – all working together toward the goal of bringing animal abusers to justice.
Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, Massachusetts. Dr. Smith-Blackmore is a veterinarian, public safety and animal advocate. She uses her expertise in veterinary forensics to assist law enforcement and prosecutors in animal cruelty cases throughout the United States. Her scientific contributions have been critical in countless cases, helping to ensure the animals’ conditions are fully documented and animal abusers are brought to justice.
Richard Alloway, state senator, Pennsylvania. Senator Alloway co-sponsored Libre’s Law, a 2017 update to Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws. The new law strengthens protections for animals and allows legal punishments for animal cruelty to match the severity of the crime. Sen. Alloway advanced these needed changes in the wake of public support for Libre, a puppy who suffered such extreme neglect he only lived thanks to intensive veterinary care.
Todd Stephens, state representative, Pennsylvania. Representative Stephens co-sponsored Libre’s Law, a much needed update to Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws. The new law offers more appropriate penalties for animal cruelty crimes so that animal abusers are not let go with a slap on the wrist.
Earl Blumenauer, U.S. representative, Oregon. When the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) abruptly eliminated public access to thousands of online records concerning enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (the federal law regulating research labs, puppy mills, zoos, circuses and more), Rep. Blumenauer led the charge to urge the USDA to return the records to the USDA website. Long a champion for animals, Rep. Blumenauer co-chairs the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.
Judge Susan Skinner, Bexar County, Texas. Judge Skinner recognized the importance of taking animal cruelty seriously, and decided to implement the first animal abuse docket in her county. By presiding over these cases she ensures that bringing justice to animal victims is not overlooked in Bexar County the way it is in many other jurisdictions nationwide.
Greg Allen, chief of police, El Paso, Texas. Chief Allen assembled El Paso’s first animal cruelty investigations unit, responsible for handling cruelty cases and training other officers to better respond to calls about animal cruelty. A dedicated animal cruelty unit goes a long way toward securing justice for animals.
Willow & Stormy the foals
Willow & Stormy are the mascots for the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s National Justice for Animals Week 2018. They were victims of severe neglect, both pregnant and severely malnourished when law enforcement found them. They were lucky to survive, but, thanks to the great work of the prosecutor and local rescuers, today Willow & Stormy are thriving, as are their foals. And their abuser is behind bars. The prosecutor knew how important it was to win justice for Willow, Stormy, and the other horses — so she contacted the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and we provided support to ensure that key witnesses were available to testify in this important case. Every year countless animal victims endure criminal cruelty. Willow & Stormy remind us that with persistence, we can make sure more animal abusers are brought to justice.
The abuser has received 2 years in jail from the jury and a probation revocation. She has been prohibited from owning, possessing and caring for horses for ten years. She is a repeat offender for abusing horses so it was incredibly important to bring her to justice.
Luke the pit bull
In 2017, our mascot for National Justice for Animals Week was Luke the pit bull. Luke is in a loving home today, but it was a hard fight to get him there. When Luke was just a puppy, he suffered a painful shattered shoulder when his guardian allegedly threw him against a wall. The owner was acquitted of cruelty charges in court, but the prosecutor didn’t want to return Luke to a dangerous situation and contacted us. The Animal Legal Defense Fund stepped in and developed a creative legal strategy that allowed Luke to be adopted out into a safe and loving home. Each year the criminal justice system fails animal victims of abuse, and Luke is a great example of how we can make the laws work to protect animals.
Baxter the daschund
In 2016, our mascot for National Justice for Animals Week was Baxter, a four-year-old silky haired dachshund.
The Oregon Humane Society (OHS) rescued Baxter from an Oregon puppy mill, after which he became known only as Count 26 in the resulting animal cruelty case. When Baxter went to his foster home, he was so matted and dirty that it wasn’t clear what kind of dog he was. But Baxter, like all animals, was resilient and came a long way since rescue. He learned that people can be kind, loving, and fun. He revels in the comforts of home. He’s a great example of how far a neglected animal can come with proper care and a little love!
Gracie the alpaca
Gracie was our mascot for 2015’s National Justice for Animals Week. This sweet alpaca was neglected and severely emaciated when she was rescued from an alpaca farm in Oregon. Thanks to Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue she has since made a full recovery and is thriving in her new home.