Animal rights activists scored an important victory in Connecticut. The state is the first in the nation to provide animals with court-appointed attorneys. This month university student Taylor Hansen became the first such advocate to testify in court. She was aided by law professor Jessica Rubin.
The University of Connecticut’s law school is preparing its students to meet the new challenge. The school is one of the few in the nation to offer courses on animal law. Administrators report that other schools are eying their experiment with interest.
Animal rights charities with generous donors are driving the creation of new laws. Connecticut residents became concerned after a large number of animal abuse cases were dropped due to the court system being overcrowded. Human cases obviously are treated as a priority.
Bob Barker of The Price Is Right fame spends his time helping law schools across the country adopt animal rights curricula. Barker personally bankrolls the projects that he believes in.
“Harvard, Stanford and UCLA already have Barker-funded animal law programs. Northwestern University in Chicago and the University of Michigan have applied for grants from Barker’s foundation so that they can also open clinics,” HEATSTREET reports.
The case that Hansen and Rubin oversaw involved three pit bulls who were believed to be victims of dog fighting. The advocates argued that the defendant should be denied the chance to participate in a program designed for first-time offenders.
“One emaciated dog with scars from fighting had been found wandering. The other two were found in a home filled with animal feces, rotting food and evidence of dog fighting. One animal had to be euthanized,” the Associated Press revealed.
Hansen urged the judge to consider the brutality of the defendant’s crime as a reason to deny him the rights usually granted to first-time offenders.
“The animal advocates are an official party to the case. They can do investigative work prosecutors often don’t have time for, such as interviewing veterinarians and other witnesses. They also make arguments, write briefs and make recommendations to the judge.”
The program gives law students a chance to earn valuable court time and protects animal rights in a way that’s actually meaningful. Organizations like PETA get a lot of press but manage to affect very little.
The judge decided against Hansen’s recommendation but the student wasn’t discouraged.
“It showed the animals do have a voice,” she told reporters. “We are able to have an impact on the proceedings.”
Psychiatrists and psychologists agree that there’s an association between hurting animals and hurting human beings. People that are willing to hurt helpless creatures for their own amusement often treat other men and women with as much disrespect.
According to the Humane Society: “A 2001-2004 study by the Chicago Police Department revealed a startling propensity for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward human victims. Of those arrested for animal crimes, 65% had been arrested for battery against another person.”
Judges are doing society a favor by punishing animal abusers. They tend to be dangerous and unpredictable. Connecticut’s decision to allow appoint advocates for animals involved in court cases demonstrates how far society has evolved regarding animal rights.
The judge did decide that the defendant is prohibited from owning, breeding, or having dogs in his home for a minimum of 24 months. He also has to perform at least 200 hours of community service. If he stays out of trouble he will be able to wipe the disgraceful charges from his record.
The law changes rapidly. Americans have been growing more and more empathetic to the needs of other creatures. Animal rights activists have won more support than ever before.