After the Webinar: Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs. Q&A with David Rosengard

Webinar presenter David Rosengard answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs: At the Crossroads of Crime Victim Law and Animal Law.  Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: What type of education and field of law would you recommend for a non-attorney that’s interested in going to law school and doing this kind of work?

David Rosengard: Sure. So, if you’re not currently an attorney and you’re interested in going to law school and doing animal criminal work, the first and foremost thing you’re going to want to do is to identify a law school with a strong criminal program and a strong animal law program. There are law schools out there that do both. One option you would have, depending on your geography, depending on all the factors that go into law school choice, one option you would have is your JD at whatever law school you want, focusing on criminal issues, and then do an animal law LLM at Lewis and Clark, it’s the one program in the world that does that post-doctorate law degree on animal law, where you could focus on, specifically, building on your criminal background onto animal law. I did my animal LLM, and did very much for that, and found it quite enjoyable. But I will say, that does involve an extra year of law school. You’ve got to love law school to do that. And it’s not necessary to do this kind of work if you want to be a CAAP advocate. Really all that’s required is to have the JD background. I know, in Connecticut, Jessica Rubin and I, and others, have done training for those advocates. As I said, I’m working on coming out to Connecticut and doing that there. There are programs and methods set up to provide that training for people who have, who are licensed to practice law, and wants to do that kind of advocate work. So, if you’re looking to do professional, full-time, animal criminal work, I would say find the law school that’ll give you the background in both. If you’re just looking to be an advocate, do whatever kind of law you are passionate about and enjoy and know that you can do this kind of work, ancillary to that. You could be a civil attorney and do this kind of work as an advocate. There are resources to give you the training tools to bring you up to speed to do that.


Audience Question: If you’re not an attorney and are not planning to become one? Are there options to become an advocate?

David Rosengard: Sure. That’s a great question because there are many people in the world who do not want to be attorneys, and there is very little less happy than someone who is an attorney and doesn’t want to be one. So, I encourage you, if you’re thinking about being an attorney, only go do that if you actually want to practice law. So, there are ways to be involved without being an attorney in these programs. The best model I would have here is out of Connecticut, and it’s a Desmond’s Army, which is a group of non-attorney animal advocates who are the most effective, focused, animal criminal advocates I have seen in my professional practice. They are incredibly organized, incredibly savvy about the way the criminal justice program works, and incredibly professional in their approach. And by that, I mean, they’ve got realistic understandings of what the criminal justice system can offer. They are able to interact with members of the community and lawmakers to try to address the needs of the community. They are, in many ways, the grassroots that were responsible for getting Desmond’s Law passed. And they also ensure that there is someone sitting in court, pandemic aside, sitting in court during every animal cruelty case in Connecticut because they feel it’s important for that to happen. That part of our heritage in the American legal system is that the public watches criminal proceedings as a way of signaling that this is about society, and it’s about the public paying attention. And so, they do that in every criminal case, and that’s something that could be replicated in other locations. If you want to be an in-court advocate without being an attorney, that’s going to be a little rougher because there are a lot of options for not attorneys to address the court. The Rhode Island model is one option where if you’re working as part of a rescue, or animal control officer, you may have specific authorization to do that. Certainly, if you’re involved in an animal’s care in a state that has a CAAP program, you could end up producing the testimony for that advocate giving information about the animal’s condition or circumstances.


Audience Question: And what was the name of that organization that you mentioned in Connecticut? 

David Rosengard: Desmond’s Army, if you Google them. They will pop right up. And I know the people who co-ordinate them are very responsive. So, feel free, I feel confident volunteering if you want to reach out and inquire about starting a similar program outside of Connecticut.


Audience Question: Do advocates make sentencing or case disposition recommendations?

David Rosengard: So, they can, it’s going to depend, in some cases, on what the judge appoints the advocate to do. Again, the answer to the judge and the judge could say, I’m appointing you to figure out where this animal is going to live before trial. Figure out, where are these 50 ferrets go or figure out how we get Bella out of her kennel. The judge could say, I have appointed you just for sentencing. I don’t want you to work on anything else. Just give me a sentencing recommendation. The judge could say I have appointed you for the entire trial. In terms of sentencing, advocates can do victim impact statements, and that can be important, particularly because many times the statute will not interests the emotional and behavioral impacts on an animal. I had a case a few years back involving a cat who was being assaulted by a house guest. This person was, while the owners were at work, tying the cat up in a sort of BDSM type scenario and was caught doing that with a nanny cam. The cat wasn’t physically harmed, but it is fair to say the cat did not act the same way again. And the frustration that the owners, the humans who loved that cat felt was that because the statute in that state only talked about physical injury, they were having a really hard time explaining to the court how they are and how their cat had been impacted. They were being told they couldn’t talk about the fact that the cat needed a whole lot of extra cat training and behavioral work in order to even want to interact with the owners again. And I was able to work with them to figure out some fancy legal footwork around that, but that’s the kind of work an advocate can do. They can make sentencing recommendations, that’s something we’ve seen in Connecticut where defense attorneys, prosecutions have both asked for that, particularly when it comes to recommendations that sometimes prosecutors and defense attorneys don’t have the time to research. For example, in cases, with a mental health component, where do you find a treatment provider that can actually address the underlying causes for animal cruelty? There are programs out there working on that, and I’m fortunate enough to be involved in some of those, but they have it. They are few and far between on the ground right now, and sometimes it can be very useful to have an attorney who’s solely focused on figuring that out.


Audience Question: I am a civil attorney and a solo practitioner who is considering animal law. Can you mention resources to help civil attorneys get up to speed on animal law? Jeff, any other specific recommendations? 

David Rosengard: Certainly, so if you’re looking for a quick practitioner’s guide to animal law issues, my go-to is animal law in a nutshell. It’s in its third edition, and it’s put together by a great team of animal attorneys, updated pretty regularly with the latest developments in the field, and it’s very explicitly framed as meeting the need you’re talking about. So, it’s built for practitioners who are expanding their practice to deal with animal law issues. If you want a more in-depth resource, that’s a little bit less focused on the needs of the moment. Adam Karp is an animal attorney who’s published a large tome on animal law practice, afraid the name of that escapes me at the moment. But if you Google Adam Karp Animal Law, it will pop right up. I think beyond that there’s a number of resources for practitioners from an academic perspective. You’ve got casebooks, you’ve got the Animal Law Review. But also, for example, the ALDF, some organizations do trainings and offer webinars on these very issues. I can speak specifically in the criminal justice context. If you’ve got people interested in doing criminal justice, animal cruelty work, get in touch with me. We do bespoke trainings for that, so we’ll come out and do that for a particular jurisdiction or a particular agency and I’d be happy to talk about how to tailor that to your needs.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs: At the Crossroads of Crime Victim Law and Animal Law.  



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