Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs: Approaching Animals as Quasi-Party Crime Victims

Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs: Approaching Animals as Quasi-Party Crime Victims
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-11-10
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs
Unit 2 Transcript: Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs
Unit 3 Workbook: Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs
Unit 4 Recording: Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs

The core mission of animal law is to get the legal system to recognize the experience and interests of animals. While their legal status can’t afford them rights, procedures ensuring that their perspectives are weighed and evaluated by the court are put into place, so they too are considered victims, and not just mere evidence.

David Rosengard is back at the Justice Clearinghouse to explore Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs (CAAP), its challenges, uses, and benefits. David is the Managing Attorney in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program where he works across the criminal justice system to pursue justice on behalf of animal cruelty victims and leads efforts so animals can achieve the legal status of crime victims.

Specifics of the discussion include:

  • Victim’s rights timeline: How it started, the slow progress, the critical event in the 1980s that forced the federal government to take victims’ rights seriously, and how this area of law continues to develop since.
  • The similarity between victims and animals in criminal law as it relates to the need to have their voices heard and perspectives taken into account in the legal process as a quasi-party
  • The unique challenges and complexities of animal cruelty cases in terms of the type of crime and the animals’ position with cruelty litigation.
  • Addressing the gap between the need of the animals and existing legal mechanisms through CAAPs.
  • How a CAAP law provides judges with the guidelines as it relates to the requirements to become an advocate, the duties, and the scope and limits of the role.
  • The pivotal case that served as the precursor of CAAPs.
    • The context of the case, the animals involved, and how the federal courts determined to deal with the seized animals through an appointed Special Master.
    • An outline of the duties the Special Master was tasked with and the findings of the evaluations on each of the dogs which decided their outcomes.
    • How the case shifted how the entire US views fighting dogs as victims that can be rehabilitated instead of co-conspirators in the crime.
  • An account of the domestic violence case that ended tragically for the victim’s dog that brought about the first CAAP law – Desmond’s Law in Connecticut.
  • The scope and mandate of Desmond’s Law in terms of the cases it applies to, the appointment of the advocate, and the advocate’s responsibilities and focus.
  • Maine’s adoption of their own Franky’s Law.
  • New Jersey’s proposed CAAP law, deemed as the most built-out law proposal thus far, and comparing its provisions to Desmond’s law.
  • The scope and limitations of the advocates as it relates to who they answer to, the tasks they perform and their authority, what they’re arguing for, and the system’s benefit to the advocates and the animals.
  • The Bella Donna Lugosi case study that demonstrated…
    • How Bella, the dog, suffered within the confines of the legal system that doesn’t have a built-in mechanism to take its interest and well-being into account.
    • How long it took before any legally-impactful actions were taken to remedy the situation.
    • The time it took to get Bella re-socialized following 10 long months in a kennel to be made adoptable again.
  • A look into some of the developments in this area of animal law through initiatives by the Brooks Institute for Animal Rights Law and Policy, the University of Connecticut Animal Law Clinic, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
  • Addressing frequently asked questions that were raised in the process of gathering feedback with entities involved in CAAP laws and efforts.

Questions from the webinar attendees are about:

  • Ways to help animals get out of abusive situations legally.
  • Managing opposition to CAAP laws.
  • The downside to having animal advocates involved in the legal proceedings.
  • States where CAAPs are currently in effect.
  • Appealing sentences that used state-specific CAAP legal arguments federally.
  • CAAP laws and similar initiatives in Canada.
  • Working with judges who don’t have any regard for animal victims and convincing them otherwise.
  • Instances where pro-bono representation for the animal is provided outside of a CAAP framework.
  • Getting the bench books to give the judges.
  • Getting pre-screened and trained as a CAAP advocate.
  • Fostering collaborations between courtroom animal advocates and the ACOs.


 Webinars in this Series with the ALDF include:


Or click here to view and register for other upcoming Animal Welfare or NACA  webinars on the JCH Platform.


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Case studies and outcomes are always good to hear!” — Brandy
  • “First of all, this presentation was Outstanding in Every way. Thank you for having it! — I did not realize that when an animal criminal case goes to trial that neither side has a legal duty to act on behalf of the animal. That information is Huge! I learned that there is a Great Deal of Work that needs to be done to get CAAP in other states and even then if the judge chooses not to use the Advocate, then the animal is still left without a voice. I would LOVE to have more presentations about Animal law.” — Jennifer M.
  • “Very good speaker.” — Fleming
  • “A very informative information, thank you for the webinars.” — Kritsine
  • “The presentation was excellent in every way. The most valuable thing that I learned is that without a CAAP statute in my state (Wisconsin) it’s unlikely that I will be able to be a CAA any time soon. But I will, of course, continue to help non-human animals in any and every way that I can, both legally and otherwise.” — Linda
  • “All of it! I had NEVER heard of CAAP; didn’t catch what the acronym stands for, but as the webinar went along, found this program to be super–and want to learn more (will try to find time to listen to the webinar again). Thank you!” — Marilyn
  • “I like the case law examples to compare with how other states handle their animal victims.” — Rhiannon



Founded in 1979, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. The Animal Legal Defense Fund accomplishes this mission by filing high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm, providing free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are held accountable for their crimes, supporting tough animal protection legislation and fighting legislation harmful to animals, and providing resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law.





This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.




This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.





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