Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs: At the Crossroads of Crime Victim Law and Animal Law

Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs: At the Crossroads of Crime Victim Law and Animal Law
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-06-15
Unit 1Slide Deck: Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs
Unit 2Transcript: Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs
Unit 3Workbook: Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs
Unit 4Recording: Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs

Meaningful progress in crime victims’ rights in the US truly shaped criminal justice. The best part, the past decade or so witnessed society’s recognition of the sentience of animals and the same victim rights slowly trickling down to animals as well. Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs (CAAP) is one of the mechanisms in place ensuring animals’ interests is represented in the court of law.

David Rosengard joins the Justice Clearinghouse to deep dive into how CAAP helps address the needs and welfare of animals. David is a senior staff attorney in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program who works with criminal justice stakeholders to pursue justice on behalf of animal cruelty victims and have animals achieve the legal status of crime victims.

This session’s discussion is on:

  • Defining crime by dissecting the two fundamental types of a crime and its characteristics.
  • A glimpse into criminal law in different periods in US history – from its very limited scope in the colonial era to a decisive event that really pushed crime victim rights to the forefront.
  • Understanding crime victim rights to information, due process, recompense, safety and privacy, and timely resolution.
  • The philosophy surrounding crime victims’ rights where there are more than two sides to a criminal case, there is no need for an adversarial dynamic, and the victim’s legal interests must be upheld.
  • How animal cruelty law shifted from one that only focused on animal’s legal status as property to one that recognizes their sentience.
  • Juxtaposing animal and crime victim law by looking at its malum in se nature, its intent to protect a harmed individual, where victims may be treated as mere evidence, and have interests that do not align with prosecution nor defense.
  • Creating better legal outcomes in animal criminal cases by redefining the legal status of animals, granting access to crime victim rights, and having an advocate represent the animal in court.
  • A run-through of case laws that set the precedent relevant to animal law sentencing math and timely resolution of cases.
  • The inadvertent origins of the Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs in the Michael Vick dogfighting case.
    • A brief overview of the case and its outcome.
    • The federal government’s decision to appoint a guardian and special master for the seized dogs.
    • The guardian and special masters’ responsibility to find experts who can evaluate each dog and determine its final disposition.
    • The outcomes of the 53 ex-fighting Pit Bulls.
  • The inception of Desmond’s Law in Connecticut.
    • How this came as a result of public outrage over the deficient charge for the abuser and murderer of the dog Desmond.
    • The scope and limitation of the law, and the responsibilities of the advocate.
    • How the law is being utilized thus far in Connecticut, the positive feedback, and the study being run to measure its impact.
  • Frankie’s Law: The abuse case which paved the way to its creation which is largely modeled after Desmond’s Law.
  • Developments for CAAPs: The three major models for CAAP Laws and other efforts aimed to expand the program and understand its impact.
  • A case study demonstrating how the absence of a CAAP mechanism hindered the timely resolution of a case and created behavioral and social issues for the seized animal.
  • Policy and legal issues and concerns raised regarding the implementation of CAAP and how it is addressed by the program itself.
  • A summary of the scope and limitation of the responsibilities and abilities of the advocate.

Questions from the webinar attendees were about:

  • The recommended field of law for someone interested to pursue law school and become an advocate for animals.
  • Becoming an advocate without having to go through law school or be an attorney.
  • Advocates’ duties and capacities based on the judge’s order.
  • Resources to help civil attorneys get up to speed on animal law.


Webinars in this Series with the ALDF include:


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “The case examples were helpful to demonstrate how this role would influence outcomes and participate with the parties involved. I think the background of how this idea was developed was helpful too.” — Emily
  • “As an animal advocate, I really enjoy these webinars and I’ve been [sharing] JCH with many of my friends and like-minded people. …Please continue to provide these interesting and very important topics, especially on wildlife.”  — Nicole
  • “Thank you, David! This was another very well-researched, well-presented webinar by you. I learned a lot. You’re a true professional, and the animals are lucky to have you in their corner.” — Jen
  • “CAAP is very interesting and should be a bill in every state. Animal victims have no voice so we must be theirs each and every time! We need more resources to prosecute animal crimes!” — Lori
  • “I was unfamiliar with specific animal cruelty laws so learning about those, along with their history, was very beneficial.” — Susan D.




View our Animal Welfare Webinar  Schedule and Recordings



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.





** This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care and Control Association and may be eligible for Continuing Education Units. Please consult your local certification processes for additional details. Current NACA Members who attend will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo.
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