Connecticut Animals Have a Voice With Desmond’s Law

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
A groundbreaking law enacted last year in Connecticut is giving a voice to animals that are victims of neglect and abuse.

Last year, Connecticut passed a revolutionary and inspirational law that gave voice to animal victims of neglect and abuse, and that law today continues to bring hope and justice for dogs who would otherwise have no voice and continue to remain victims.

David Rosengard is a lawyer with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which supported the legislation, and said that the law was pivotal for ensuring that a third representative voice–one for the abused animals–was allowed in court proceedings where human oppression, neglect and abuse was taking place.

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Professor Jessica Rubin teaches law at the University of Connecticut, and regularly goes to Superior Court as a legal advocate looking for the best interest of dogs involved with oppressive situations. She, along with law students and a volunteer organization named Desmond’s Army, stands in front of judges and gives her opinions on what would be in the best interest of the pets in situations where removing them from their owners may be in question. Many times, she and her colleagues argue for animals found in horrific situations not be returned to their legal owners, but instead turned over to animal advocacy and welfare groups to help rehabilitate them and give them a chance at a life they deserve.

The advocates also are involved as investigators who help overburdened case workers look at facts and situations revolving around possible animal abuse situations, and then allow best opinions to be made by the judge. Often, cases are simply not prosecuted, or if they are, are done so in too lenient a fashion to prevent an offender from further animal abuse, and the advocates who act under this law want that to change.

Representative Diana Urban sponsored the legislation last year, saying that the animals are innocent and needed a voice. She maintains that those who would abuse animals may also easily abuse humans and she hopes that more charges would happen as a result of the law.

Which makes total sense…and still there are those who oppose the law in that they fear the loss of ownership rights should animals be looked at as sentient creatures rather than property. The American Kennel Club actually opposed the statute because of that fear, worried that ownership rights could easily be handed to third parties invariably.

But Kathy Hessler is a clinical professor at Lewis & Clark Law School and says that it’s time to bridge the disconnect between animals and laws protecting them, as they are the only ‘sentient’ creatures that fall into a ‘property,’ category.

Other states are watching to see how the law, named for a dog named Desmond who was abused and died in 2012, can make a difference in the cases they see regarding animals, and mostly to see whether or not situations of euthanasia can be decreased with increased advocacy and voice for the animals. Christine Kiernan helped organize Desmond’s army to do just that–be a voice for animals who have no one to speak up for them.

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Kiernan says that stopping the abuse of animals is part of a bigger picture that stops a cycle of violence. The volunteers who work with Desmond’s Army spend tireless days advocating between the bureaucracy of animal law and the line where we realize that animals live and breathe and feel. She and her fellow volunteers look for ways they can help animals, but says they are often called upon to go across the state as they’ve shown their commitment to animal advocacy.

People working to ensure the best interest of animals. Sad that it needs legislation, but glad to see that it’s happening, with more looking to bring programs to their states as well.

[Source: NY Times]

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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