What You Need to Know About Animal Advocacy Laws
More states may soon be following in the footsteps of Connecticut in passing animal advocacy laws. Enacted in 2016, Connecticut’s “Desmond’s Law” allows for an animal advocate to be present in a courtroom during dog and cat abuse cases. Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island currently have similar laws in the works.
Usually a lawyer or law student, the animal advocate works pro bono and provides additional information on the case and can make recommendations to the court. Supporters of the law argue that prosecutors often don’t have the time or resources to fully research animal cruelty cases, resulting in more lenient sentences for offenders. They say an animal advocate can provide greater context for the court.
Desmond’s Law was named for a pit bull-boxer mix that was beaten, starved and choked to death. His owner did not receive jail time and the incident was expunged from his record. In Connecticut, “Desmond’s Army” often attends animal cruelty and neglect trials. Wearing purple shirts and sweatshirts, the group shows their support for the animal victims in these cases.
However, those who oppose the law, many of whom are defense attorneys, say the system is already pitted against those on trial for animal abuse since people already take these charges very seriously. They also say that this kind of advocacy is confusing in a justice system that views animals as property.
If more laws like Desmond’s Law are passed nationwide, it could signal a shift in how animals are perceived in the American legal system. They could take on a higher, unprecedented status that falls between property and people. With a new California law that deals with pet custody in divorce cases, this conversation has already begun and more legislation like Desmond’s Law could just add fuel to the fire.