Should your pet ever need a lawyer, the University of Connecticut is ready to provide them one — sort of.
A new law in Connecticut makes it possible for animals who have been abused or neglected to have their own advocate in court when their alleged abuser is on trial or facing sentencing.
The University of Connecticut’s law school is preparing a swath of students for their new, furrier-than-normal clients by providing training in “animal law,” and allowing students to serve as advocates, so long as they can find a law professor to provide oversight in the courtroom.
UConn is one of only nine law schools in the country that have these types of programs, but according to a report from NPR, the field of animal law is growing, particularly because animal rights activists and charities are well-funded.
Bob Barker, the former host of The Price is Right has been spending his retirement working with law schools to create animal rights clinics – and he’s spending the money he earned as a game show host to bankroll those programs into the long term.
Harvard, Stanford and UCLA already have Barker-funded animal law programs. Northwestern University in Chicago and the University of Michigan have applied for grants from Barker’s foundation so that they can also open clinics.
In Connecticut, the animal law students who serve as animal advocates get valuable courtroom experience, at least, and they won’t have to worry too much about whether the client thinks their representation is adequate — their mostly dog and cat clients can’t speak English.
Advocates are an “official part of the case,” according to an Associated Press report, and fill some of the duties prosecutors would normally handle, collecting information, interviewing witnesses, and taking on some of the more formulaic aspects of animal-based litigation, like authoring early legal briefs.
The idea came about when animal rights groups noticed that while Connecticut had thousands of animal abuse and neglect cases reported each year, the vast majority (nearly 80%), were dismissed by judges or dropped by overworked prosecutors who are focused on mostly human crime, leaving even egregious offenders to go unpunished.