Leading prosecutors, animal control officers and legal scholars gathered at UConn School of Law on May 30, 2018 to learn about investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty.
“Veterinarians, animal control officers, prosecutors and advocates have unique and critical roles in handling cases,” said Professor Jessica Rubin, director of the law school’s Animal Law Clinic. “When there is communication among parties and care invested from the start of a case, we are more likely to see successful and just case outcomes.”
The seminar was free to students and open to attorneys and animal control officers for a small fee. About 150 professionals and animal lovers gathered in Starr Hall to hear five expert panels discuss different aspects of the process of conducting an investigation into and prosecuting a case of animal cruelty.
Speakers advocated for a more compassionate legal system, and noted the connection between violence toward animals and violence toward humans. Diane Balkin, who works as a senior staff attorney for the Animal Defense Fund, said animal abusers are five times more likely to commit a violent crime than a non-abuser.
“Investigating and prosecuting crimes against animals has a significant, measurable impact on public safety,” Balkin said. “When animals are abused, people are at risk.”
Animal law is still an emerging field of academia and practice, and several speakers highlighted the significance of the event itself.
“This event was just the latest example of Professor Rubin’s extraordinary and groundbreaking efforts in the emerging area of law and practice,” said Paul Chill, associate dean for clinical and experiential learning. “It was the first statewide, interdisciplinary training seminar for professionals in the area.”
The conference drew several out-of-state panelists, many of whom complimented Connecticut for being a national leader in progressive animal law. The state legislature passed the groundbreaking Desmond’s Law in 2016, allowing judges to appoint advocates in animal cruelty cases. Rubin and her students helped get the bill passed and have been acting as advocates through the law school’s new animal rights clinic.
“Thanks to Professor Rubin’s clinic, the whole state of Connecticut, and especially UConn Law School should be proud,” Balkin said. “They are a national trendsetter in animal protection.”
Even as attendees debated policy proposals, a common animal-loving thread made for a lively, comfortable room. The crowd laughed when Sara Greene, an assistant state’s attorney, chuckled as she explained the most difficult part of animal law:
“No matter what happens, you can never, ever speak to your client,” Greene said.