I had the pleasure of joining Loni Edwards as a guest on the PetInsider podcast recently. As the executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, I always enjoy meeting with fellow animal advocates and Loni is certainly one of them. We recorded the podcast at The Dog Agency’s Manhattan offices and spoke about our common passion of protecting animals and how we can all make a difference in the lives of our nonhuman companions.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system and we do that in a number of ways. We have more the 450 law firms and 2000 individual attorneys signed up to do free legal work for us. Last year, these amazing professionals donated more than $4.2 million worth of legal work to help animals.
We assist and train prosecutors in the handling of animal cruelty cases nationwide, work to ensure that animal law is taught is law schools, file groundbreaking lawsuits to protect animals and work directly with lawmakers and animal advocates to write and pass stronger animal protection laws.
One project Loni and I spoke about was Bella’s Bill in New York. Bella, an 11 year-old Shepherd mix, suffered a cruel and violent death as her caregiver, Michael Gallagher, placed zip ties around her neck, shoved her into a garbage bag, and then beat her with a shovel in broad daylight in front of his house on Long Island. Bella’s injuries were so severe, she needed to be euthanized. Prosecutors in Nassau County pursued the maximum sentence for Gallagher’s crime and yet he was sentenced to just four months in county jail. After completing the brief sentence, he returned to his home, shared with his wife and her three dogs. The punishment certainly did not fit the crime and that is because in the state of New York the animal cruelty laws are outdated, leading offenders to receive mere slaps on the wrist for heinous and violent acts towards animals. Bella’s Bill, currently being considered in the New York legislature, would change that.
Bella is just one of the reasons why animals need lawyers. They don’t have a voice in our legal system so we have to be their voice. It will take lawyers to fight for the legal recognition that animals are not “property,” but living, sentient beings who have interests that should be recognized and protected by law.
I hope you will enjoy listening to our talk on this episode of the PetInsider podcast.
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