2 US states where lawyers represent animal victims in criminal cases

NEWS AND COMMENT: The New York Post tells me that, currently, there are two states in the United States where a lawyer represents the animal in animal cruelty cases in their passage through the criminal court. They act as the voice of the animal. Their role is to report to the court on the living conditions, health and welfare of the animal. And to tell the court about their needs, behaviour and the requirements that they have in order to be rehabilitated and adoptable if applicable. It is a recognition that animals are living, breathing sentient beings that can have emotions and feel pain.

Lawyer in court
Lawyer in court. Photo: Pixabay.
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It is an excellent idea. They operate under the Courtroom Animal Advocate Program (CAAP). The court appoints the animal’s representative. Lawyers and third-year law students can volunteer. They are described as a liaison between the court and the abused animal as the criminal case progresses through the legal system. The program ensures that the animal themselves are not forgotten.

New Jersey

The New York Post also reports that the legislature of the state of New Jersey is currently debating introducing their own CAAP. It is reported that the bill is being held up by the speaker of New Jersey’s legislature, Craig Coughlin, a Democrat. There is overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill.

Coughlin’s office said the speaker is “aware of the legislation and has engaged with the sponsors and interested stakeholders”. He is reviewing the bill.

New York

Brian Hackett, the legislative affairs manager of the Animal Legal Defence Fund is a strong advocate for this kind of law and that it is a “no-brainer”. His organisation is working to bring CAAP legislation to New York. He emphasised that the programme is introduced into a court case by the presiding judge if he or she deems it necessary.

Lawyers often like animals

Emerald Sheay, a lawyer, said that many lawyers are animal lovers and therefore they would be keen to volunteer to represent the victims of animal abuse in criminal proceedings.

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