The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) indicates that one of the largest contributors to the growth of Animal Law as a course of study in law schools is through the efforts of student ALDF (SALDF) chapters. SALDF chapters have been established at seven of the nine Texas law schools. This month’s spotlight focuses on one such chapter, the Animal Law Society established at South Texas College of Law in Houston.
STCL’s Animal Law Society was organized in 2007 by three students interested in learning about the practice of animal law. Through their efforts, the organization achieved recognized status as an official student organization the following year. Since that time, ALS has become one of the more visible student groups on campus and has been named Student Organization of the Year four times. Under the leadership of five different presidents since its creation, the group continues to thrive.
The stated mission of the ALS is to “provid[e] a forum for education, advocacy and scholarship aimed at protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system and rais[e] the profile of the field of animal law.” To that end, the ALS brings in speakers each month to address issues of importance to the animal law community and has worked on joint speaker programs with the Houston Bar Association Animal Law Section (HBA-ALS). Past speakers have included, among many others, Belinda Smith, Chief of the Animal Cruelty Section of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office; Officer Joel Caldwell, Commander of the Animal Services Unit of the Galveston Police Department; John Pippin, Director of Academic Affairs for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; Tom Linney with ALDF; and Allie Keaton with My Service Dog, Inc. In one memorable event, ALS joined with the HBA-ALS to present a viewing of Behind the Mask, a documentary about the Animal Liberation Front, followed by a forum on the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act with Shannon Keith, animal advocate and director of the movie, and STCL national security law professor Geoffrey Corn. Animal law professor Fran Ortiz moderated.
ALS is particularly known for its charitable efforts and has sought to increase its gift-giving every year since its inception. The group holds two main fundraisers, a Howl-O-Ween photo contest in the fall and a silent auction in the spring. Last year, under the leadership of president Christina Fojas, ALS raised over $16,000, the bulk of which was contributed to the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) to provide for five Spay Days with SNAP’s mobile clinic in low-income neighborhoods in Houston and Interfaith Ministry’s aniMeals on Wheels. Last semester’s fundraising efforts, led by president Johanna Miller, have already raised over $4,000, most of which was donated to My Service Dog, Inc., for training of a therapy dog for the physically challenged son of a STCL student. The balance went towards relief for residents and animals displaced by the Texas Wildfires. Past recipients of ALS donations include San Antonio’s Guide Dogs of Texas, Inc., the Houston Humane Society R.A.I.D.E.R. program, Caring Critters (a therapy dog organization), and various organizations assisting in disaster relief in Japan.
This semester’s silent auction fundraiser, led by current ALS president Jennifer Fox, was held February 27 through March 7, 2012 for the benefit of SNAP and Corridor Rescue, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping abandoned animals in Houston’s “corridor of cruelty.”
ALS also maintains funding for the Hon. Michael H. Schneider, Jr. Animal Law Society Scholarship, established by Judge Schneider in 2009. The scholarship is awarded to up to two students annually who have demonstrated an interest in animal law, animal welfare, or animal rights. Anyone interested in contributing to the scholarship may do so by contacting Kim Parker, Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations at South Texas College of Law, at email@example.com.
South Texas College of Law offers courses covering animal welfare, animal rights, and management of wildlife resources as well as student internships relating to animal law. For more information about the animal law program at STCL or about ALS, contact Professor Fran Ortiz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Animal Law Society members man the tables at its annual Silent Auction in 2010.
ALS President Christina Fojas (left) and Vice President (later President) Johanna Miller pose with Student Bar Association President Joe Patranella after ALS was named 2010-2011 Student Organization of the Year.