New student chapter to promote animal law

A new student group at Western Law will focus on protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.

Western Law students have partnered with the national non-profit group Animal Legal Defense Fund to create The University of Western Ontario’s first Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF).

The students will host speakers, debates and conferences; write law review articles for journals dedicated to animal law; and volunteer to do legal research and writing for local law firms and advocates for the addition of animal law courses to curriculum.

Animal law is a combination of statutory and case law in which the nature – legal, social or biological – of nonhuman animals is an important factor. Animal law encompasses companion animals, wildlife, animals used in entertainment and animals raised for food and used in research. Animal law permeates and affects most traditional areas of the law – including tort, contract, criminal and constitutional law.

The first SALDF chapter was established in 1992 at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., and there are currently more than 170 chapters at law schools throughout the United States and Canada – including at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, NYU and Northwestern.

“I consider Animal Law to be an up-and-coming branch of law not unlike environmental law was in the 1960s and 1970s,” says Western Law student Teri Muszak, SALDF’s chapter president. “Through our chapter I hope to increase dialogue within the faculty about how we can and should use the law to protect and advance the interests of animals.”

“SALDF chapters are an instrumental part of a growing national movement toward recognizing the important body of law known as animal law,” explains Stephen Wells, Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director. “A SALDF chapter can be a powerful forum on campus for education and scholarship aimed at understanding this area of law and the impact it has on animals. Most importantly, SALDF chapters are in a unique position to powerfully advocate for changing laws to better protect animals.”

Students interested in joining Western’s SALDF chapter should contact chapter president Muszak at tmuszak@uwo.ca.