Desmond’s Law, in the US State of Connecticut, came into force in October 2016.
Desmond’s Law is a program that uses qualified pro-bono lawyers and volunteer law students to provide investigations to guide the court in animal abuse cases.
- The program is discretionary and under the supervision of the Court
- It allows volunteer advocates to access facts, records and other information regarding the animal, readily share information with each party (prosecutor, defense attorney), and make recommendations to the Court
- It applies only to cases involving cats and dogs
- The court-appointed advocate does not directly represent the animal, but rather the ‘interests of justice’
A Harvard Journal on Legislation article published last year discusses that the law, although groundbreaking, could be significantly stronger if it allowed the advocates to represent the animal – as is currently done in child abuse cases using a children’s advocate. The rationale is that animals are sentient, as are children, and so they deserve stronger advocacy to represent their interests in the court system
Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island all have similar laws in the development and, hopefully, these laws will expand upon Desmond’s Law with even stronger advocacy for animals.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand