Student life has a furry side at the School of Law once more, thanks to a group of second-year law students.
The Animal Law Project, which was inactive from 2009 through the beginning of 2012, is now back in full swing. This semester alone, law students have had the opportunity to visit the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, attend a pro bono training session on animal law and assist local lawyers in their pro bono work with animals.
Second-year law student Marisa Kirio, director of the Animal Law Project, grew up with a dog and set out to restart the project earlier this year because of her passion for animal protection.
“The idea that people could abuse animals or abandon them until they die is just very frustrating,” she said.
The foundation for the Animal Law Project’s revival was built in spring 2012, when Kirio approached Penny Ellison, an adjunct professor at the Law School who teaches a seminar on animal law. Kirio also reached out to other law students via Facebook in spring 2012, and three committed to re-establishing the project with her.
Much of the ALP’s work in recent months has involved building relationships with organizations like the Pennsylvania SPCA and local lawyers who are active with pro bono animal law.
One such lawyer is 1969 Law School graduate Gregg Miller. In addition to working full-time for Pepper Hamilton, LLP, Miller also does substantial pro bono work with the Pennsylvania SPCA. With the SPCA, he helps acquire permission for animals to be taken away from abusive owners and placed with good adoptive families.
Since August, ALP students have helped him prepare memos, draft petitions and conduct legal research. Miller noted that the students’ assistance has been “substantial.”
“I have enjoyed working with the students,” he said in an email. “Their response time and quality of work product have been excellent.”
With 22 students currently involved in research and pro bono activities, ALP Treasurer Andrew Morris, a second-year law student, feels that the group’s efforts so far have been a “resounding success.”
Learning about animal law has been instructive for the group members, including the group leadership.
“I found that it’s hard,” Morris said. “In law … you use precedent. What do the courts say, what are the regulations out there, what are the statutes? It requires that someone has done work in the area. And when nobody’s going to court and litigating these things, you don’t have these decisions. You don’t have a lot to go on.”
Ellison, a 1989 Law School graduate, began teaching her animal law class in 2006 after hearing that there was substantial interest among Penn students to study the subject.
The ALP was created at the same time that the course developed. The group was inactive for a few years because, according to Ellison, the student organization “waxes and wanes with student interest.”
But the new leaders of the ALP are making it their mission to ensure that the organization is sustainable even after the current leadership graduates.
“One of our main concerns is to make sure that we have a viable organization that will be around after we’re gone,” Kirio said.
“We don’t want somebody to have to reinvent the wheel again,” Morris added.
Kirio believes that law students have a unique opportunity — and perhaps even a responsibility — to give back to society.
“Our legal education is not just something on paper, but something that actually lets us have an impact on our community,” said Kirio. “I think there’s a great need for that in Philadelphia.”
An earlier version of this article misattributed a quote said by second-year law student and Animal Law Project Treasurer Andrew Morris to second-year law student James Park. The article has been updated to reflect the proper attribution.Comments powered by Disqus
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