As Student Conference Coordinator for the 2011 Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark, I have been reading the newly published Animal Law in Nutshell, in an effort to gain a broader grasp of the myriad issues animal law encompasses. It leaves me wondering..."What do I want to focus on as an animal lawyer?"
The idea of becoming a lawyer is fairly new to me. I studied psychology and music in college, pretty set on becoming a music educator or music therapist. Through a story I refer to as, "The Best Disaster That Ever Happened," I found myself in Hong Kong for a summer, unable to volunteer at the organization I was scheduled to be at, and in need of a network of people with whom I could spend a few months. Animals Asia Foundation took me in, and I spent my summer helping with their moon bear campaign and teaching 'Professor Paws' courses. Professors Paws classes entailed bringing a certified therapy dog into a Chinese government-run classroom, and while teaching the children English, teaching the children to love and respect dogs and animals. At the end of four one-hour sessions over the course of four weeks, the children graduated as official "Pet Cadets," ready and able to stand and take a pledge to protect all animals.
Watching the children transform over the four weeks was so touching to me. I know how much my dog has meant to me growing up, and being able to share that love of an animal with children who formerly viewed them as dirty or scary - what a feeling being able to share something so important to me. Animals Asia's lawyer invited me back the following summer to work directly under her supervision, and well, the rest is history.
So here I am, in law school at Lewis & Clark, studying animal law, and wondering what I am actually going to DO once I pass the bar. I was inspired this morning by an email my dad sent me. I sent him a news article about a fox that accidentally stepped on the trigger of a gun, shooting the hunter that had been aiming to shoot him. My dad replied to my email with this little story:
Can you imagine the fox going back and telling his other fox friends what happened. He sits there with his bandaged wound telling the story: "So after I shot him, I told that hunter 'Don't you ever come back here again!' And then the hunter just ran away crying like a little baby."
They all laugh hysterically, emboldened for their own next encounter with a hunter. But suddenly, a small twig snaps in the bush. A hush goes over the crowd until they realize it was just an overweight squirrel. They go back to their laughing at the hunter, but perhaps a little bit more nervously than before.
Thanks for brightening up my day. I like to see the little guy win at least once in awhile.
Growing up with my parents, it would be impossible not to love animals. My favorite childhood story is from the time my parents let some squirrels live in our attic all winter, because despite the fact that they were eating our house, the squirrels had babies and my parents didn't want them to die in the cold. My mom used to come home with new companion animals it seemed like every week for a while - and every single one of them was the runt of the litter, or the bird that had plucked all its feathers out, or another animal that desperately NEEDED love and care. My parents gave me binoculars when I was little to watch the birds in the woods behind our home more closely. I could go on and on about all the ways in which my parents instilled in me a love and respect for animals, both companion and wild.
I was intrigued by the notion of studying animal law because it seemed that the law would be the most effective way to make change for the most animals. By changing the laws, and changing the infrastructure of our legal system as to not view animals as property, we can help an infinite number of animals. But as I re-read my dad's email this morning, and reflect on my experience teaching in Hong Kong, I am realizing that perhaps equally important as changing the law is campaigning for widespread humane education. If every child grew up hearing the values that my parents instilled in me, maybe we wouldn't need to have a law making it illegal to abuse a living being.
Maybe I will become an educator after all. As they say, everything happens for a reason.
Jaclyn Leeds J.D. Candidate 2013 Lewis & Clark Law School