Protecting animals via the law
When Marissa Pinto completed her DePauw University undergraduate capstone project on media perceptions of certain dog breeds and those breeds’ association with minorities, she discovered substantial crossover between “bully” breeds and issues such as dog fighting, domestic abuse, and criminal law.
“For instance, people often refuse to leave domestic abuse situations because their abusers threaten to hurt or kill their animals,” the second-year Loyola law student explains. “At Loyola, I didn’t find any class or organization that addressed the overlap between animals, which have always been a passion of mine, and my new passion, the law.” So, when she arrived at the School of Law, Pinto started the Loyola chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) to raise awareness of the various ways animal issues intersect with criminal, family, and other areas of law.
Founded in 1979, the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. ALDF files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm, provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors of animal abusers, supports and opposes specific legislation relating to animals, and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law.
SALDF at Loyola meets three to four times per semester. Recent gatherings have featured a showing of the film Blackfish and a conversation on animals in captivity, an antidog-fighting presentation, an investigation of “ag-gag” laws preventing private investigation of factory farms, and a discussion on advocating for animals in the court system. In coming months, SALDF plans to volunteer at the nearby Anti-Cruelty Society and host a benefit for an organization that trains service animals for veterans, among other projects.
Pinto, who is earning dual JD and MBA degrees, says she’ll probably choose a career in transactional law. But, she emphasizes, attorneys have plenty of opportunities for staying active in animal law regardless of their career choices. “I want to fit my love of animal law into pro bono work and volunteering,” she says. “I’m hoping this new organization will help others find ways they can do the same.”