Animal Law Clinic Assists Farm Animal Sanctuary
Lewis & Clark Law School’s Animal Law Clinic is providing legal assistance to a local animal sanctuary, and in so doing, developing a legal tool kit for animal sanctuaries around the world.
Their Oregon client, the Wildwood Farm Sanctuary, provides lifelong refuge and rehabilitation for abused and abandoned farm animals.
Clinic students and alums Hannah Fields ’18, Kristine Bernhardt ’18, and Clinic Fellow, Rebecca Jenkins ’16, worked with Wildwood under the supervision of Director of the Animal Law Clinic Kathy Hessler. They audited Wildwood’s nonprofit documents, including directors and officers (D&O) insurance, updated liability waivers for volunteers and visitors, particularly with children in mind, and conducted research to inform policies regarding breeding, euthanasia, and transfer of ownership.
Hessler emphasized the widespread need for sanctuaries to attain legal advice, as they often arise as small-scale grassroots efforts in response to a local need. Most begin with just a few animals, no business plan, and no legal advice and then grow into established organizations.
“Because sanctuaries engage in fundraising focused on taking care of the animals, it it difficult for them to find the time or resources to address legal needs. It usually takes some time before founders incorporate their efforts, create boards, and begin developing organizational policies,” Hessler said. “Yet it is important for the safe and sustainable functioning of a sanctuary that legal issues be addressed.”
One major benefit that Hessler sees to working with the sanctuary is that the sanctuary board members will now proceed with liability matters on their radar. “They begin to see that there are legal implications to the issues they face. This should make it more likely that the organization will survive and thrive and be able to accomplish its mission of caring for animals,” she said.
By filling the dearth of legal advice at Wildwood, Fields, Bernhardt, Jenkins, and Hessler help to relieve the stress that the organization faces in this domain, allowing it to focus on rehabilitating their animal residents.
“The work I did for Wildwood aided me in gaining experience in an area of law that I wasn’t even aware that I was interested in,” said Bernhardt JD ’18 and a current Animal Law LLM student. “I enjoyed drafting contracts and was thrilled that I was able to help out an organization whose funds, I believe, should go towards helping animals instead of paying attorney’s fees.”
The Animal Law Clinic plans to develop a legal tool kit for animal farm sanctuaries around the nation and world, with goals to preemptively share information, provide common approaches to the legal issues most sanctuaries face, and clarify those that are geographically or species specific.
Lewis & Clark Law School has been a leader and pioneer in the field of animal law education since 1992, offering the most extensive animal law curriculum in the world, an Animal Law Certificate, and the first of its kind, post-JD master of laws, Animal Law LLM.
In addition to the Animal Law Clinic, law students can participate in the Animal Law Summer Program, the Animal Law Review, the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, the annual Animal Law Conference, and the National Animal Law Competitions hosted by Lewis & Clark Law School.
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