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Center for Animal Law Studies

CALS Honors Joyce Tischler with Animal Law Achievement Award

March 18, 2019

The Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) is pleased to announce Joyce Tischler, founder of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and adjunct law faculty at CALS, as the second Animal Law Achievement Award Recipient. The award recognizes achievements in the field of animal law, including the creation, enforcement and skillful litigation of animal protection laws. 

Joyce Tischler has dedicated her career to advancing the field of animal law and ensuring the interests of animals are recognized and protected within the legal system. Affectionately known as the “Mother of Animal Law,” Joyce is today an internationally recognized animal law expert and inspiration to advocates around the world.

A visionary leader who used her passion and skills to launch a movement, Joyce blazed a trail for countless attorneys and law students who would follow in her footsteps and employ their legal expertise to help animals in all corners of society. In 1979, Joyce co-founded the first nonprofit dedicated to protecting animals using the legal system, the Animal Legal Defense Fund. With a small group of likeminded attorneys, Joyce played a pivotal role in launching, then shaping, the new field of animal law.

Forty years later, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals. Under her leadership, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed groundbreaking and major impact lawsuits and laid the foundation necessary for animal law to be taken seriously in law schools, law firms, and bar associations across the country. With a robust pro bono network and student chapters in virtually every ABA-accredited law school – including the student chapter at Lewis & Clark, which 25 years ago was the first chapter ever established – the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s influence stretches far beyond its organizational boundaries. When Joyce started out there were no classes in animal law. Today, almost every American law school has offered at least one class in animal law – a testament to the incredible growth in the field that she helped create.

Joyce served as the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s executive director for 25 years and its general counsel until her retirement this spring. She handled some of the organization’s earliest cases, including a groundbreaking 1981 lawsuit that halted the U.S. Navy’s plan to kill 5,000 feral burros and a 1988 challenge to the U.S. Patent Office’s rule allowing the patenting of genetically altered animals. She has tackled such diverse topics as challenges to hunting and trapping using the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act, standing to sue, animal custody battles, the right to kill animals pursuant to will provisions, landlord-tenant issues, and damages and recovery for injury to or death of an animal.

Joyce is an acclaimed speaker, having addressed audiences throughout the U.S. and Australia, in Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, U.K. and parts of Europe. She is the author of numerous law review articles, book chapters and other publications covering companion animal issues, the intersection of environmental and animal law, animal rights and personhood, the federal Animal Welfare Act and animals used in research, and the protection of wildlife. One of her notable articles is her double volume, “ A Brief History of Animal Law, Part I and II (1985-2011),” in the Stanford Journal of Animal Law and Policy. In addition to her writing, Joyce has been widely quoted, including in the  New York Times, Science Magazine, Washington Post,  USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, the Sydney Morning Herald,  Sunday Telegraph,  Guardian, and People magazine.

As an adjunct professor of animal law, Joyce has also taught at several schools, including Lewis & Clark. She consistently gets excellent evaluations from her students, who find her knowledge and passion for animal law inspiring. She recently co-authored (with the Center for Animal Law Studies’ Pamela Hart and Kathy Hessler) the first-of-its-kind casebook, Animal Law: New Perspectives on Teaching Traditional Law.

Joyce has a special place in her heart for farmed animals and is an expert in this developing area of law. She teaches farmed animal law classes and is currently at work on a new casebook, another first-of-its-kind that will enable law schools to offer industrial animal agriculture law as a separate law course in the environmental, animal, food policy and public health tracks.

Joyce coined the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s motto, “We may be the only lawyers on Earth whose clients are all innocent,” a sentiment that resonates with its simple truth. She is motivated by the idea of “tikkun olam,” a concept in Judaism defined by acts of kindness performed to mend the world. As Joyce told Oregon Jewish Life in 2017:

“Whatever level you want, there is so much people can do. It starts with tikkun olam. This concept encourages each of us to stretch our hearts and embrace more of this world. To stand beside the wounded and the defenseless, to embrace those who suffer, to acknowledge and reach out to those who are ignored or abused…The world needs more generosity, more mercy and better care.”

Through her life and career, Joyce has made it her mission to defend animals and in so doing improve the world.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer was the inaugural recipient of the Animal Law Achievement Award in 2018.