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Law School News

One of Nation’s Oldest Animal Welfare Organizations Recognizes STCL Houston’s Animal Law Clinic for its Pioneering Work in Animal Law

The International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR) recently honored South Texas College of Law Houston’s Animal Law Clinic (ALC) — the first and only of its kind in Texas — with its “Seeds Award,” created to “honor individuals and not-for-profit entities who have made exceptional contributions to the important and burgeoning field of animal law.”

In addition to the award, ISAR presented the ALC with a $500 gift for the Clinic’s commitment to eradicating animal abuse and supporting animal rights through the law.

“We are truly honored that one of our country’s preeminent animal welfare organizations selected our Animal Law Clinic and law school for its respected “Seeds Award,” said Elizabeth Dennis, director of the ALC and associate professor of Clinical Studies at STCL Houston. “It is through collaboration — among students, individuals, nonprofits, legislators, and animal rights activists — that we will advance the field of animal law, and broaden legal protections for animals in our community.”

ISAR, founded by the late Helen Jones — one of the early pioneers of the animal rights movement — was chartered in 1959, making it one of the oldest animal protection organizations in the United States. Indeed, the first federal and state court legal cases in the U.S. to use the words “animal rights” were in lawsuits brought by ISAR.

In spearheading the animal rights movement, Jones worked closely with attorney Joyce Tischler — founder and president of the Animal Legal Defense Fund — and the late Henry Mark Holzer — ISAR’s long-standing chairman, whom Tischler dubbed “the first animal rights lawyer.”

According to ISAR, these individuals “coalesce[d] lawyers, and others, into an informal network of like-minded individuals…to identify the tools necessary to create an entirely new, separate field of law — one which would take its deserved place among other long-recognized practice areas such as corporate law, property law, criminal law, and many others.”

Since the 2017 launch of the ALC, the Clinic has served as a resource for students, professors, attorneys, organizations, media, and individual clients on animal rights law and advocacy. The ALC assists organizations and attorneys involved in animal protection litigation, legislation, and policy work.

The ALC students’ advocacy already is impacting the law in Texas. Last year, these aspiring attorneys traveled to Austin to voice their support for an amendment they drafted to the state’s Animal Cruelty Statute — one that would offer much needed protection, both to helpless animals and human victims of domestic violence.

“Students in the ALC are developing lifelong skills in legal research, legislative and transactional drafting, persuasive advocacy, and effective client collaboration in the context of their passion for animal welfare in our local community and beyond,” said Dennis. “As they begin their law practices, they will draw on these skills daily, and also work to ensure the protection of vulnerable animals through pro bono or other representation.

“Our aim with the ALC is to create a resource for Houston, for Texas, and perhaps the nation,” she said.

Law students in South Texas College of Law Houston’s Animal Law Clinic – the first and only of its kind in Texas – celebrate the Clinic’s 2017 launch at the law school. The Clinic is one of 23 separate, specialized clinics of the school’s Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics.