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In one state, abused animals get a legal voice in court

Pat Eaton-Robb: ‘Many states have victim’s advocates or child advocates, people in the judicial system who represent those affected by crime or abuse. Now, one state has created legal advocates for abused animals, an experiment being watched nationwide for signs of success. There are eight approved volunteer advocates across Connecticut — seven lawyers and a University of Connecticut law professor, working with her students. It’s up to a judge to decide whether to appoint one, but they can be requested by prosecutors or defense attorneys. In the first six months of the law, advocates have been appointed in five cases… The law was created by the legislature and went into effect late last year. “Desmond’s Law” was named for a dog that was beaten, starved and strangled by its owner, Alex Wullaert, who admitted to the violence but avoided jail time under a probation program for first-time offenders that allowed his record to be wiped clean… The American Kennel Club, though, opposed the law, saying it could result in confusion over who is responsible for an animal and limit the rights of animal owners, including in cases in which someone else is charged with the abuse. Supporters say those issues are easily handled by a judge… According to a legislative report, there were 3,723 animal abuse or cruelty cases charged in Connecticut between 2006 and 2016. Eighty percent were not prosecuted or were dismissed’. SOURCE…

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