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New California Bill Seeks To Give Abused Animals A Voice In Court

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A new California bill put forward by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D, Van Nuys) called Riley’s Law would allow judges the ability to appoint in courtroom advocates as representatives of abused animals to represent their interests in criminal animal proceedings.

Assembly Bill AB 2645 would appoint advocates comprised of pro bono attorneys or carefully supervised students in law school.

Animal Hope in Legislation and Animal Legal Defense Fund have sponsored the new bill and both organizations have an incredible success rate.

The new proposed law (Riley’s Law) is named after a dog that went through truly horrifying and despicable abuse as a helpless little puppy. He was found with acid burns throughout his face and body with a broken jaw.

Riley after healing up from abuse

Riley required intensive rehabilitation thanks to The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation a San Fernando Valley-based dog rescue whose patience and dedication allowed Riley to not only get well but to be adopted out to a loving forever family.

“As a rescuer, I have seen some of the most horrific acts of violence against dogs and cats, animals we call our family members,” said Marc Ching, Founder of Animal Hope in Legislation and Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation. 

“When it comes to such cases, these animals deserve a voice that would speak on their behalf. Riley’s Law would do just that.”

Crimes against animals are insidious and often go unpunished as animals are unable to speak up for themselves. This new law would allow an advocate to be that voice that can speak up for the needs and interests of an animal that has been the victim of abuse crimes.

Those needs will center around the animal’s well-being and health including the prevention of future animal cruelty on other helpless victims.

According to Jennifer Hauge, Animal Legal Defense Fund, “A dog may languish in a shelter while her abuser awaits trial, kittens born to a cat held as evidence will need to be placed in loving homes, and dogs used in fighting will almost certainly require rehabilitation.”

Defense attorneys have a duty to their client and prosecutors have a duty to the state, but no one is tasked with directing the court’s attention to the animal’s needs. Advocates can be appointed at any point after a criminal cruelty proceeding commences—and are appointed entirely at the judge’s discretion.

“The interests of these animal victims must not go unaddressed,” said Assemblymember Nazarian. “As such, this proposed new law will give judges, prosecutors, and defense counsel more complete information from which to operate.”

The very first use of an animal advocate program came in 2016 in a Connecticut courtroom. Federally the first use of an animal advocate program occurred in 2007 during the Michael Vick dogfighting case.

In that case, a federal judge appointed an animal advocate in the form of Professor Rebecca Huss as a guardian ad litem much like what children in custody cases receive to find their best interest between parents.

Professor Rebecca Huss as a guardian ad litem was responsible for giving independent recommendations to the court about the personality and behaviors of each dog that was seized from Vick. She was tasked with recommendations best for their well-being.

That landmark decision to appoint a guardian ad litem to an animal has been credited with saving the lives of the almost 50 dogs seized and saved from Michael Vick’s sick dogfighting operation. 

In fact, that decision is what shifted the national standard for how we rehabilitate dogs previously used in dog fighting rings.

If this new law passes in California we are like to see this become a new Federal standard across the united states not too long after.

California often sets the standards as they have with the fur ban in 2019 and many other animal rights laws that have become the standard elsewhere.

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Brandon Kirkwood

Animal Rights Activist (ARA), Vegan, Creator and editor of Vegan News, Father to an awesome cat named Boba, Youtuber

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