Law Students Use Their Expertise to Help the Animals
Imagine attending graduate school and studying a subject that holds deep meaning for you. Then imagine having the opportunity to volunteer in that field and make a real difference while still a student. To many students, such a scenario would be just a pipe dream, but it is a reality for Stefanie Wilson, Storm Esep and Wanda Morrow.
Stefanie Wilson (pictured left with her dog Deuce) is a second-year law student at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law and a volunteer law clerk with Best Friends. Stefanie discovered Best Friends as a junior in college while doing a summer internship at the Oregon Humane Society. She came across Best Friends’ website while trying to learn as much as she could about shelter management and animal care issues confronting shelters. Ever since, she has been a huge fan, and after watching the TV show DogTown, she knew she had to find a way to get more involved.
Stefanie found that opportunity with Best Friends’ pit bull terrier initiatives. She is currently conducting high-level legal research and writing an article set for publication in the American Bar Association’s “Public Lawyer” magazine. The article addresses civil actions resulting from police shootings of dogs, as well as the law as it applies to injuries caused by police dogs. Stefanie is working on the article with Best Friends’ senior legislative attorney Ledy VanKavage and legislative lawyer and programming and policy analyst Laura Handzel.
Pit bull issues in particular are very near to Stefanie’s heart. So, when the opportunity arose to volunteer, she immediately contacted Laura, telling her that even though she had a hectic schedule, she could find the time to help. After all, Stefanie’s focus in school is animal law, and upon graduation she plans to use her law degree to help animals. Stefanie says it is wonderful to be able to work toward her goal with an organization she has admired for so long.
Two other law students, Storm Esep and Wanda Morrow from the South Texas College of Law, are also working to further Best Friends’ pit bull terrier initiatives. The students, supervised by Professor Fran Ortiz, are assisting with legal research and legislative efforts in Texas. In addition to collaborating with Ledy and Laura, Wanda and Storm are working with Best Friends’ lobbyists and economists on a shelter access bill. They are researching counties with populations of more than 75,000 people, finding kill rates and other statistics in those counties, drafting alerts and letters to committee members, attending meetings, and performing additional tasks as needed.
These law students are contributing to important animal protection efforts via their volunteer work for Best Friends. They are helping to restore the positive image of pit bull terriers, overcome breed-discriminatory legislation, preserve the human-canine bond, and improve shelter systems. For that, we thank them and we know the animals do, too.
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