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State experiments with legal advocates for abused animals in court | Fox News

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"HARTFORD, Conn. – 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 across the nation for signs of success.
There are eight approved volunteer advocates across Connecticut — seven lawyers and a UConn 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 American Kennel Club, though, opposed the legislation, 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.


The animal advocates are an official party to the case. They can do investigative work prosecutors often don't have time for, such as interviewing veterinarians and other witnesses. They also make arguments, write briefs and make recommendations to the judge.


Just having the advocate in court represents a sea change in the handling of animal abuse cases, said Annie Hornish, the Connecticut director for the Humane Society of the United States.


Connecticut's experiment is being watched by other states, Hornish said. And Rubin said she has gotten inquiries from lawmakers elsewhere asking how it might be copied.


A few states, including neighboring Rhode Island, allow veterinarians to advocate for animals in court, said lawyer and animal advocate Thomas Page, but only Connecticut has legal advocates.


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.
Nineteen percent resulted in convictions, and 55 cases — the remaining 1 percent — resulted in the defendant being found not guilty."
 
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