Sandra the Orangutan, Non-Human PersonApril 4, 2023
Regulated Hunting: The Preferred Wildlife Management Strategy?June 9, 2023
By MIchelle Ballard, Chair
The Animal Law Section (ALS) of The Florida Bar had another successful year of promoting the practice of animal law, providing unique opportunities and benefits to our members, and promoting animal welfare initiatives across the state.
We started the year off at the annual meeting in June with the seminar, “Animal Law Update: Manatees, Turtles, and Panthers, Oh My!” It was well attended by a live audience and was also recorded. Also, this year marked the return of the “World-Famous Puppy Pit.” Countless attorneys and judges, and their families, stopped by to cuddle with adoptable puppies and learn about the section. Thank you to all the sponsors and people who came by to visit with the adoptable dogs. We are currently planning for our annual seminar in Boca Raton along with a Puppy Pit for conference attendees.
The section has also continued to provide opportunities for learning about animal law through webinars. In September, the Equine Committee offered a free webinar, “Shining Light on Horse Sales in the Sunshine Sate — Understanding Florida Administrative Code 5H-26,” that was presented by section members Kimbrell Hines and Jason Sherman. In October, the Wildlife Committee hosted a webinar, “The Missing Link for a Reconnected World: The Prospect and Promise of an International Convention For Animal Protection.” This April, the section intends to host a free webinar regarding plant-based food labelling for members of the section, members of the Young Lawyers Division, and law students. Additionally, in May, the section hopes to host a webinar about the case of Alydar, once the top breeding racehorse in the country, whose suspicious death in 1990 led to an FBI investigation.
The section has pursued unique opportunities for its members and law school students to work with different animal organizations through its sanctuary field trips. In November, the section offered a volunteer opportunity at Rooterville in Melrose followed by a sanctuary tour. In December, the section coordinated a visit to Save the Chimps in Fort Pierce. The section organized visits to Critter Creek in Gainesville in January, and a trip to the Wild Horse Rescue Center in Webster in February.
The ALS continues to partner with other Bar sections. We are planning a joint webinar with the City, County and Local Government Law Section, which is planned for the fall. The section is also considering a partnership with the Environmental and Land Use Law Section in 2024. Stay tuned on that!
Our social media reaches thousands of folks and continues to grow. Recent analytics include: Facebook — 3100 likes/3,386 followers; Twitter — 1,749 followers; Instagram — 1,003 followers, 738 posts; and LinkedIn — 153 group members.
The section is also continuing its outreach to law students and young lawyers who demonstrate an interest in animal law by offering free membership. In this regard, the section supports each of the Florida law schools’ SALDF chapters and expects that one day, these students will become leaders of the section and The Florida Bar. Several of our recent executive council members started out with the section as law student members who continued on with the section after joining The Florida Bar.
The section is actively monitoring and supporting a number of bills introduced during the 2023 Legislative Session related to animals. One of the primary reasons the section petitioned to move from being a standing committee to becoming a section was the freedom to take legislative positions, and the section has had great success with the bills and initiatives it has supported in past sessions. This session, the section is focusing on a number of initiatives, including 1) supporting legislation that increases funding for manatees and protecting their habitat; 2) creating a public records exemption for information identifying individuals that adopt animals from government run shelters; 3) supporting legislation that provides for the appointment of advocates for the interest of animals in certain court proceedings; 4) preventing the removal of local ordinances that provide protection for animals that exceed the protection available at the state level; and 5) preventing pet leasing. We look forward to another productive session this year!
I conclude by noting that the section greatly appreciates the dedication of all its members. None of what we do would be possible without them, as well as the generous support of time and resources by our other officers, Ashley Baillargeon, Laura Roe, and Scott Guarcello, our other executive council members and committee chairs, Board of Governors liaison Paige Greenlee, and our Florida Bar program administrator, Ricky Libbert.
I have enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the section for many years and to have served as its 2022-2023 chair. The field of animal law and the interest in it have grown exponentially in the past decade. This growth will only continue as law students and young lawyers become members of The Florida Bar and look for opportunities to practice animal law. Further, it is my hope that more attorneys who are curious about the legal issues surrounding animal welfare will decide to join the section. You do not have to practice animal law to be a part of the section; all that is required is that you care about animals.
Michelle Ballard, Chair