By Gina Miller on Animal
Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
This spotlight was submitted by Gina Miller, past president and alumni board member of the University of Baltimore School of Law SALDF chapter.
In the fall of 2008, I started law school at the University of Baltimore School of Law and was thrilled to find that there was an established Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter. I quickly became an active officer. We kicked off the semester at our school's Fall Block Party where we set up an activity booth, handed out Animal Legal Defense Fund booklets and Compassion Over Killing factory farming materials, and teamed up with a local restaurant to sell vegan soups to students. Later that fall, we held our annual dog walk fundraiser. With the help of our four-legged friends, we were able to raise money to purchase oxygen masks fitted for dogs, which we donated to the Baltimore County Fire Department. In the spring, our annual benefit dinner featured Born Free USA's executive vice president, Adam Roberts.
At our school's Spring Block Party, we raised awareness of the prevalence of dog fighting in our area and sold vegan cupcakes and dog treats to raise money for our group. We also created posters with adoptable dogs in our area and talked to people about the importance of rescuing rather than buying dogs from breeders. As always, members of the group brought their rescued dogs to hang out at our booth. My rescue pit bull mix, Choco, was in attendance as usual, giving out free kisses to all who dared to get close enough! Block parties are a huge hit with the entire student body at University of Baltimore and always give us a great opportunity to talk to the students and the general public about animals and how we really are their only voice.
The following year, we created a petition for students to sign to show the administration the interest students had in an animal law class. Our school had offered the class in the past but it was taken off the schedule due to lack of awareness. The petition was successful; that spring an animal law class was offered and it is our hope that the class remains an option for years to come.
During the school year, some of our members found glue traps in our library on campus and decided to demand that both the University of Baltimore undergraduate and law schools discontinue the use of these cruel devices. Many concerned students signed a petition, asking our school to stop using the inhumane glue traps. As a direct result of concern expressed by members of our SALDF to the UB President, the schools banned the use of glue traps entirely.
In early spring 2012, we again held our annual dog walk to benefit a local rescue organization, Ruff Life Rescue, and their mounting veterinary bills. The rescue brought several dogs available for adoption, one of whom was Demi, a beautiful blue pit bull who was beaten so badly she had a dislocated hip and broken femur that was shattered beyond repair. We were able to raise the funds to help offset the medical costs for Demi's leg amputation and continued care. Demi made her first public three-legged appearance at our walk. Being connected to our local community is important to our group. We start each dog walk in the law school courtyard and walk through the local neighborhood of Mt. Vernon. The walk gives our group local exposure and further raises awareness of animal issues as we're always stopped by local residents and students with questions or praise.
We try to stay on top of local animal cases as well. Members of our group attended the trial for the pit bull, Phoenix, who was doused with gasoline and set on fire by two Baltimore teenagers. Phoenix, who later died from her injuries, didn't have a voice and it was important for our SALDF chapter to be her voice and support her in the courtroom. Unfortunately, the trial ended in a mistrial but we plan on having members at the next trial, set for March of 2012.
Our SALDF also hosted the University of Baltimore Law School's first annual Animal Law Symposium, a continuing legal education (CLE) event, along with the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) Animal Law Section, and has participated yearly in each subsequent animal law symposium. Two of our students went to ALDF's national Future of Animal Law Conference in March of 2010. Thanks to ALDF providing a DVD box set of the conference, we were able to hold a screening for interested students who were unable to attend the event. Students were able to choose which lectures they were most interested in and enjoy vegan pizza too. Later that spring, we held our annual benefit dinner and silent auction, with featured speakers from both the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) and Ruff Life Rescue. All the proceeds from the silent auction went to the non-profit status filing fees for Ruff Life Rescue. In November of 2011, members of SALDF attended Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary's “Thanksgiving with the Turkeys” and enjoyed a vegan potluck, even feeding pumpkins to the many rescued pigs. The following month, we held a successful donation drive for BARCS, the local animal rescue shelter. We were amazed by the response; we received countless bags of cat and dog food, towels, blankets, toys, litter boxes, and much more. I was hauling donations to BARCS for weeks, even after the collection boxes were removed.
This semester we're planning another toy drive for BARCS, a spring benefit dinner and silent auction featuring two keynote speakers, and we're volunteering at an MSBA fundraiser for BARCS. We were also involved with the Third Annual Animal Law Symposium held on March 30, 2012. So far this year our chapter is still growing and adding new members; we also have two second-year students and a first-year student serving as co-executive directors, which is important to ensure continuity of the chapter after third-year members graduate.
Finally, we recently teamed up with ALDF to testify at a hearing in Annapolis in support of a bill that would create an animal abuse registry in Maryland. Having served as president of our student chapter for two years and now serving on our alumni board, I am excited to see the group grow and succeed for the animals. We continue to be committed to advancing animal protection and advocating for animals within our community.