With little fanfare, Connecticut adopted a law authorizing a “separate advocate be appointed to represent the interests of justice” in certain animal cruelty cases involving the “welfare or custody of a cat or dog.” While there was some concern raised by AKC and other associations before its adoption, the potential impact of this law did not hit home until recently, when a Connecticut court first heard from advocates appointed in a case involving alleged dog fighting, as reported by NPR.
According to Laurel Wamsley, NPR, the law “provide[s] animals with court-appointed advocates to represent them in abuse and cruelty cases, similar to laws that provide for victim’s or children’s advocates.”
Despite that representation, the law is not similar to others providing for representation of children. In fact, the “Animal Advocat”e law provides only for advocates to “represent the interests of justice” not animals.
In stark contrast, Connecticut’s laws providing for representation of children includes specific language related thereto.
For example, the terms “Guardian ad Litem” and “Attorney for the Child” include specific language directing the advocate to “ensure that the child’s best interests are represented” or to “argue on behalf of his or her client,” respectively. See In Representing Minors in Connecticut, Judicial Branch, State of Connecticut, 2016,
Guardian ad Litem (GAL) · ‘A guardian ad litem, often referred to as a GAL, is an individual the court appoints, either upon motion of a party or when the court determines a GAL is necessary. The court will consider the appointment of a GAL if the parties are unable to resolve a parenting or child related dispute. In such event, the court appoints a GAL to ensure the child’s best interests are represented during the course of the parties’ dispute. The GAL’s role is different from that of an Attorney for a Minor Child (AMC). The GAL represents the child’s best interests while the AMC represents the child’s legal interests and supports the child’s best interests.’ ‘Guardian Ad Litem or Attorney for Minor Child in Family Matters,’ Judicial Branch publication JDP-FM-224 (New 6/14). · ‘Typically, the child’s attorney is an advocate for the child, while the guardian ad litem is the representative of the child’s best interests.’ Newman v. Newman, 235 Conn. 82, 96, 663 A.2d 980 (1995).
Attorney for the Child ‘… the attorney for the child is just that, an attorney arguing on behalf of his or her client, based on the evidence in the case and the applicable law.’ Ireland v. Ireland, 246 Conn. 413, 438, 717 A.2d 986 (1998). ‘The primary role of any counsel for the child shall be to advocate for the child in accordance with the Rules of Professional Conduct, except that if the child is incapable of expressing the child’s wishes to the child’s counsel because of age or other incapacity, the counsel for the child shall advocate for the best interests of the child.’ Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-129a(2)(C).
Legislators in Connecticut could have adopted similar language for cats and dogs but chose not to.
Connecticut’s law is therefore apparently significantly different from a law in Zurich, Switzerland, where an attorney was appointed for four years to represent animals in court, according to Leo Hickman of theguardian.
A referendum to extend that law throughout Switzerland was soundly defeated.
Protecting animals from cruelty has been a long-standing commitment in this country as reflected in the animal cruelty statutes passed in every state. Animal cruelty cases can benefit from expert review, reporting and testimony, which should include veterinary review. To the extent that the Connecticut law can provide that expertise, it can be a benefit all parties-seeking truth and justice.