Since 2006, Connecticut saw 3,723 charges of animal abuse or cruelty roll through their court systems.
80% of these cases were dismissed or not prosecuted.
19% resulted in convictions and 1% resulted in the defendant being found not guilty.
But the state wants to see the number of cases that are prosecuted go up, because they believe the animals deserve justice. That's why they implemented a new animal advocate program that will give more animals a voice.
8 volunteers, 7 lawyers and one law professor along with her students, are part of an experimental system that will allow prosecutors and defenders request an animal advocate for their cases. The hope is that the advocates will give animals a voice they wouldn't otherwise have, and make animal cruelty charges more likely.
"Every state has the problem of overburdened courts that understandably prioritize human cases over animal cases in allocating resources," said University of Connecticut professor Jessica Rubin, a specialist in animal law. "Here's a way to help."
The volunteers are considered an official part of the investigation and are able to conduct interviews with witnesses or professionals who are relevant to the case. This can save the prosecutors time and end up helping the case.
States across the country are watching this Connecticut program to see if it will have positive results.
Jessica Rubin and her student Taylor Hansen were the first to testify in court as advocates for three pit bulls thrown into a dogfighting ring. The dogs were found emaciated with scars all over their bodies. One of the dogs had to be euthanized.
Hansen argued that the accused, Raabbi Ismail, should not be allowed to participate in the Accelerated Rehabilitation program because of his horrific crimes. She argued that if his record was ultimately wiped clean, there would be nothing to stop him from getting back into dogfighting.
The judge listened to all of Hansen's points, but ultimately decided to allow Ismail to participate in Accelerated Rehabilitation. However, he did take her points into consideration and put conditions that will prevent him from owning, breeding, or having dogs in his home for the next two years. He will also be required to complete 200 hours of community service.
"It showed the animals do have a voice," Hansen said. "We are able to have an impact on the proceedings."
"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. "We hope with this law in place, we will start to see much better procedural outcomes. We are very excited that judges seem to be taking advantage of it."
Do you think all states should adopt these animal advocates?