AUSTIN, Texas—The Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) at The University of Texas School of Law has successfully added Animal Law as a course offering for the first time in the Law School’s history.
Animal Law is being taught this spring by adjunct professors Susan Hightower, a senior associate at the Austin trademark boutique of Pirkey Barber, and Texas Assistant Attorney General Lisa McClain. “The course examines the current legal status of animals in the United States through the study of regulatory and case law.”
SALDF was established as a student organization in the spring of 2006. It is affiliated with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in Washington, D.C., and shares their mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. SALDF aims to provide a forum for education, advocacy, and scholarship in animal law to the UT community.
“I have always cared deeply for animals and felt it my duty to work towards improving their welfare,” said Thomas Linney, president of SALDF. “Being a part of this organization is exciting because our chapter is the first of its kind at UT and also because animal law is a dynamic and rapidly changing field,” Linney said.
There are currently about 10 active members and over 80 people on the School of Law’s e-mail list, Linney said.
SALDF promotes the stronger enforcement of anti-cruelty laws and more humane treatment of companion animals, wildlife, and animals that are raised for food and research. They also work to educate students that the relationship between animals and the law goes beyond animal fighting, factory farming, inhumane sport hunting, puppy mills, and the Endangered Species Act.
The growing field of animal law includes criminal law encompassing domestic violence and anti-cruelty laws; animal custody disputes in divorce or separations; veterinary malpractice cases; housing disputes involving “no pets” policies and discrimination law; damages cases involving the wrongful death or injury to a companion animal; and enforceable trusts for companion animals under Uniform Trust Code provisions being adopted by states across the country.
There are currently over 50 student organizations at The University of Texas School of Law, including 12 student journals.
About Professors Hightower and McClain
Hightower became one of the Pirkey Barber firm’s founding attorneys in June 2006 after practicing for five years in litigation and intellectual property law at the Austin office of Fulbright & Jaworski. She also is a council member of the State Bar of Texas Animal Law Section, a board member of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, and a volunteer with Austin’s Town Lake Animal Center and Pets America Partnership, which trains volunteers to supervise shelters for pets who are evacuated with their families in the event of a disaster.
Hightower graduated with honors from Stanford Law School in 2000, and then clerked for the Honorable Jacques L. Wiener Jr. of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, where Hightower volunteered twice with animal rescue groups following Hurricane Katrina. Prior to attending law school, she earned a master’s degree in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and worked for nearly six years as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press.
McClain is an Assistant Attorney General in the Transportation Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas. She represents the Texas Department of Transportation in environmental and eminent domain proceedings in federal and state court and in administrative proceedings. McClain has practiced environmental law almost exclusively for nine years in both the public and private sectors.
McClain earned her J.D. at South Texas College of Law and then clerked for the Honorable Frances H. Stacy, U. S. Magistrate Judge, Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. She then earned a Master of Laws degree in Environmental and Natural Resources Law at Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College. While at Lewis & Clark, McClain was fortunate to take the Animal Law course taught by Pamela D. Frasch, who is a co-author of the text Animal Law: Cases and Materials and who serves as vice president of legal affairs for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. McClain served two and a half years as the chair of the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, and she currently serves on the Board of the Texas Humane Legislation Network. She volunteers regularly at Town Lake Animal Center.
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