*Guest Blog Post* Colleen Gibbons Tells a Heartwarming Story About Defending Animal Rights

The holidays are quickly approaching and Colleen Gibbons wanted to share a wonderful story about a case that she worked on with an animal advocacy program. Read her post below.
“In the summer of my 1L year, I attended a special CLE on a new planned Legal Animal Advocacy Program organized through my local bar association.  The program assigned attorneys to animals removed from owners charged with animal cruelty.  The assigned attorney visits the animal and provides affidavits as to its health and well-being throughout the ongoing investigation and court process.  I was the only student in attendance, but I wanted to participate, so I approached one of the presenters after the meeting.  He hadn’t considered student involvement, but he thought it made sense.  With that, we organized the Animal Advocacy group of student volunteers.
Photo courtesy of Colleen Gibbons

Photo courtesy of Colleen Gibbons

The program officially began the following spring, and I was the first student assigned to work with an attorney.  Our dog was an emaciated pitbull named Bully, who had lived the first two years of his life confined in a crate.  He was starved by his owner, and kept in his own filth, which initially left him unsocialized and very sad.  The attorney and I did the initial evaluation, which involved talking to the technicians and spending some time with the dog.  As Bully’s case continued, he stayed at the local shelter, and he began to heal.  The attorney and I knew he needed us, so we went to visit him almost daily.

Bully’s owner had signed surrender papers, but because of his history of starvation, Bully wasn’t  ready to be adopted.  He had to get healthy, and be trained to learn that he didn’t have to be possessive of his food and treats.  Bully needed someone willing to care for a scared and sad (but very smart) pitbull.

We found a trainer who specializes in dogs that need this kind of help, and then started a GoFundMe.  We raised over $1500 in under 24 hours!  And just over two months after he arrived in the shelter, Bully left with the trainer.  Bully was renamed Teddy, and spent the next 60 days learning appropriate dog behaviors.

But Teddy still didn’t know how to live in a house.  We found a local dog rescue organization willing to sponsor him as a foster dog, so long as we could provide the foster home, so Teddy came to live with me, my two dogs, and my cat.  When Teddy first arrived, pretty much everything was new and an adventure.  Eventually he became accustomed to a routine that included daily long walks, romps in the backyard, and nightly snores on the couch while I did my school work.

After two months in my home, the perfect family applied for Teddy: a mom and a dad, with another young dog to play with. The family  knew Teddy’s history, and was willing to work with him to allow him to get settled and become a member of the family.  Teddy finally got his forever home.

Teddy with his forever parents. Image courtesy of Colleen Gibbons.

Teddy with his forever parents. Image courtesy of Colleen Gibbons.

Teddy’s legal case was ongoing through all of this; at each court appointment the attorney and I would prepare a report on Teddy’s progress, which we submitted to the judge and attorneys.  The judge would read each report as he considered the facts presented to him.  To date, Teddy’s case has not been closed.

The attorney animal advocate program is ongoing, and students continue to be paired with attorneys.  Each case is different, but each dog entering the program has attorney advocates to follow up and make sure the pet’s story is told.  Teddy is alive and well thanks to the attorney advocate program, and thanks to this program, I get to tell his story.”

Colleen Gibbons is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law and is the College’s Pro Bono Fellow.  She is a self-proclaimed Dog Lady.  You can reach her at cmgibbon@syr.edu

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