TRENTON, N.J. — Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund released The Case for Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs, a short film narrated by Academy Award-winning actress and director Anjelica Huston, that focuses on the importance of Courtroom Animal Advocate Program (CAAP) laws — following Monday’s unanimous Assembly Judiciary Committee vote in support of New Jersey’s proposed bill. The film urges for the passing of CAAP laws to empower legal advocates to help provide guidance to the court with respect to victims in animal cruelty cases.
“Defense attorneys have a duty to their client, prosecutors have a duty to the state, but no one is tasked with directing the court’s attention to an animal victim’s needs,” says Anjelica Huston. “Animals involved in cruelty cases require special considerations — they can be living ‘evidence’ who need food, water, socialization, and veterinary care — and they need a voice in court.”
The film is available at aldf.org/CAAP.
“Modeled off a Connecticut law that has been successfully implemented, this bill ensures that animal victims can achieve justice against animal abusers for their unlawful actions and that an advocate with a different focus than the prosecutor and defense attorney can help inform the judicial proceedings,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), Chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee and the bill’s author.
That Connecticut law, known as Desmond’s Law, was the nation’s first state-wide CAAP law in 2016. The film tells Desmond’s story — a dog who was found dead in a trash bag in the woods, after being strangled to death — and the campaign by local advocates and state legislators to pass the law in his name.
CAAP laws allow advocates — supervised law students or volunteer attorneys — to advocate for animal victims in criminal cruelty cases. Volunteers appear in court and assist the judge by drafting briefs, conducting research, gathering information from veterinarians, animal control officers, and law enforcement officials, and making recommendations on behalf of the animal victim’s interests.
New Jersey’s bipartisan CAAP bill, A1965 , is also prime sponsored by Assembly members Annette Quijano and Daniel Benson, joined by cosponsors Anthony Verrelli, Sterley Stanley, Britnee Timberlake, Robert Karabinchak, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Tom Giblin, Sean Kean, and Robert Auth. In the prior session of the Legislature, the New Jersey Senate unanimously passed the bill in February 2021, thanks to the leadership of Senator Nicholas Scutari, who is now serving as the New Jersey Senate President in the current 2022-2023 session. An extensive coalition of local, state, and national organizations support the bill.
In January 2020, Maine adopted a similar law, known as Franky’s Law, to help protect animals in the state. Similar bills are currently being considered in New York and Florida.
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