The Animal Legal Defense Fund recognized UConn Law teaching fellow Tara Cooley as one of its 2023 Top Defenders. She is the only academic of the 10 people recognized for their work to address animal cruelty in their communities.
“We are proud of Tara’s animal advocacy work and thrilled that ALDF recognized her,” said Jessica Rubin, who is director of the Animal Law Clinic and associate dean for experiential education. “Our Animal Law Clinic students benefit from her excellent teaching and thorough, careful work. Working with ALDF’s support, Tara is also supporting new attorney advocates in Connecticut and nationally.”
Cooley works with Rubin, instructing students in the clinic and teaching an animal law class.
Through the Animal Law Clinic, Cooley serves as a court-appointed advocate in animal cruelty cases. That role can entail protecting animal victims, presenting courts with legal and factual information and making recommendations on outcomes. Sometimes those recommendations involve removing an animal from a dangerous home and other times they might include connecting defendants with education and resources.
“It is valuable to have a third person involved who is knowledgeable about the facts and law and who can represent the interests of justice, including the animal’s interests, separate from the interests of the prosecution or defense,” Cooley said.
The Animal Law Clinic has handled more than 100 animal cruelty cases in which dogs, cats, cows, rabbits and other animals were victims of mistreatment. Acting as advocates for justice under the direction of Rubin and Cooley, the clinic’s students have participated in all aspects of cases and have presented courts with information and made recommendations on outcomes.
Cooley has also testified to the Connecticut Legislature in favor of expanding the existing Courtroom Animal Advocate Program law. She is also working with students in the clinic to write guides for advocates in other states, and to develop an animal care education program.
ALDF also provided the Animal Law Clinic with a grant this year to support its operations and the expansion of similar Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs in other states.