Journal of Leadership and the Law

Justice for All

Shoshanna SilverbergBy Shoshanna Silverberg L’16

Elon Environment & Animal Law Society (EALS) gained provisional status in the spring of 2014.  Its mission is to advance and publicize current issues in environmental and animal law fields. 

From EALS' Constitution: 

We promote academic, professional, and social interaction among Elon University School of Law students interested in the various aspects of animal law and environmental law. . . The Environmental and Animal Law Society is a forum for law students to share, discuss, and solve animal and environmental issues in the community. We provide members with resources for their education while connecting them with environmental and animal law professionals through speaking engagements, community outreach programs, volunteer efforts, and social events. Our goal is also to connect the various social organizations already in place in the community with each other. We will advocate for the rights and safety of animals, their environments, and the human populations who interact with them and safeguard those liberties both on and off campus. We encourage members of the Elon Law community to behave equitably and sustainably, and seek to advance the idea that human populations are connected with the biotic and abiotic aspects of their surroundings, and that these things have intrinsic value that must be recognized and respected under law.  

Elon Law students at the Carolina Raptor CenterLed by a committed corp of students, EALS has already been leading volunteer efforts at nonprofits like the Carolina Raptor Center.  There students toured the facility and learned about the rampant trafficking and abuse of birds of prey.  Time was then spent planting a botanical garden and discussing policy issues connected to raptors' protection and animal welfare overall.  This year EALS hopes to form a volunteer relationship with the NC Conservators' Center, a nonprofit which houses dozens of 'exotic' animals who have been trafficked and abused.  Work at the NCC revolves around rehabilitating these animals and providing public education around their capture and mistreatment.  

Elon Law students working at the Carolina Raptor CenterEALS' approach to justice starts with offering students the opportunity to learn first-hand about environmental and animal rights issues.  The idea is, once students witness injustice and simultaneously have an opportunity to participate in the work of healing victims and hearing from advocates about what policies do and don't work on the ground, they will be stronger visionaries and advocates themselves.  They will know how to speak to these issues and will likely develop long-term connections to the task of making a difference.  

Rising 3L and founding officer of EALS, Mitch Montgomery, says that for him living sustainably is a top priority.  This means that environmental law issues are a no-brainer for him to advocate for, and within this, comes animal rights.  He's even elected to write his Law Review article on the topic.  

Montgomery thought the Law Review article would be a good avenue for him to explore his interest in animal law, since Elon doesn't have a course in the subject.  He says, “It wasn't something that I really considered to be a "career" option before writing the article, but through the process of writing it I realized it could animal law/advocacy is something that I could really pursue. So I guess, in a way, writing the article has led me to consider an area of law that I otherwise may have never really discovered or dove into.”

Specifically, Montgomery is writing about puppy mills and consumer protection legislation.  He points to NC House Bill 930 as a starting point.  First introduced in 2013 when it passed the House but was never called in the Senate, its purpose is to require breeders -- individuals who own ten or more female dogs for the purpose of breeding -- to provide dogs with ample food, water and exercise, as well as a clean cage and access to competent medical care.  Without this legislation, there are no laws governing the treatment of dogs owned by breeders.  This means that there is an economic incentive for breeders to keep their animals alive for the sake of sale, but no duty on them to produce animals who are in good health.

Courtney Pine, a rising 2L and fellow founding officer of EALS, says this is why lemon laws are so important for states to adopt.  While 21 states have lemon laws to varying degrees [footnote chart on purchase protections by state], including our neighbors in Virginia and South Carolina, North Carolina does not. This is why Montgomery advocates for a breeder registry law in NC that would serve to enforce the substance of HB 930 when it finally passes.  This would require breeders to have a clean record with the state in order to continue their business activities, so that animals are healthy when they are sold, and not just breathing.

Pine became involved in animal rights work after she attended a puppy auction.  Not only was it disturbing to see tiny animals who had been wrenched from their mothers and sold into slavery, it was unnerving for Pine to see how individual breeders interacted with their animals -- to the point where she witnessed a woman throw one of her dogs into a trash can because of its missing leg and inability to make her a profit.  Pine felt like this woman must be desperate to engage in this line of business in the first place, and felt like there must have been a time when this woman lost a piece of herself.  She couldn't understand how else one living being could treat another in such a way.

Pine's response at the time was to offer the woman money for her pup.  Now Rufus and Rudi, the two puppies her family rescued that day, are part of their family.  And moving forward, Pine, a former staffer/volunteer at the Conservator's Center, has committed herself to addressing this sad state of affairs through law.  [can insert pic of her at NCCC here]  

Advocating for lemon laws in NC and for the adoption of anti-trafficking laws and licensure processes as well as inspection and enforcement measures, are all ways that EALS believes law students can make a difference in the state of North Carolina and in the field of law.  Sharing lived the lived experiences that have brought each member of this group to the work they are now engage in is also part of EALS' mentality.  For this student group, change -- and leadership -- comes through bring your whole self to a problem, and inspiring others to take part in what you are offering as a solution.