Written by Juli Zagrans, Animal Law LL.M. student
“She has a broken jaw,” a veterinarian told me about my newest foster dog. I was shocked. Hollyberry, whom I fostered through Chicago-based dog rescue One Tail at a Time while earning my J.D., was a puppy mill survivor. In addition to her broken jaw, which the vet determined was caused by a lack of proper nutrition and medical care for this six-year-old Maltese’s entire life, she also needed all but three of her teeth extracted due to the extreme neglect she had endured at the hands of her owner.
Hollyberry’s case did not go to trial. No one was charged with animal cruelty or neglect, and no one was held legally, financially, or morally responsible for her years of pain and suffering. One Tail at a Time incurred the costs of her abuse and provided Hollyberry the medical and emotional attention she never received — and so desperately needed. But had prosecutors wanted to bring a case against her owner, it was the veterinarian that would have been the key expert witness for the state.
This is the important message The Kenya Legal Project delivered to a group of attentive and gracious veterinary students at the University of Nairobi. Four of us, fellow LL.M. student, Christina Kraemer, and Lewis & Clark Law School J.D. candidates, Rachel Sekine and Angie Ostrowski, along with myself, presented to veterinary students the critical role vets play in the prosecution of animal cruelty cases. This is an area of difficulty in prosecutions of animal cruelty in Kenya, as brought to our attention by ANAW and prosecutors in the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). Without the use of a vet’s documents, records, photographs, and testimony, it is next to impossible for animal law attorneys to successfully bring an animal cruelty case. Prosecutors with the DPP shared with us their frustrations regarding how many cruelty cases have been lost due to unavailable or insufficient veterinary evidence.
Our presentation focused on the importance of veterinarians to both help the animal medically, while also considering applicable animal cruelty law in the process. When animal cruelty is suspected, veterinarians need to be mindful and develop standard practices to preserve evidentiary information regarding the animal’s injuries in order to assist prosecution in the event of a case. Without photographs and detailed reports describing the animal’s condition, and the cause of that condition, animal cruelty cases are rarely tried. Veterinarians are the expert witnesses necessary to prove most cruelty cases in the U.S. and Kenya. However, we discovered many vets in Kenya are unsure how to walk the line between contractual obligations to the owner and duties to uphold the law and protect their patient. As such, it is apparent that open dialogues between animal lawyers and animal doctors are critical.
We are excited to bring back with us the perspectives of the students at the University of Nairobi as we address ever evolving animal legal issues. More than anything, we are grateful for the opportunity to meet and speak with others who are working on animal issues in other parts of the world. When cruelty does occur, it takes a collaborative effort to bring justice for that animal and any future animals that may be harmed. Through opportunities that Lewis & Clark’s Center for Animal Legal Studies has been able to provide in the Kenya Legal Project, we are working toward an exciting and mutually beneficial international approach to better protecting Hollyberry and all her friends.