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Summer prep time for animal law teacher

Tuesday, July 30, 2019 @ 11:50 AM | By Victoria Shroff

Victoria Shroff %>
Victoria Shroff
Summertime. The word evokes bucolic carefree days of feeling the sand under your toes, capped off with warm nights under twinkly stars gathering to socialize with friends and family.

Not for me. Why? Because I love to teach animal law, both to university students and to elementary school students, my summer involves prep work for the coming autumn term. Not complaining. Far from it, as I love teaching animal law. I know I said it before, but it’s true.

It’s a privilege to get to teach animal law at the Peter Allard School of Law where I will be co-teaching this autumn with Amber Prince. It will be my third time teaching animal law at Allard and I can’t wait to meet our bright new students, fresh from their summer adventures.

I can only imagine how much collective work is, as I write, flowing into revised curricula and syllabi by both full and part-time law teachers across Canada this summer in preparation for autumn classes.

Some of them may currently be at their cabins staring wistfully at the shimmering lake and hearing the joyful hoots of their family splashing around in the water while they are inside hunched over their laptops updating their courses, dreaming up new and interesting ways to engage their law students.

I’m appointed as an adjunct professor at UBC, meaning that I maintain my busy private practice in animal law along with teaching.

My private practice in animal law at Shroff & Associates, in its 20th year in downtown Vancouver, is bustling with dangerous dog cases, wildlife consultations, vet malpractice matters, pet custody cases, municipal, administrative law and more.

Again, not whinging. I love practising animal law as much as I love teaching it. Getting to do what you enjoy is fulfilling.

My experiences as an animal law practitioner helps inform my teaching to a great extent as well. Cannot tell you the number of times I’ve been in court or in a classroom and thought how lucky I am to do the kind of law work I want to do and to get paid for it. A friend of mine said the other day how she loves that I’m “all in” for everything animal law. I get to talk and think about animals and the law all day and I thrive on that.

It’s just that, this summer, I’ve been inside. A lot. Getting in a lot of screen and typing time. Bonus however, is that I get to spend more time with my pet and fortunately, some of my friends are lawyers or profs themselves, so they understand that summer for Victoria is a season of work and they have not unfriended me (not on FB, in real life).

I’m getting used to the prison pallor and I’ve spent a lot less on sunscreen again this summer. Last Friday, I did enjoy a luncheon with some law friends and that was great. Of course, we talked animal law, as one person in our group was an animal law Crown prosecutor in Alberta and the other was my former animal law student.

My family and I will have a working holiday this summer and while I’m swimming in the ocean, paddling our dinghy and eating freshly picked blackberries, I’m quite certain I’ll be thinking about animals and their lives.

Some may be asking why wouldn’t law teachers simply roll out the same curriculum year after year and save themselves all the extra effort?

It doesn’t work that way. Case law changes; animal law is in flux in several areas relating to captivity, cruelty, custody, municipal law and more.

As instructors we also want to do more than teach facts and ratios, we want to illuminate, to deliver the best possible animal law course for students. Albert Einstein once said that “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.”

To effectively train others, we need to canvass new animal law issues from multiple perspectives, including international animal law such as what’s happening with Happy the sad elephant stuck in a New York zoo and her bid for freedom, what’s going on in Uttarakhand where their high court declared all animals to be persons and citizens throughout the state are to be in loco parentis?

There is so much new stuff in animal law every month. People throughout the world care about animals and how they intersect with the law. As an animal law professor, I feel fortunate that I am entrusted to teach and to shape the next generation of animal law lawyers. I want them to thrive.

That’s a very big deal to me and anyone who cares about animals and it’s why I am happily spending a lot of my time indoors this summer.  

 V. Victoria Shroff is one of the first and longest serving animal law practitioners in Canada. She has been practising animal law civil litigation for nearly 20 years in Vancouver at Shroff and Associates (604-891-0209). She is also adjunct professor of law at the Peter Allard School of Law at UBC and has lectured internationally from India to Galiano Island and is frequently interviewed by media. Follow her at @shroffanimallaw or on

Photo credit orensila ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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