Animal law bids goodbye 2020, greetings to brighter future | Victoria Shroff
Wednesday, January 06, 2021 @ 2:34 PM | By Victoria Shroff
My last guest appearance overseas on Canadian animal law, presenting alongside the knowledgeable Gavin Ridley of the Abused Pet Refuge Project, was to my friends at the U.K. Centre for Animal Law in London. It was not quite 12 months ago, but feels like a decade ago. Shortly after I returned to Vancouver from England, COVID-19 pummeled the world. Hard.
Animals and pets were and still are affected globally in a myriad of ways. I was called upon to do many interviews about the impact of COVID-19 on animals for the mainstream media and for legal publications. (Please see: Where your pets fit into COVID-19 crisis.
I remember using the pithy terms “pandemic puppy” and “COVID kitty” when they were still novel. Now they are commonplace in describing the surge in companion animal adoptions that have taken place during isolation. It’s not all cute and fuzzy either, as in some cases, there are heinous puppy and kitten mills supplying animals like mere commodities to unwitting purchasers. It’s incumbent on people to do their homework before adopting a family pet. (Please see: Pet adoptions linked to horrific puppy mills.)
I was also asked to discuss the link between domestic violence to people and their pets which unfortunately has spiked during the forced pandemic confinement.
Undoubtedly, one of the top quotes I've seen on animals and COVID-19 in 2020 was made by primatologist powerhouse Jane Goodall, printed in The Guardian on Jan. 3, 2021: “The most important lesson from this pandemic is that we need a new relationship with nature and animals.” I could not agree more. Humans need to take the lessons from the pandemic to heart and to see that animals, nature and humans are all connected. One health. It is no coincidence that Sen. Murray Sinclair named his 2020 groundbreaking Canadian animal law Bill-S218, the Jane Goodall Act. (Please see: What Jane Goodall Act could mean for animals.
The term “rewilding” was not a word I thought I would ever see in the midst of a climate and pandemic crisis, but we did. Rewilding is ecological restoration that can occur when humans get out of the way and leave things to nature. It took a global pandemic and human activity to nearly come to a standstill, but some animals like beavers, elk, ibex, grey seals, green-red macaws, some not seen in large numbers in decades, started to re-emerge, to rewild. Ecosystem revitalization may just be one of the good things to come out of COVID-19.
In 2020, nearly everything work-related moved online. Aside from my private practice in animal law that buzzed frenetically along, my animal law educational outreach activities carried on apace. I continued to regularly present on animal law locally and across the globe. Five thirty a.m. wakeup call notwithstanding, I enjoyed “going” to Europe via Zoom to present on Canadian pet custody for the European animal law conference. (Please see: Creativity called for in dog, cat, custody battles.)
Closer to home, one of my favourite animal law presentations of 2020 was for UBC professor Stepan Wood and the Centre for Law and the Environment at the Allard School of Law. Always rewarding to present at Allard as an alum and erstwhile adjunct. I presented along with Camille Labchuk of Animal Justice on how important it is for animals to access justice.
Speaking of which, we had some bright spots in access to justice for animals and their humans. I was gratified to see that we were able to launch the Animal Law Pro Bono clinic (ALPC), with the help of Law Students Legal Advice Program Vancouver. This one-of-a-kind clinic in Canada will have a tremendous impact on access to justice for animals and their humans.
For years I’d been thinking of a way to help the public gain access to pro bono animal law assistance and have my animal law students obtain experiential work, so the ALPC is an access to justice win for all. Aside from helping to establish the student-run clinic, I’ve stayed on as volunteer ad hoc supervising animal lawyer. (Grateful to UBC president Santa Ono for referencing the new ALPC in a recent post and to the Ubyssey newspaper for featuring the clinic on the front page. Please also see New student-run pro bono animal law clinic victory for access to justice.
Also in 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada reviewed our application for hearing a groundbreaking animal law case for Punky Santics, but declined. However, just getting an animal law case before the top court in Canada was an animal law victory in itself both for the animal law field and for equitably pushing the envelope on animal protection (Santics v. Vancouver (City) Animal Control Officer  S.C.C.A. No. 378; In dogged pursuit of Punky’s Law).
Moreover, the case has remained influential. (Please see: V. Victoria Shroff: Veterinarians should be included when considering public safety and dog behaviour.)
It’s also wonderful that in January 2021, the USA will once again have animals in the White House to help raise the profile of animal welfare and protection issues. Champ and Major Biden are active canine voices on social media, speaking up for animals. Major is a rescue pup thereby helping with the now common phrase, “adopt don’t shop” for pets.
My tuxedo diplomat rescue cat has recently been appointed the international U.S.-Canada animal law pawfolio by the first pets themselves.
Champ Biden has already been working collaboratively with me and others like the Focus on Animal Law group on animal welfare issues and is helping to bring a stop to inhumane, painful DIY “ear cropping” kits sold online for at-home surgery on animals.
We are also furthering the dialogue on tail docking, inhumane glue traps and more with the help of the first pets.
I created a fun Kahoot quiz on the U.S. first pets.
Successes in some animal law cases, a few setbacks in others, symbiotic settlements, all the while moving the dialogue further for animals in the justice system in 2020. We were also able to strengthen ties and global liaisons in animal law.
For over a year now, it's been wonderful working with an amazing group of legal beagles in the Canadian animal law study group, all part of my daily round as an animal law lawyer and educator.
Plenty of interesting work, more conferences and much to be done to protect animals in 2021. Closing with an article highlighting animal law in 2020: V. Victoria Shroff: Animal law roars Into the 2020s.
Animals thank you for your support of animal law in the midst of a trying year. Time to dig in for 2021!
Victoria Shroff is one of the first and longest serving animal law practitioners in Canada. She has been practising animal law civil litigation for over 20 years in Vancouver at Shroff and Associates and she is erstwhile adjunct professor of animal law at UBC’s Allard Hall Law School and Capilano University. She is recognized internationally as an animal law expert and is frequently interviewed by media. Reach her at email@example.com, @shroffanimallaw or LinkedIn.
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