Boston University School of Law

June 11, 2010

animal law

Professor Karfunkel advocates for animal law in and outside the classroom

A lifelong animal lover, BU Law lecturer Lois Karfunkel originally became interested in Animal Law while her daughter was a veterinary technician at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s (MSPCA) Angell Memorial Hospital. Animal Law, a relatively new field, was not taught when Karfunkel was in law school, and she wanted to offer the opportunity to today’s students.

“The field is so encompassing,” said Atty. Karfunkel. “Animal law involves cases concerning animal issues that arise in the context of numerous other fields of law, such as torts, contracts, constitutional law… So this requires a broad approach to the subject.”

Her Animal Law class covers everything from animal rights, sacrifice and cruelty, to commercial use of animals and animal protection. She compares animals to the rights formerly withheld from slaves, women, children and the mentally incapacitated. Some of the cases covered include the “English McLibel” case McDonalds v. Morris & Steel , Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. v. Stevens , The Humane Slaughter Act, Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and other decisions that affect animals.

In addition to teaching and practicing law with Karfunkel & Thorn in Andover, Atty. Karfunkel has transformed her concern for animal welfare into a new organization, the Coalition to Protect Animals Locally (CoPAL). After participating in a training session for the MSPCA’s annual “Day on the Hill” community outreach program, Atty. Karfunkel wanted to support the MSPCA’s efforts on a local level.

“Faced with the on-going limitations placed on the scope and enforcement of federal laws addressing animal welfare, including restrictive standing rulings, I thought that we could accomplish positive results that protect animals at the community level,” said Atty. Karfunkel.

In the spring of 2009, she helped gather a core group of volunteers with a goal to support animal welfare education and community outreach in the Greater Merrimack Valley and Boston North Shore area, culminating in CoPAL’s creation.

Since November 2009, CoPAL has donated more than 800 pounds of food to Neighbors in Need, an Andover food pantry. The “Keeping Families Together” program aims to help families struggling to make ends meet keep their pets.

The organization is also working with Merrimack Valley Neighborhood Legal Services to assist homeowners that have been forced to move find housing that will accommodate their pets. Karfunkel says this aspect of the organization nicely ties in with her BU Law course, where class discussions address issues such as landlord concerns about allowing animals in their rental properties.

Atty. Karfunkel also cites CoPAL’s initiative to encourage humane education in local schools as an important step. According to Karfunkel, a dozen states require humane education in schools, and CoPAL hopes to encourage the expansion of humane education programs within Massachusetts.

“With the current concern with bullying, humane education promoting the human/animal bond has been shown to be effective in developing such qualities as empathy, compassion and respect,” said Atty. Karfunkel.

Atty. Karfunkel is optimistic about CoPAL’s future. She hopes that the coalition will succeed on many levels to teach the public about the importance of respecting and caring for animals.

“My hopes are that CoPAL will serve as a model nonprofit community organization established to benefit animals… [And] create the groundwork for and encourage other animal friendly residents of the Commonwealth to start community groups that work at the grass roots level on behalf of their local animals,” Karfunkel said.

Reported by Christine Lindberg

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