By Dana Horowitz, J.D. ’22
Ever since I was a little kid, I have always been an animal lover and have participated in animal rights activism throughout my life. The Animal Law & Policy Clinic was thus an obvious choice for me, and after finally enrolling in the clinic for my last semester at HLS, my sole regret is that I am unable to take this clinic again and again.
On the first day of the semester, Professor Meyer informed us that she runs the Animal Law & Policy Clinic like a small public interest law firm. That statement proved to be 100% true. In just a single semester, I was given the opportunity to work on three different projects, two of which involved active lawsuits. My peers and I got first-hand experience drafting and filing complaints, serving defendants with summonses, speaking to the media, drafting petitions, meeting with clients one-on-one, negotiating with the government over what to include in the administrative record, preparing standing declarations, and writing summary judgment briefs.
In addition to all of the above skills, we also had the exciting opportunity to work on oral advocacy. We held two moots during the semester, one for our Clinical Fellow Kate Barnekow before her argument in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and one for Professor Glitzenstein before his argument in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. I really enjoyed getting to read the briefs in advance, acting as a judge during the moot courts, and then watching the actual arguments take place during our viewing parties in the clinical building.
As a 3L about to begin my career as a litigator, I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to put what I learned in the classroom to the test under the supervision of one of the greatest public interest litigators, Professor Meyer. One of the best parts of the clinic was getting to hear Professor Meyer’s endless battle stories, which were simultaneously riveting and informative. I not only learned how to act like a litigator, but also how to think like a litigator. I now have notebooks full of strategy tips for how to be as persuasive as possible, how to gain credibility with the Judge, and how to be an effective legal writer.
But in addition to the litigation experience, I also benefited greatly from the tight-knit community. I loved studying in the clinical building and running into my peers and other members of the Animal Law & Policy Program. I always looked forward to our biweekly clinic staff meetings where we shared our successes and brainstormed how to resolve snags in cases while sipping on coffee or snacking on vegan pizza. There was never a dull moment as we strategized everything from how to respond to an unexpected intervenor in one of our cases to how to handle the government accidentally releasing information it claimed was confidential during a FOIA request.
Most importantly, we developed these critical litigation skills in tandem with participating in incredibly meaningful work to help both captive animals and wildlife. There are billions of animals all over the country that are in urgent need of assistance. There are countless species in the United States that need to receive protection under the Endangered Species Act and yet have been overlooked. There are great apes locked in cages in research facilities without adequate psychological enrichment as required by the Animal Welfare Act. There are tule elk that are starving to death in a national park in California because of fences that prevent the elk from foraging. In each of these scenarios, and many others, the clinic has sued the government for violating its obligations to protect animals. However, the subjects of these lawsuits, the animals, cannot participate in the legal system to ensure their own rights. Animals desperately need advocates to fight for them, and that is exactly what this clinic does every day. Advocating for animals who lack standing in their own right is never an easy feat, but learning tips to conquer the uphill battle is incredibly rewarding.
This semester alone, the clinic worked on projects to protect the needs of nonhuman primates, manatees, hens, and tule elk. To expand on just one example, I am part of the team who recently sued the USDA for a secret policy evading its statutory obligation to conduct full annual inspections of research facilities as required under the Animal Welfare Act. Because this project, as well as most of the clinic’s cases, is a lawsuit against a government agency, I have had the opportunity to put much of the doctrine I learned in my administrative law class to use.
As much as I wish I could continue working on my clinical projects when I graduate, I will instead be living vicariously through my younger sister who is enrolled in the clinic for next fall. I cannot wait to hear about all of the amazing work to come.