Animal Law Source Article

What is Animal Law Source?

Animal Law Source is an organization founded and operated by Claudine Wilkins. It was founded 34 years ago and their mission is to inform and answer questions about animal laws, both on the state and local levels of government. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ms. Wilkins after the first day of the International Animal Law Summit, which is a symposium founded by Ms. Wilkins that brings together lawyers and people in every animal profession from all over the world to discuss a plethora of imperative topics regarding animal law. There was a lawyer from Russia and two from Great Britain who attended the conference this year. Ms. Wilkins and I spoke at a social event for this conference and we discussed why she started this organization, important animal laws, her partnership with Rescue Dog Olympics, and the importance of adoption.

 

The Origins of Animal Law Source

Animals had always been an important part of Ms. Wilkins life, ever since she was a child. Before she knew she wanted to be a veterinarian, she recalls being thrilled with the show “Wild Kingdom”, which is centered on wildlife and nature. She loved this show because it was her “view into a world outside of where I lived”. She was able to travel to places unknown, like Africa, all while sitting on the couch with her five other siblings. On top of watching “Wild Kingdom,” Ms. Wilkins said how she always loved to read National Geographic magazines. In particular, she said she would read the editions with famed scientist Jane Goodall on the cover more than once. To Wilkins, Jane Goodall was more than a scientist; she described her as her “muse” and her “mentor”. She was inspired by how Jane Goodall was the first scientist at the time to actually name her subjects, not just assign them a number. She was a huge inspiration to Ms. Wilkins and made her believe “if she could do it then I could do it.” From there, it seemed her destiny was to become a vet. As a child, she would play vet with her stuffed animals and constantly check out books like “Animal Doctor” at the local library. At 16 she took a job as a Veterinarian’s Assistant and loved it. However, when she went to college she struggled with her organic chemistry class and this is when she began to question if this was the right profession for her. Her love for animals was never in doubt, but she thought, “How can I help a lot of animals, instead of just one at a time?” She settled on law because of her ability to speak up for the underdog (no pun intended) and her resiliency when it came to making sure that all animals have a voice.

What Animal Law Source Does

Animal Law Source is more than a source for information on animal laws; Claudine Wilkins has also played a crucial role in getting legislation for animal laws passed at both the local and state levels. Some of the laws she has helped to pass are the “Georgia Dog Fighting Law”, “The Responsible Dog Owner Act” and the “Animal Cruelty Amendments”. She references the “Animal Cruelty Amendments” as one of the most significant laws she has helped to pass. This law gave the state of Georgia a felony provision for animal cruelty cases, which was essential for cases like the Spencer Case. The Spencer Case was a case where a man had beaten a German Shepherd badly during a drunken binge. His wife informed the police about this, the dog was impounded for only twelve hours before then being released back to the owner, despite nearly being dead. The owner of this dog was only cited with a simple ordinance violation. Needless to say, this was baffling to Ms. Wilkins, who had just passed the law the year before to give cases like this the possibility of a felony. Even the prosecutor for this case said that there was no felony law in Georgia for cases like this. Immediately, Ms. Wilkins corrected her and faxed her the law. On this situation, Ms. Wilkins said, “I was stunned that a person in her field of fighting crime didn’t even know that we had a felony law.” It was this lack of knowledge on animal laws that urged Ms. Wilkins to start a symposium like The International Animal Law Summit, so everyone could be informed on new and changing animal laws. Conferences like this are paramount for getting animal law into the mainstream. This is the 20th animal law summit and according to Ms. Wilkins, “25 years ago, nobody was putting animal and law together, it was not spoken of.”

Ms. Wilkins speaking at the 4th Annual International Law Summit

 

Animal Law Source & Rescue Dog Olympics

Ms. Wilkins has a high admiration for the work that Rescue Dog Olympics is doing. When asked why she partnered with Rescue Dog Olympics she remembers how she first met Rescue Dog Olympics founder Jill Waddell at a symposium. They hit it off immediately and began to learn about each other’s organizations. Ms. Wilkins was thrilled with the work Rescue Dog Olympics and Waddell had been doing because this organization is “doing it for all the right reasons. She (Waddell) is doing it for the benefit and welfare of animals. She is not trying to profit. She is not doing it for ego…if you wake up in the morning and you contribute back to the world and to society, then you are doing the right thing, whether you are helping animals, children, or someone less fortunate than you.” Waddell did something that day that made Ms. Wilkins think, “This woman is on to something…she is doing pioneering work.” Rescue Dog Olympics prides itself on raising awareness on the importance of adopting animals and Ms. Wilkins firmly believes, “If you are going to get a pet for your family, you should adopt it.” Moreover, both organizations believe in the importance of taking care of the animals that you have, treat them like family, and be responsible pet owners.  Ms. Wilkins used a quote by Gandhi several times during this interview. The quote is, “You can judge a nation by the way they treat their animals.” Animals provide so much beauty to this world, but they don’t have a voice. The work that Animal Law Source and Rescue Dog Olympics does give them that voice and protects them from harms outside of their control.