Connecticut Gives Abused Animals Their Own Lawyers

Abused animals in Connecticut now have a voice in court, thanks to a new law passed by the state in late 2016.

Connecticut lawmakers passed “Desmond’s Law” in response to the horrific death of a sweet shelter dog called Desmond in 2012. The man who adopted him, Alex Wullaert, reportedly rarely fed Desmond and often beat him.

Ultimately, Wullaert killed the dog by hanging him, after Desmond made the mistake of urinating on Wullaert’s leg. Then he dumped the body in a garbage bag and left it on the street.

When prosecuted for the crime, Wullaert admitted what he’d done. The prosecutor recommended that he spend time behind bars for this shocking offense. Despite this recommendation, the court gave him nothing more than Accelerated Rehabilitation. That meant upon successful completion of probation, Wullaert’s record would be wiped clean.

That result outraged the animal-loving citizens of Connecticut. And they enacted “Desmond’s Law” to ensure that court decisions offer a better measure of justice following animal-related crimes.

Seven attorneys, a law professor and her law students are part of the program statewide. The law authorizes qualified pro-bono lawyers and volunteer law students to:

[P]rovide investigative insight not readily available to the court, resulting in a more fair and efficient process and more meaningful outcomes in animal abuse cases. It is intended to shine a bright light on the full extent of crimes committed under the animal cruelty statute.

In a nutshell, these animal advocates help the prosecution or defense team with tasks it often has no time for, especially in animal cases. The volunteers investigate, research issues and conduct interviews with veterinarians and other witnesses. As official parties to the case, they also write briefs, make arguments in court and submit recommendations to the judge.

A judge has to approve the participation of the animal advocates, who must be requested by either the prosecution or defense.


“The hope [of the law] was that providing courts with an extra resource to help handle these cases, at no cost, [is] that the cases could be more thoroughly handled,” University of Connecticut law professor Jessica Rubin told the Hartford Courant.

Prosecutors in Connecticut already commend the animal advocates for helping them do a better job in these cases. Often, they barely have time to do much of this legwork for cases involving human victims. We all know that when time is precious, the human cases will take precedence over those involving animals. Now, with professionals in place solely for the animal cases, that won’t be a problem anymore.

“We hope with this law in place, we will start to see much better procedural outcomes [in animal abuse cases],” Annie Hornish,  director for the Humane Society of the United States in Connecticut, told the AP. “We are very excited that judges seem to be taking advantage of it.”


This is an incredible step forward for animal victims. In particular, it helps overburdened courts provide the same level of investigation and consideration to animal victims that they give to human victims.

Connecticut has given animals a legitimate, recognized voice in the state court system. Why can’t every other state do the same thing? From Maine to California, every state has animal-loving lawyers and law students who would be grateful and eager to volunteer their time as animal advocates.

Lawmakers from other states are reaching out to Rubin to request information on how they might be able to pass a similar law. There’s interest out there, and animal activists can help fan this flame.

It’s time for every jurisdiction to pass its own version of Desmond’s Law.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Melania P
Melania P1 years ago

How great, animals and nature, in general, need lawyers in these times.....

Jennifer H
Jennifer H1 years ago

Will it really help? It seems to me the prosecutor did the job and the JUDGE is the one who neglected the crime. I think the judges need training too.

Nena MILLER1 years ago

This is great but the man who did this will be doing this again, hope someone is watching this sociopathic creep

Nicole H

@ d mallender. If I understand your comment well, these people were real animal lovers, but as their cat did not cure, and they were no longer in a financial position to pay for additional treatment, the RSPCA prosecuted them, and they had to pay an enormous fine. Of course, this should never be the intention of such law. ONLY real abuse or neglect of animal/s should be prosecuted, and the real animal abusers who neglect or beat their animals should have to pay fines. One can never be held responsible for being poor. As - I think - everywhere in the world, medical treatment, medication, etc.. is to be paid by the owner himself, it should be totally ridiculous that you are dragged before court and should pay an enormous fine, just because you don't have the money to pay for heavy medical expenses, operations, etc.. The question then arises : what to do with this sick animal ? Well, that's a difficult one. They will never accept a sick animal at a shelter. And to have it euthanized by a vet, also costs a lot of money. This indeed is a serious matter to think about. But you will certainly agree that there are so many people who have 1 or more pet/s or even horses, pony's , pigs, sheep, etc... who leave their animals die in pain or die from starvation or lack of fresh water, etc... that no one should have any pity with them and that severe punishment, either huge fines, or even jail, must be applied. An

Nicole H

@ Winn a : 10 yes 10 comments just to say what you could easily put in one. And even some of your comments have NOTHING to do with the article submitted. It is not because Desmond was a dog from a shelter, that you must plead now NOT to buy dogs but get one from a shelter ?? ?? ?? What's the connection ??

Nicole H

The first time I hear about giving abused animals their own lawyers. BUT IT IS A GREAT IDEA. Many times, animal abusers either escape from any legal prosecution or they just get such ridiculous fines or very limited probation time, that after some months everything is forgotten. over and out !! Needless to say this is a shameful and ridiculous situation, leaving the animals in the cold, and giving the animal abusers a green card to continue with their "hobby". I really hope that this will change a lot now, in favour of the abused and/or killed animals, specially for those organizing dog fights, etc.. No longer a small fine, confiscation of their dogs and material and that's it. Of course, this does not affect them at all, and after a few weeks, they are back in business in another location. A couple of years behind bars, and confiscation of all their properties which they supposedly gathered by organizing these activities, will have a favourable effect on other animal abusers. They now will first think twice, before beginning. And when seeing what they can loose, I am quite sure that many of them will no longer continue their "business".

AND TO CONCLUDE : I hope that this concept will spread all over the U.S. and also in W. Europe like a fire !!

Marija M
Marija Mohoric1 years ago


Henry M
Henry M1 years ago


Sheila S
Sheila S1 years ago

I agree with Margie - hope this concept expands to other states! We need stronger laws and enforcement against animal abuse.