“Desmond’s Law" is a groundbreaking Connecticut law that enables courts to appoint legal advocates to represent the interests of justice in animal cruelty cases involving dogs and cats. This law supports more forceful enforcement of anti-cruelty statutes by allowing qualified pro-bono lawyers or volunteer law student working under supervision to be an advocate for justice in animal abuse cases. The advocate accesses facts, records and other information regarding animals, shares information with the parties and makes recommendations to the court. The court-appointed advocate does not directly represent the animal, but rather the interests of justice.
Although some states allow victim's or children's advocates to testify in cases involving humans, this law is pioneering in that it is the first to allow advocates to act in a similar capacity for animals.
Desmond's Law allows judges to appoint a separate advocate for abused animals involved in legal proceedings, to represent the interests of justice. That advocate can monitor the case and supply the court with information about the welfare of the care or dog. According to the statutory language, the advocate, who is a volunteer attorney or supervised law student, may "present information or recommendations to the court pertinent to determinations that relate to "the interests of justice".
Under the new law, judges have discretion over whether to appoint an advocate in an animal abuse case, but prosecutors or defense attorneys may request them. The advocates, who are pro bono attorneys or supervised law students, assist the court by gathering information, conducting research, writing briefs, and making recommendations to judges. The law also states that The Department of Agriculture shall maintain a list of attorneys with knowledge of animal issues and the legal system and a list of law schools that have students, or anticipate having students, with an interest in animal issues and the legal system. Such attorneys and law students shall be eligible to serve on a voluntary basis as advocates under this section.