Did you know that you can support animal shelters and rescues by sharing your expertise? Aspiring photographers can take pawtraits of ready-to-be adopted pets, those with human resource backgrounds can help screen adopters or fosters, while experienced managers can oversee the day-to-day operations of a rescue facility. If you are involved in the field of law, you can do your part in changing the world for animals—with or without a law degree—by engaging in pro bono work.
What is pro bono work?
Pro bono work is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “being, involving, or doing professional and especially legal work donated especially for the public good.” It comes from the Latin phrase “pro bono publico,” which means “for the public good.”
A term used in the legal profession, pro bono work is a type of service given by a legal professional for free or at a lower cost to assist people or institutions in need. Recipients may include not-for-profit organisations such as charities, churches, and foundations.
What are examples of animal welfare-related pro bono work I can get into?
Read through this list and discover what you can do to make an impact in the world of animal rescue and welfare:
- Reach out to your local, regional, or national animal protection organisation and humane society to offer your services.
- Join an existing program for law professionals such as the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Pro Bono Program in the USA. Their volunteers get the opportunity to do research and citation work, write legal information guides, file amicus briefs, litigate cases, and assist prosecutors with animal cruelty cases.
- If you are still studying law, you can form a student chapter focused on animal welfare at your university. This may encourage fellow students (as well as the general public) to help the animals in their community, adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle, or even choose animal law as their specialisation. Host student chapter events such as documentary screenings, informative seminars with animal law specialists, or visits to animal sanctuaries. Share your upcoming projects through social media, and take it a step further by reaching out to the local press and streaming your events online.
- Form your own group of like-minded law professionals/animal enthusiasts. Amplify your voices by creating an online community reiterating the importance of animal welfare.
- Get involved with a committee that discusses the laws that defend animals from abuse and neglect, and, at the same time, works to contribute to law and policy development. One such group you can join in Australia is the Animal Law Committee of The Law Society of New South Wales.
- Create written resources that help increase the public’s knowledge of laws relating to the treatment of animals.
- Help review and strengthen the foster programs of your state’s shelter and municipal pound, or help them come up with one. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Bar Association launched a project to pair pro bono volunteers with shelters that would benefit from legal advice. ABA even came up with foster application and agreement templates that could be readily used by shelters.
- If you have a flair for writing, you can come up with an op-ed on animal rights and submit it to your local newspaper or magazine. Written by someone not affiliated with the publication, the op-ed is an opinion piece that presents the facts in a concise but unique way. (For tips, check out the The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s guidelines on how to write an op-ed!)
- Volunteer in an animal law clinic that gives free legal advice on matters related to animals such as puppy mills, feral cats, and animal rights. As an administrative assistant, you can help out by taking file notes, doing research, and performing administrative tasks.
- Attend a conference and share your learnings with fellow law practitioners and your community. One example would be the Animal Law Conference, which is hosting a virtual conference on October 15 to 17, 2021. Since 1993, it has brought together students, practitioners, scholars, and activists to address the subject of animal law.
By volunteering your time, expanding your knowledge, and educating others on the rights of animals, you can help save countless lives and make the world a more compassionate place for all creatures to live in.