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Vermont Law Offers Two-Week Animal Welfare Course
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Summary: Vermont Law is holding a short class on animal welfare to address the sensitivities of how animals are used for entertainment.

Vermont Law School understands that people are concerned about the welfare of animals used as entertainment for people so they are offering a two-week course on the matter. Animals are frequently used to entertain people in zoos circuses, and other places. The class, taught by a veterinarian and two attorneys, was inspired by real world cases, according to the Rutland Herald.


The veterinarian helping with the class is supervising veterinarian Dr. Heather Rally of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Foundation. She is joined by PETA vice president and deputy general counsel Delcianna Winders and Perkins Coie partner Donald Baur. Rally and Winders will be primarily teaching the course.

Baur calls the course a broad, survey-type course focusing on federal laws that address the “manner in which human activities affect animals primarily in situations where they’re held in captivity or used for a variety of different human activities.” The course offered for the first time in South Royalton this summer is not going to focus on conservation or animal population. He has been teaching a summer ocean law course at VLS for the past 20 years.

He added, “This class focuses more on the health and welfare of individual animals as opposed to looking at big picture conservation issues associated with animals in the wild.”

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“This course is really focused on captive wildlife and their legal status and how traditional animal welfare and conservation law do and do not serve their needs currently,” Winders said.

Winders believes that animal law is quickly evolving, especially captive-animal law in recent years. She said, “As a result, many of our cases that we’re talking about in the class are currently in the court so it’s a very dynamic opportunity for the students.”

The class will look at cases such as the legal efforts put into closing circuses and the end of the orca-breeding program at SeaWorld. She added, “I would say it is in a lot of flux. The law has not yet caught up with public opinion. We know from repeated polling that people care a lot about animals, that people don’t want to see animals abused whether that’s for food, for clothing, for entertainment or research. Our laws for the most part are woefully behind in recognizing that, but we are seeing a lot of progress.”

Of the reason for the class, Baur explained, “This class fits in well to the overall environmental law curriculum at the Vermont Law School. This is a specialized area of law, for sure, but it is a rapidly growing and increasingly important area of law that affects a wide variety of human activities and businesses and government agencies.”

The class will be held daily for three hours. There are about ten students enrolled in the course. Baur said, “Students are very engaged, very interested, and as somebody who’s taught at the school for 20 years, I find every time I teach, I learn something. It’s great to be able to interact with the students because they raise great issues and really great questions that cause me, and I think the other instructors, to really think about ways that this area of law should continue to evolve in the future.”

Do you think this course would be worth taking? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about the legal status of wild animals and PETA, read these articles:




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