UVA Law School Symposium to Feature National Expert in Fighting Animal Abuse

October 15, 2012

A panel of animal law experts will focus on the latest law and policies regarding animal abuse at a public symposium hosted by the University of Virginia School of Law on Oct. 19 from 2-4 p.m. in Withers-Brown Hall, room 152.

Animal Law SymposiumSponsored in conjunction with the Law School's Animal Law Program, the Virginia Animal Law Society's inaugural symposium will examine a range of animal cruelty laws, the correlation between animal abuse and human violence, and potential changes to current laws. Virginia Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch, considered a national leader in prosecuting animal abuse cases, will discuss the state's animal protection laws.

"The moral mandate to treat animals humanely has increasingly gained wide consensus in contemporary society, and state animal abuse laws most directly reflect this change," said symposium organizer Andrew Lee, a second-year UVA law student. "The lineup of speakers will provide a range of expertise."

Welch is charged with helping prosecutors and agencies across Virginia with animal law questions, and acts as a special prosecutor in animal cruelty and animal fighting cases. She also has been appointed a special assistant U.S. attorney to aid in dogfighting prosecutions. Welch is the vice president of the Virginia Animal Fighting Taskforce and vice chair of the American Bar Association's Animal Law Committee. She teaches animal law at the University of Richmond and William & Mary law schools, and has testified before Congress examining the enforcement of animal laws and the cooperation between state and federal partners. In 2012, she received the Animal Welfare Institute's Albert Schweitzer Medal for her work on behalf of animals.

"Michelle Welch is advising prosecutors throughout the country and is a major reason that Virginia is now viewed as a leader in prosecuting animal abuse cases," said UVA law professor Margaret Foster Riley, director of the Animal Law Program.

In addition to Welch, the event will feature sociology professor and animal rights expert Clifton P. Flynn, chair of the Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Women's Studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate. Flynn, the author of the book "Understanding Animal Abuse: A Sociological Analysis," has published numerous articles and chapters on animal abuse and its relationship to human violence. He serves on the editorial boards of the journals Society & Animals and the Journal of Animal Ethics.

Providing the perspective from the field, Robert C. Leinberger Jr. will discuss his experiences as assistant supervisor and field training officer of the Chesterfield County Animal Control. Leinberger is also vice president of the Virginia Animal Control Association and was recently appointed to the board of directors for the National Animal Control Association.

"Because the panel's experts have both academic and practical expertise, the audience will learn the current theories about how to deal with the problem of animal cruelty and how those theories play out in the real world," Riley said. "We are excited that the Law School can provide a forum to bring these issues to the attention of the University community and also in the much larger community beyond."

The Law School's Animal Law Program is designed to foster student interest in the law and ethics of humans' relationships with animals. Established through a gift by animal rights advocate and television personality Bob Barker, the program supports both scholarly and practical legal experience in animal law through event programming, a course in animal law, and an annual writing competition.

The event is open to the public and parking will be available in Law School lots. A reception will follow.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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