I spent the day surrounded by lawyers.
I know, to a Veterinarian this sounds like either a nightmare, a death sentence (aka hearing), punishment, probation, or plain old craziness.
But I wasn't the only Vet in the house (actually it was in a fine old beautiful church, Westminster in downtown Baltimore to be precise). There were actually 4 of us.
OK, to stay honest, 1 was there just to get her CE before her baby is born, (due any day). I don't think that she enjoyed the lecturers as much as I did, or the baby belly is keeping her from getting a good nights sleep at her house, she seemed excessively bored and tired.
The other was, umm, well, I don't really know. She was sitting at a table and seemed to know everyone. I guess I should have introduced myself, because I knew no one.
And the last was a retiring Vet who practices in the clinic my parents go to, waaay down in southwestern VA. I was scared to mention my name (see my old Cait blog for that explanation). He is about to retire from a long 30 plus years of practicing and is going to take a class on forensic investigation for animal abuse. I thought that was soo interesting. Can you imagine the wealth of information and ability he will bring to the law? How amazing to be in an age where things like this are now jobs, and you can take classes to be trained? It's like the modern day Dr. Doolittle meets Quincy, (or for all of you less than 30, CSI).
The symposium had a wide diverse group of lawyers all working in some area or another of animal law.
The gamut ran from animal rights lawyers to those trying to get civil rights for animals. Did you know that the law views your pets as property? So if your pet dies by the negligence or abuse of anyone else you can only collect damages in the amount of replacement value? So if your dear Fluffy is shot by your neighbor during target practice you might get $50 to get a new one. This is a VERY heated topic amongst vets, lawyers, and the general public. My cats mean everything to me. They could never be replaced, and I don't think of them as my property, they are my companions. Well, it is a very interesting topic that is sure to bring about great debate.
There was also a lawyer who acts as a mediator for couples divorcing. She tries to help decide who gets custody when both parties want the pet. She also does some work for clients who want to sue their Vet for wrongful death. Lots to learn from her!
The next lecturer was a lawyer in the area of "Equine Law." She helps advise for cases of horse racing drug use and abuse, estate planning for estates of huge BIG money horse farms, (where some of the horses are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars), to overseeing the horse racing commissions guidelines and advising on many equine related topics.
There were lecturers from law firms trying to get federal protection of endangered species, like salmon, California sea lions, factory farming issues, and protecting big cats.
One lawyer from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is trying to get the laws changed so that private citizens cannot own a big cat. A big cat is a lion or a tiger. It is estimated that somewhere between 10 to 20,000 big cats reside in personal homes, usually hidden form the public and in sub par, inferior, if not deplorable living conditions. These magnificent creatures have no reason to be hidden away in a basement or a barn, or a garage.
I also met Jeffrey Flocken from the IFAW who just published a book called "Wildlife Heroes." He signed a copy of his book for me and reminded me how lucky I am to be living my dream. I can't wait to read his book. I will be going to bed early tonight to start it.
About halfway through he lectures I wrote the following in my notebook; "I think I am the only one here at the verge of tears and trying to maintain a professional decorum. I am sitting here in a sea of animal abuse stories, the protocols and procedures the lawyers are supposed to follow in these cases, and every single person is here because they want to help a pet who needs them." It was so humbling and encouraging to see all of these professional people united to help the animals.
So at the end of the day I think I actually bonded with the lawyers. See anything is possible if you dare to believe.
Off to bed with my book!