Every animal shelter, irrespective of location, requires volunteers, adopters, and donors. Recognizing these universal needs, the Animal Law Committee (ALC) organized a service project during the TIPS Spring Conference at the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), supporting the shelter in each respect.
Though the shelter had not yet opened to the public when ALC members arrived, the parking lot was already full, as veterinarians and shelter staff had long been at work, cleaning kennels and providing veterinary care to the 200 animals in residence at the time. After touring the facility, members rolled up their sleeves to walk dogs and socialize cats, some of whom bore visible scars of abuse. As Maryland’s largest open admission shelter, BARCS never turns an animal away and cares for approximately 10,000 animals a year, including dogs, cats, exotics, and even livestock.
In the weeks preceding the TIPS conference, then-chair Lenore Montanaro coordinated a donation drive among the ALC and other TIPS members, raising $1,600 for BARCS. This 501(c)(3) non-profit organization assumed the operations of Baltimore’s municipal shelter in 2005. Known nationally for its progressive leadership, BARCS has steadily increased the live release rate for animals from the City’s shocking 2 percent to over 90 percent over the past several years. Public support, such as that provided by the ALC, has contributed to its success.
ALC member Joan Schaffner, associate professor of law at George Washington University School of Law, went one step further by adopting three bonded and under-socialized cats surrendered to the shelter. Schaffner is a role model for ALC members nationwide, not only for her stellar contributions to the field of animal law and the ABA but also for providing care and sanctuary over the years to countless cats who have suffered from homelessness and neglect. These animals often struggle to find adoptive homes, and Schaffner gravitates toward animals that need help the most. This remarkable generosity is a hallmark of the ALC, and it was fitting that Schaffner recently accepted, on behalf of the ALC, the annual TIPS Membership Award for Public Service at the TIPS fall meeting in Scottsdale.
“BARCS was honored and deeply grateful to the lawyers of the ALC, who took time from their conference to help our animals,” noted Executive Director Jennifer Brause. “These interactions are critically important, as they help socialize and reduce stress on animals, making it more likely they will find permanent adoptive homes quickly. These service projects also provide a morale boost to our hard-working staff.”
The ALC endeavors to host a volunteer service event at least annually at TIPS Conferences, which requires significant advance planning. ALC member Hillary Vedvig, who also serves on the TIPS Law & Public Service Commission, began planning the volunteer project in January, working with shelter staff and the ABA to secure assignments and necessary waivers from all volunteers.
ALC members are well-versed in these public service events, as many members donate their time year-round with animals, serving on Boards at local shelters, volunteering with rescue organizations, or transporting dogs from shelters that are over-capacity. While good for the community, these volunteer efforts also benefit ALC members. As litigators, academics, and general counsel at non-profit organizations, committee members strive to improve the lives of animals through advocacy of better laws and policies, litigation, and training of the next generation of lawyers. Public service informs and guides this work. Moreover, interaction with an individual—whether an animal or a person—often enables one to understand the universal. Public service events are undoubtedly good for the profession and the public, but ALC members have long known that they can personally benefit the most.