Archive for Sunday, April 17, 2011

KU law student organizing animal cruelty prosecution clinic

April 17, 2011


Katie Barnett has always been an animal lover.

At 16, she adopted her first dog, Carolina, an Australian shepherd, with her mom’s help. At 19, she adopted a rottweiler while on her own at college. Her passion for animals has grown since then, and she’s looking to make a difference in a bigger way.

Barnett, 30, a third-year law student at Kansas University, is organizing an animal cruelty prosecution clinic at the school. The clinical student will work with animal control, animal cruelty investigators at the Humane Society, police and prosecutors to make sure cases follow the right path and are prosecuted to the end. According to Barnett’s research, the clinic could be the first of its kind in the United States.

“This is the chance for me to give the animals a voice and a place in the justice system,” Barnett said.

Barnett and her husband, Anthony, started Game Dog Guardian, a local organization that rehabilitates pit bulls and helps find adoptive homes. She also lobbies for Best Friends Animal Society around Kansas. Adding a law clinic seemed like a natural addition to her repertoire when KU law professor William Westerbeke approached her about starting one.

“She has a long history in involvement in animal rights issues,” Westerbeke said.

Many law students do clinical work already, and he said designating one to specifically coordinate and keep track of the animal cases would be beneficial for all involved. It would save the Humane Society money and be terrific experience for the student, he said.

“It would guarantee, or hopefully enable, us to have those cases handled more efficiently or in a prompter way,” he said.

Barnett started researching how to put together the clinic two years ago, around the time when there were a couple high-profile animal cruelty cases in Lawrence. She had conversations with all involved parties to make sure the city and state agencies were even interested in the clinic.

“Everybody needed to be on board to work with the law school,” she said. “I spent a lot of time researching, seeing what everybody does.”

Barnett did ride-alongs with the police, went on checks with the animal cruelty investigators and went to court. She spoke with organizations around the country, such as Lewis & Clark Law School’s Center for Animal Law Studies and the Humane Society of the United States, who expressed interest in how the program developed.

This spring, Barnett has been gathering open and impending cases in Douglas County. She will develop a manual of how future students in the clinic should proceed.

“I’m doing a trial run to see how everything works,” she said. “I’m getting out all the kinks and really tailoring the position so everyone knows what to do. There’s never been a person to collect everything.”

The first student in the program will begin in fall 2011, and Westerbeke said other eastern Kansas counties have expressed interest in the program if it succeeds.

Barnett hopes it will, and getting everybody on board was a big part of that. She said she feels as though she’s a liaison between all the groups involved — the Humane Society, prosecutors, police and animal control.

“Everybody cares,” she said. “It’s just getting everyone on the same page.”


notsobright 2 years, 12 months ago

I sure hope that farmers, ranchers, outdoorsman, conservationists, and veterinarians are part of the boards that make decisions about what is "cruel." I had a friend pick up a dog from the Humane Society and wanted to wash the feces off the dog with the garden hose before they put it in their car. The attendant would not allow it because using a garden hose was "cruel." (My friend is now labeled as prone to beating his wife according to the Humane Society!) I saw some people freak out one year at the fair when they came to the realization that the animals in the show barns were being sold for market that day. Examples abound of people's lives ruined because of this new animal "cruelty" crusade.

Animal cruelty is immoral. I appreciate some of how the Human Society has helped society deal with excess of animals. But determining when "cruelty" occurs and how to prosecute can be a dangerously slippery slope led by many who know little of animal husbandry. Killing of animals is a normal and healthy fact of life. We use antibiotics to kill creatures. We use pesticides to kill creatures. We kill creatures every day as nuisance, management, and natural resources. Those who live with it everyday need to be in the discussion.

So question: We already have law enforcement and agencies- why a special private legal office who say they represent animals (when they really represent their "personal views" of animals)? Does that mean civil suits? (Does that mean the will of one [on behalf of an animal] against another legal citizen?) Also- I thought we lived in a representative Republic (some would say "Democracy"), so who determined that the Humane Society sets the public policy for animal cruelty?

Just asking if all views will be represented for healthy consensus?


Erin Graham 2 years, 12 months ago

Right on!! Go Katie! You've got a lot of people (and animals) rooting for you!


wheremyshoes 3 years ago

Prosecutors and juries across the country are beginning to send people to prison on felony convictions for allegedly abusing animals. Not just for running dog fighting rings or illegal and inhumane puppy farms either, but for taping their boyfriend's dog to the refrigerator.

I certainly hope that Ms. Barnett and her group is exploring the ethics employed by lawmakers and prosecutors, or lack thereof, in cases like Abby's. It's a long road in our society when you have to spend the rest of your life explaining a felony. The door won't ever open for Abby, and for what?

And here's something else to chew on. Many dogs will kill a cat or other small animal (including other dogs) without hesitation, no matter how well trained and affable they may be around humans. I've seen it. It's the dog's nature and all breeds are capable of killing without remorse (a higher emotion unique to humans). People who kill without remorse are branded sociopaths or psychopaths, but dogs, as a category, are on track to get rights equal to us? The current foray by our legal community into animal rights as an absolute end in itself is flawed, and dangerous. Bring back reason. Bring back democracy.


CloveK 3 years ago

Awesome job Katie! Thank you for all you are doing. Our four legged friends need a voice and you are the perfect person to make it happen.


sad_lawrencian 3 years ago

Thank goodness I'm not a KU law student.


edjayhawk 3 years ago

I'm fine with this except please, no pitbulls.


wtfusa 3 years ago

You know what's the one group of people that never get harassed about their animal cruelty, police officers.

I think that this is a new tactic used by some in our police force to intimidate citizens. It is outright murder, and there never any charges against the officers involved. There needs to be reforms, we need to recognize that dogs under 35 pounds pose absolutely no life threatening abilities against humans, and that dogs are naturally opposed to home invasions. Police must respect the family rights to own a pet as a member of its family, and that pets have a right to life. Police must show good will when families try their best to contain a pet. This is a problem that we need to recognize as a society. It will benefit more people than defunding NPR will.


EJ Mulligan 3 years ago

A great illustration of good things going on at the KU law school. Good going, Katie!


tange 3 years ago

Can we get Homo sapiens Kansiensis on the list?


Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years ago

I too am happy to see this program being instituted. I have 4 cats, and I love them all very much. They are good buddies, no stress companions and they keep my feet warm at night. It infuriates me when I hear stories about cruelty to animals from very stupid and careless people.

I hope this has a great success and can be maintained.


domino 3 years ago

I find it interesting that children who abuse animals are much more likely to grow up to be abusers in other aspects of their lives. I'd like to see her push to prosecute children who abuse animals - not just adults - and see if that would help long term. I don't have a problem with what she is doing and she CERTAINLY does not fall into the catagory of PETA terrorists!


Val Walthall 3 years ago

Congratulations, Katie. There are a lot of folks you don't even know who are moved by your compassion. We will support you and your cause.


Bob Forer 3 years ago

There is a reason there are no other programs like this in the country, and its not because the rest of the country are fools, and we in Kansas, led by fearless little Katie, are pioneers and enlightened human beings.

Animals count. I am a dog lover. But people come first. Isn't it more important to help the prosecution with violence against women cases or child neglect?

In terms of so-called activists, in my book, little Katie rates with tree huggers and PETA fur activists.

Come on, folks, don't we have more profound issues to deal with first.


bootlegger 3 years ago

Good deal Katie..............go gettem!!!!


BABBOY 3 years ago

Thesychophant makes a legitimate point.

We need to focus on eliminating poverty, ignorance, and discrimination first.

My guess is that if we could eliminate ignorance and hatred there will be little no animal abuse and things would take care of themselves..

I think the answer is improving the educational system which sadly is moving very much in the wrong direction due to phony flag waivers (tea party) that just want to protect their own pocketbook. and could care less about other Americans let along animals......

As for the law students, I hope that when they get into the real world which will include long work weeks to be successful that make law school appear fun that they remember this compassion and do not lose in the daily grind. .


ResQd 3 years ago

Good for you, Katie! I wish you the best and hope that you can do alot of good for the animals that cannot speak for themselves.


woodscolt 3 years ago

Best news I have heard in a long long time. I hope this is very successful.


Paula Kissinger 3 years ago

Beauty, brains, compassion, integrity, dedication...Katie's got it all and then some. There is no better person for this position and I wish her all the best. Her heart is definitely in the right place and the cause is more than deserved and overdue. This will being to light the individuals who need prosecution (that most likely are engaging in other criminal activities), provide a safer community for everyone and help the animals who cannot help themselves.


Bob Forer 3 years ago

I am more concerned about cruelty to human beings. There is plenty of that in this world.


TopJayhawk 3 years ago

Good for her. One thing that makes me go balistic is thinking about animal curelty.


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