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.”


TopJayhawk 7 years, 1 month ago

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

Bob Forer 7 years, 1 month ago

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

muttonchops 7 years, 1 month ago

Yea, I do tire of hearing people dismiss issues by saying there are more important things to be concerned about. If everyone thought the way you did, nothing would ever get done on the "local" level. Why worry about Lawrence when we have Kansas to worry about? Why worry about Kansas when we have the US to worry about? Why worry about the US when we have the world to think about? Are you out there doing anything about cruelty to human beings? I doubt it, so take your garbage contributions elsewhere.

TopJayhawk 7 years, 1 month ago

Hey dummie. It is important on it's face. besides it can help identify people to watch. If someone is known to be cruel to animals. They willl probably be cruel, in some fashion to humans if given the chance. it is about integrity and morality.

Something you can't understand.

ivalueamerica 7 years, 1 month ago

If that is what you are more concerned about, then do something about it. Or is your contribution to be critical of those who do not do what you think should be done as you sit back and watch?

There are a variety of reasons people choose one thing over another. Perhaps the lawyer has a specific reason for the passions to be directed this way.

it is both ignorant and arrogant of you to presume to know what is the best path for others to take. In fact is is sort of sick and controlling of you.

I realize you can not fathom a world where everyone does not see everything exactly as you do...but that is your burden...good luck with that failure.

Paula Kissinger 7 years, 1 month 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.

woodscolt 7 years, 1 month ago

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

ResQd 7 years, 1 month 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.

livinginlawrence 7 years, 1 month ago

"TheSychophant" has not made a legitimate point. It sounds as if Barnett is an individual with the intangibles to do quite well for herself. She could be spending her time in law school preparing for a lucrative career in some other type of law, say patents or corporate or international law. But what is she doing? She's standing up for animal rights.

The only legitimate thing there is to say after reading this article is, on behalf of local pets, thanks Katie!

Bob Forer 7 years, 1 month ago

I'd rather save a life than "save a tree."

muttonchops 7 years, 1 month ago

Yet I'm betting you never have nor ever will do either. You just harass people who do from the sidelines.

muttonchops 7 years, 1 month ago

Yea, let's focus on things we will never fix and ignore everything around us because it's just not as important as the oh-so-realistic curing of ignorance and hatred in the world. So, BABBOY, how exactly does education cure ignorance and hatred? Educated people can't hate? Educated people can't be ignorant? You are living in a fantasy world that will NEVER exist. As long as there is inequality, which there always will be, people will hate.

These people are doing something that can make a difference and you knock on them because they aren't saving the world. What you are doing here is worse than doing nothing. You squash some of the few people who are making an effort to make things better around us because their cause isn't worthy? You are pathetic.

weegee 7 years, 1 month ago

Actually, teaching human beings to care about ALL forms of life would help translate into actually caring for human lives...and animals, and plants, and the environment. If more children were brought up to care for another living being, they would learn to treasure all kinds of life. But teaching children (or adults) to only care about humans is exactly the WRONG attitude.

Bob Forer 7 years, 1 month 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.

Evan Ridenour 7 years, 1 month ago

Yes, you are completely right. We should ignore all social and moral harms in our society until we have eliminated social ills like poverty (a social ill which will never be eliminated).

Genius point sir, genius!

muttonchops 7 years, 1 month ago

Should we also let theives go because they just aren't as significant a problem as rapists and murderers? How about hit and runs, or drunk drivers? Are they more or less important than child neglect and battered women? If less I assume we let it go because we just can't be bothered with less significant issues.

In terms of so-called intelligent life, in my book, little Sychophant rates with the algae growing on the side of my fish tank.

Paula Kissinger 7 years, 1 month ago

PETA is no friend to animals, truth be told, and Katie and other intelligent individuals know this. What she has chosen to do with her life and her career is her business and the last time I checked she did not require permission from anyone to do so. Katie does interact with people often and effectively. Unfortunately most of those "people" are soon incarcerated for doing things to animals that you would not believe. It isn't that she is choosing animals over is that there are lots of people helping people and not many people helping animals regarding their overpopulation, neglect and abuse. She is very good at what she does and if any of you knew her there would be no comments on this story other than "WTG Katie !"

woodscolt 7 years, 1 month ago

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

It is amusing how some people think they are describing others when they are really telling you more about who they are than the person they are trashing.

Katie comes across very credible and honorable and "sycho" just keeps throwing more dirt in his (hers) face post after post.

Give it up sycho, even though your just tolling, your the one coming off looking bad.

weegee 7 years, 1 month ago

Is there some reason that you feel the need to call her "little Katie?" I can't think of any need to be so condescending--unless you somehow feel threatened by her or by this great idea.

Jeff Cuttell 7 years, 1 month ago

I think the point people are trying to make with you is that ARE advocates for what you are talking about already. Cruelty won't end for humans because of it though. At least not for a long time. Animal cruelty will now have an advocate and possibly more around the country if this is successful. Just because there is now a plan for animal cruelty doesn't mean the human rights people have to fold up shop or anything.

afraidnot 7 years, 1 month ago

KU Law already has a prosecution clinic where students volunteer with District Attorneys for general cases. I think the intent of this clinic is to offer one that focuses on animals. I can't imagine anything wrong with offering students the variety of choosing between a general prosecution clinic or animal prosecution clinic. That would be like saying that law students shouldn't have the opportunity to intern at a law firm specializing in business because it isn't as profound an issue as prosecuting criminals. Ridiculous.

Val Walthall 7 years, 1 month 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.

domino 7 years, 1 month 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!

july241983 7 years, 1 month ago

I was just thinking that we do not prosecute children enough.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 1 month 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.

EJ Mulligan 7 years, 1 month ago

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

wtfusa 7 years, 1 month 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.

mushfish 7 years, 1 month ago

I know a police offiicer that shot and killed a pitbull. He was bragging about it. It made me sick. I haven't looked at him the same since. Good work Katie.I admire what you and your husband are doing for pitbulls! Thank you!!

sad_lawrencian 7 years, 1 month ago

Thank goodness I'm not a KU law student.

CloveK 7 years, 1 month 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.

wheremyshoes 7 years, 1 month 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.

Erin Graham 7 years, 1 month ago

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

notsobright 7 years, 1 month 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?

afraidnot 7 years, 1 month ago

The humane society helps set public policy for animal cruelty along with anyone else that gives input, including the ag folks. Tt is ultimately the legislature that makes the laws. (Just look at what has happened to MO's Prop B).

As far as your post relates to the clinic, this isn't a special private legal office, but rather a clinic at the law school where students will take a class in which they assist prosecutors in prosecuting animal abuse cases. They will not prosecute based on their own morals, but rather on the law as determined by the legislature.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.