My path to law school was quite different than, I suspect, almost everybody working in law today. I’m pretty sure I am the only person ever to cart a car-full of rehabbed raccoons to their release site before going on to study at bar prep class. I have always worked with animals and never really wanted to do anything else. I won my first pony in a church contest and showed my parents, without question, that I was determined to do so. The possibility that I would someday go to law school would never have occurred to me. I am an outside girl, rarely held an office job and I like my hands to be dirty and wear jeans to work. When I realized I could combine my love of animals with the law, I remember being more excited about the possibilities than I had been in a long time.
I was never much of a conformist. My path to pretty much everything was an alternative one. While I was in high school, I attended an “alternative” program where we read poetry, gave each other a lot of hugs and called our long-haired teachers by their first names. That sort of program would never fly today, but I loved it and it kept me in school where I eventually learned there were actually colleges that specialized in working with animals! The Exotic Animal Training & Management program (now called America’s Teaching Zoo) was in Moorpark, right around the corner from where I grew up in Simi Valley and I set my sights immediately on going there. It is a two-year program that culminates in an associate’s degree and hands-on experience with over 700 animals.
After Moorpark, I spent over 19 years as a keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo, mainly specializing in animal training and keeping. I was involved in every area of the zoo, but particularly loved doing educational shows and training. While at the zoo, I attended Cal State Northridge and eventually graduated with my bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in animal behavior. I continued to work at the zoo while also working as a veterinary technician, groomer and dog trainer in my “spare” time.
Later, the decision to attend a non-traditional law school came during my tenure with American Humane Association as a humane officer, monitoring animals on film and television sets. I loved my humane training and the laws that applied, but I felt I was a bit too old to chase bad guys over fences as an animal cop, so I started looking around for a way I could combine law and my 30 years of professional animal experience. I could not have been more excited to see that I could work in the field of animal law! As I traveled the world — working on films in Mexico, Canada, China and Hawaii, to name a few — I was also able to take online law courses and study during my downtime on set.
Animal law is a relatively new field, but it is a growing and expanding one. Animal law is a body of work that can include any and all laws that pertain to animals, including veterinary malpractice, animal cruelty cases, dangerous dog issues or even the Endangered Species Act among many others. While earning my Juris Doctor at Concord Law School of Kaplan University, I studied an entire year of equine law, learning about such diverse subjects as syndication of race horses, environmental impact laws for stables, breeding and training contracts just to name a few. I attend the largest animal law conference yearly, which is generally held in Portland, Oregon by Lewis & Clark Law School, offering the first (and only) LL.M. in animal law.
As with most things in my life, I took the unconventional route to law school as well. I loved Concord! I made many new friends, loved taking classes at home while still being able to work and the curriculum was very challenging. I remember those four years fondly, despite some of the struggles of working and going to school full time.After graduating Concord in 2011, I began working for a nonprofit and sought out as many legal avenues as I could to learn more about animal law and its many possibilities.
I founded a nonprofit called the Animal Protection Agency. Our three main objectives are monitoring animals on film and television sets, humane education and expert witness services for all things relating to the animal field, particularly wild and exotic animals, zoos, humane training practices and conservation. Society’s view on animals has changed a great deal in the past 40 years. Recent animal law cases in the news include the Sea World ban on breeding orcas, the death of pupfish in Death Valley and the always popular discussion on Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL). Expert witness services are greatly needed to help navigate the sometimes confusing, muddy waters of animals in captivity, animal behavior and humane farming practices.
The federal rules of evidence, which govern the introduction of evidence in proceedings in federal court, state that an individual can qualify as an expert witness based on her knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, says Scott A. Heiser, senior attorney and director of the criminal justice program for the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). I believe I stand relatively alone with decades of experience, education and training. I fall somewhere squarely in the middle when it comes to fair animal “use” and animal rights, however, and believe strongly that zoos and aquariums are key in conserving animals, where much of the natural habitat continues to shrink. This can be a confounding stance between my zookeeper friends and my strict vegan, animal-rights friends. I have learned over many decades that there is much room for debate and ever-changing views in regards to animals.
I am so grateful to Concord for fulfilling my dreams and I look forward to one day practicing international wildlife law. Every organization on the planet has attorneys working for them and whether it is a position to be agreed with or not, there is power to be found in the law. Power to stop aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska, sport hunting in the last remaining areas of wilderness or confiscating animals from hoarder situations, all of these things can be accomplished utilizing the field of animal law. I am excited about my future and all the ways I can continue to make the world a better place for animals. Jami LoVullo