Animal cruelty is a matter that is constantly over looked and pushed aside in our justice system today.

Passing the Courtroom Animal Advocacy (CAAP)A1965/S2211 bill through the New Jersey legislature would not only help animals gain representation in the courtroom, but it could lead to opening the door to help families on a grander scale; uncovering animal abuse can help uncover victims of child abuse and domestic violence.

Chris Green and Kristen Stilt in Austin Hall’s Ames courtroom with Lola, Stilt’s rescue dog from Egypt
Photograph by Stu Rosner


First, what is the program? Courtroom Animal Advocacy would grant pro-bono representation, provided by 3rd year law students and volunteer lawyers, to animals who fall victim to ill-treatment and abuse. The New Jersey court system already has the tools needed to implement this embedded within the existing structure through its pro-bono programs for human victims.

This bill was first seen in Connecticut and was coined the name “Desmond’s law.” The law was named after Desmond, a dog who was viciously killed at the hands of his owner, never fully getting justice for what happened to him. In this situation, not only was Desmond the dog suffering from cruel treatment, but the perpetrator was also abusing his girlfriend. The offender’s girlfriend left the relationship for her and her daughter’s sake. Dealing with hard times and in the fleet of leaving the toxic relationship, the girlfriend had to surrender Desmond over to a shelter so she could support her and her daughter alone. The ex-boyfriend then vindictively went and adopted Desmond out of malice intent. While the dog was in his care, he was put under horrific conditions. These conditions included being starving, locked in a small bathroom for all hours a day, and constantly being beaten. Desmond had no quality of life up to the day his life was taken from him.


Facebook Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates

This heart wrenching story unfortunately is not the only time this has happened. Situations like this occur daily.
Pushing for this bill in New Jersey would help gain justice and a voice for the mistreated animals as well as rightfully punish offenders of abuse, but does this bill hold more weight than what meets the eye?

The connection among animal abuse and domestic violence share is profound. Studies prove that 88% of homes in which physical child abuse was being investigated, animal abuse simultaneously occurred. This statistic exhibits the direct correlation between people who harm household pets and human abuse. It is clear that the representation can uncover much more than animal abuse alone.

Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Juveniles


This streamline link of evidence between animal and domestic abusers shows that by helping the voiceless animals in the courtroom gain representation, in hand New Jersey can help crack down on domestic abuse and rightfully put the guilty behind bars/ in treatment.
Overall, pushing to gain animal advocacy in the courtroom can help more than just the animals who fall victim. As proven, animal abuse can be indicative of domestic abuse within a household. Helping animals can help the people that fall victims to abuse themselves. Not only does it help the victim it also helps the abuser get the mental help they need. By passing this bill through New Jersey’s legislature, justice will be served in all directions…

but it all starts from granting a voice to the voiceless to help the people in cycles of abuse

About The Author: Lauren Lamm is an upcoming freshman at the County College of Morris. She completed this article while serving as the Policy Specialist Intern for the Lesniak Institute. 



1. Feinburg, C. (2016). Are Animals “Things”?. Harvard Magazine.

2.Establishes Animal Advocate Program in AOC, S2211/A1965, Session 2022 – 2023. (2022).

3.Desmond’s Army. (2019). Facebook

4.The Link Between Cruelty to Animals and Violence Toward Humans. (2019). Animal Legal Defense Fund

5.Bright, M. Sayedul Huq, M. Spencer,T. Applebaum, J. Hardt, N. (2018). Animal cruelty as an indicator of family trauma: Using adverse childhood experiences to look beyond child abuse and domestic violence. University of Florida