California Moves to Protect Abused Animals in the Court System
New legislation could give animals a voice in California's courts.

Abused animals may soon have a voice in California in the form of a courtroom animal advocate.

Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D, Van Nuys) has introduced Assembly Bill AB 2645, also known as Riley’s Law. This would allow the appointment of courtroom advocates to represent the interests of an animal in a criminal proceeding.

As animal victims remain unable to express their own needs, advocates must effectively prioritize the animal’s current and future wellbeing. The name Riley’s Law honors a severely abused puppy, rehabilitated and adopted by the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation.

Animal Hope in Legislation and Animal Legal Defence Fund are sponsoring the bill.

“As a rescuer, I have seen some of the most horrific acts of violence against dogs and cats, animals we call our family members,” said Marc Ching, Founder of Animal Hope in Legislation and Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation. “When it comes to such cases, these animals deserve a voice that would speak on their behalf. Riley’s Law would do just that.”

During trials, defense attorneys have a duty to their clients, while prosecutors have a duty to the state. But non-human animal victims’ needs will often be left unaddressed. Riley’s Law would allow judges to appoint advocates at any time during a criminal proceeding.
“The interests of these animal victims must not go unaddressed,” said
Assemblymember Nazarian. “As such, this proposed new law will give judges,

prosecutors, and defense counsel more complete information from which to operate.”

California has introduced a number of animal welfare bills in the last year.

Animal Welfare Law

The first-ever Courtroom Animal Advocate Program was enacted in 2016 in

Connecticut. During a dogfighting case, Professor Rebecca Huss made independent recommendations to the court on the disposition of seized dogs.

Professor Huss saved the lives of almost 50 animals and helped to re-contextualize the treatment of ex-fighting dogs’ rehabilitation on a national scale.

California has already introduced several key pieces of legislation to improve animal welfare. In September 2019, the state became the first to completely ban the sale of fur. And in the same month, California also banned fur trapping. The use of wild animals in circuses was also banned in 2019, and legislation has even been proposed to ban school dissection.