Law Students offer Free Legal Services for Animals

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Animals in Croatia can often be targets of abusers – beaten, starved, poisoned, mutilated, cruelly killed, but the number of sanctioned cases is negligible

Do you remember Miško, the German Shepherd mutt who had a firecracker stuffed in his snout in 2013? It turned out the horrific injuries he suffered then were not the only ones, as the x-ray showed two bullets in his head and neck, confirming Miško was previously the target of vile abuse. But the sad fate of the dog from Galižana is just one in a line – animals in Croatia can often be targets of abusers – beaten, starved, poisoned, mutilated, and cruelly killed, Jutarnji List reported on May 14, 2017.

Although the new Criminal Law, in effect from 2013, prescribes stricter prison terms for the torture and murder of animals, up to two years, events of this horrid nature still fill newspapers. The number of abuse cases is large, but the number of sanctioned cases is negligible. This is why students of the Law Faculty in Zagreb came up with a unique idea – they pooled their knowledge and stood up for the rights of animals. Four-legged residents of Croatia thus gained their own legal team in November of last year. We spoke to law student Iris Ban Košelj, the idea creator of this innovative project and President of the Student Association of the Zagreb Law Faculty for the Legal Protection of Animals – Animalex.

“We have six months of work behind us. It all began when I took my idea of gathering law students in the fight for animal rights to the Dean’s Office. I was pleasantly surprised as the very next day I was invited to present my idea and choose a time for the first meeting of students. The Law Faculty Dean’s Office is ready for further cooperation and has invited us to cooperate in the creation of an elective course on animal rights,” said Iris.

At her side are another fifteen members from various years of enrolment. Besides students from Zagreb, the group has law students from Split, Osijek and other faculties and they would appreciate the opinion of veterinary students. Anyone who has good ideas and the will to participate is welcome. To be more efficient in defending the rights of animals, they split into three groups so they can process more cases at the same time.

We are an almost perfectly harmonised team. No one works alone. To avoid potential mistakes, in every team, senior colleagues work with junior ones. Solved cases, before they are published are read together. We don’t have an official mentor, but if we find ourselves in a situation where we need advice, our professors gladly advise us and clear anything up,” said Iris.

While some nations have public defenders for animal rights, Iris and her colleagues perform this job pro bono, and their greatest reward is when they help animals and concerned citizens who report the cases – but they are ignored by institutions.

“Laws have not been bad so far, but problems arise in their implementation. Institutions often don’t act professionally, and even if they to act in accordance with the law, then that process gets prolonged. In one of our cases with the animal shelter Ti Tip, our report was passed around the Ministry for three weeks, while living beings suffered and were endangered. This is unacceptable, so I feel it is necessary to shorten those deadlines and if need be, sanction officials. I also want to cite the catastrophic state in which animals are kept in villages, in almost every other yard you will find a dog chained on a half-metre long chain, without shelter in summer heat or winter cold. If the relevant institutions would do their job in just a few cases, rescuing the animal and charging them the prescribed fine of between 10 and 15 thousand kuna, it would be a good example and a warning to other reckless owners that such behaviour, besides being disgusting and inhumane, is against the law. This would slowly, but surely affect the awareness of citizens for the better,” said the future lawyer.

She pointed out the danger to animals comes only from people, starting from irresponsible owners to officials who act unprofessionally or don’t do the jobs they are paid for. On the other hand, there are also conscientious citizens who are of great help to the association in gathering required materials to compile adequate reports.

If you want to report cases of abuse, neglect or murder of animals, you can contact them via the e-mail: [email protected].


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