Freelance Writer
Attorney Sarah Luick, Animal Champion: Because Animals Should Have Their Day in Court, Too
12.04.08 | 2 Comments
Category: Animal Activism

Appeared as monthly column, “People Making a Difference” in Pets ! Magazine

The world grinds slowly. Social consciousness chugs along so that sometimes we barely sense the advances. This frustrates those passionate for change; Passionate about injustices that, though they seem so blatantly, well, wrong, aren’t addressed with appropriate speed. It can get discouraging, no matter what the war.

Animal lovers crave some good news from the battleground. They want to hear that the wheel is turning. That we are evolving.

We are, especially if you listen to advocates such as Sarah Luick, a Massachusetts attorney with a penchant for animal law.

As a kid, Luick would keep tabs on animals in her neighborhood and make sure they got home safely. She’d watch birds and marvel at them taking off and going about their business. She didn’t want to dominate them. She only wanted to protect them.

She was destined to protect them. As a board member with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and the Massachusetts Animal Coalition, she’s on the frontlines in the battle against cruelty. And though she says we’ve got some serious hurdles to clear, people are becoming more intolerant of injustices against animals.

“It does frustrate me,” says Luick, “but there are changes. I think the media even covering cruelty cases leads to outrage often. Just having it in the public view has made changes in how we view our pets. We are beginning to see changes, even with information on how cruel we can be with food animals and lab animals. We’re starting to see that industries using these animals have to pay attention more than they ever had to in the past.”

Luick serves on the board for the Massachusetts Animal Coalition, which is meant to gain working relationships and networking for those who do companion animal work as well as feral cat work (and much more – visit for lots of information). And since the early ‘80s, for ALDF, which is an organization that provides free legal work for any prosecutor across the country trying an animal cruelty case, Luick has been assisting with expert legal advice to give their cases the best chance at victory.

As a child, watching those birds in flight, she might not have been able to express it as eloquently as she can today, but Luick was always infuriated by humans‘ disgraceful treatment of animals. “I don’t understand why society should ever allow pain and suffering and depravation of any creature capable of feeling pain,” she says. “At the very least, you have to justify it through the balance of interest tests. I always wondered why I didn’t go down the same route as rescue people. But to me, this is about people. Why is this acceptable? If you can’t use people the way you use animals, how can you get away with it without anyone questioning it?”

In Massachusetts, if the District Attorney deems an animal cruelty crime a felony, someone convicted of the crime may be punished with up to five years in jail and a $2,500 fine. Many agree that the law should not only be stricter, but more strongly enforced. Cruelty laws tend to be “interesting” in that they are rather vague, which sometimes can be a strength in court, and sometimes a weakness.

Luick says that’s where ALDF helps, and where those in law enforcement are coming around. To her, attention is slower to come around to what she calls “institutionalized cruelty,” such as puppy mills, laboratories and farms. “We really do have more of an ethic in regard to our companion animals,” says Luick, “in that we won’t accept animal cruelty. That means local police departments can’t ignore it either, or it will be on the news that they have. I think the difficulty comes in where you’re talking about a large number of animals. The remedy to prevent it from continuing or happening again needs new direction and new thought and new cooperation between all organizations.”

Growing up in Boston, Luick attended Suffolk University, and specialized in animal law. It was a rarity 25 years ago, but thankfully, more common today. Now, more law schools have courses in animal law. More bar associations have animal law committees. And it’s becoming standard for law schools to have student groups involved in animal laws. In years to come, as these students enter the work force, the change will only positively infiltrate the system. The animals of the world are quietly applauding.

But it’s something Luick knew long ago. She’s glad others are coming along, and is full of faith. “I think because I’m an attorney,” says Luick, “I have confidence that our legal system is really meant to address and find a remedy for what are clear and obvious wrongs.”

For more information on the Animal Legal Defense Fund, visit

SIDEBAR: The state of animal cruelty

In February of this year, the ALDF compiled statistics for 50 states to report on how each fared in its laws to protect animals from cruelty and neglect. Stephan Otto, ALDF’s director of legislative affairs, reported that while each state had room for improvement, some states were clearly stronger than others in their concern for animals.

Here’s what they found.

Comparing overall strength and comprehensiveness

States with the best laws

States with the worst laws
North Dakota

The top tier (the states that treat their animals the best): California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia

The middle tier: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee

The bottom tier: Alaska, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming

Those that made the “worst” lists landed there for a variety of reasons, including no felony animal cruelty provisions, inadequate definitions/standards of basic care, no humane agents, inadequate provisions for forfeiture of abused animals and no separate crime for the sexual assault of an animal.

This report by the ALDF is the first of its kind, and the organization has plans to release one on an annual basis. Visit the site for the complete report.

SIDEBAR 2: a major victory for ALDF

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is often victorious for our animals in the courts. But as a group, it has been highly concerned in recent years with issues that affect large groups of animals such as hoarding, puppy mills and factory practices. Last year, the ALDF made history when it was successful in getting a mill shut down.

Sarah Luick explains: “The Animal Legal Defense Fund recently won a first of its kind and unprecedented court victory in Sanford, North Carolina where a unique state law allows any person or organization to sue an animal abuser. In April 2005, the judge granted an injunction allowing ALDF and county authorities to remove more than 300 diseased, neglected and abused dogs from the home of a local couple. As a result of this lawsuit, the couple was prosecuted for and found guilty of animal cruelty. In addition, ALDF was granted custody of the animals with the ability to provide them with needed veterinary care. ALDF subsequently won the right to restrict the couple’s visitation rights while the dogs remained in custody during ongoing appeals.”

2 Responses to “Attorney Sarah Luick, Animal Champion: Because Animals Should Have Their Day in Court, Too”

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