Past Events


Punishment and Sentencing of Animal Abusers
This symposium focused on criminal penalties imposed on those convicted of animal cruelty or animal neglect. The speakers discussed the increased criminalization of activities injurious to domestic animals and noted the deterrent effect of augmented fines and prison terms. They also explored some creative punishments, such as that imposed by one state court judge who ordered the defendant to spend a night outside without food, water, or shelter. The symposium increased awareness of the need to set appropriate penalties to deter and punish animal abuse.


Menu Foods Pet Poisoning Litigation
This program examined the causes and ramifications of the distribution of tainted pet food throughout the U.S. by Menu Foods in 2007. The speakers emphasized the need for proper government oversight of pet food manufacturing and also explored the proper valuation of companion animals in tort. They noted that the current legal standard for valuing companion animals is fair market value—a standard that arguably grossly undervalues animals as companions to humans and an integral part of the family unit. The participants debated the pros and cons of changing the valuation standard to provide for greater damages awards in cases where pets have been injured or destroyed and illuminated the policy concerns surrounding the valuation issue.


Prosecuting and Representing Animal Abusers and Caring for Their Victims
This symposium delved into the legal intricacies of prosecuting and defending those charged with animal cruelty or animal neglect. It focused on the criminal prosecution of football star Michael Vick, who was ultimately convicted and sentenced for his activities in running a dog fighting operation on his property. Panelists also discussed the outcome for the dogs rescued from Vick's operation and noted that many were successfully rehabilitated and placed in private homes. The symposium drew attention to outcomes for other than euthanasia, the typical end for fighting dogs.

Companion Animal Hoarding
This event featured policymakers, states' attorneys, psychologists, and academics who have been involved with the issue of pet hoarding. Pet hoarding appears to be a growing problem in the U.S., and law enforcement has faced challenges in keeping up with the increased number of cases. Particularly discouraging is the huge recidivism rate for companion animal hoarders and the limited effectiveness of judicial prohibitions on future pet ownership. The speakers discussed the dimensions of this problem as well as possible approaches to finding more effective solutions to it.


Revisiting the Fine Line between Freedom of Speech and Obscenity
This symposium examined the recent United States Supreme Court decision in United States v. Stevens, in which the Court held that a federal law banning the distribution of so-called "crush" videos was unconstitutional as an undue restraint on free speech under the First Amendment. Speakers discussed in detail the basis for and the ramifications of the Court's holding and also suggested other legislative approaches to regulating videos depicting the actual killing of small animals that would pass constitutional muster. The event attempted to convey the horrendous nature of the crush video industry while exploring regulatory solutions respectful of free speech concerns.


Examining the Legal Protection of Animals Used in Entertainment
Examining the Legal Protection of Animals Used in Entertainment
A symposium on animals in entertainment, in conjunction with the school's Program for Law and Contemporary Culture, is planned for fall 2012. The daylong event will feature panels on legal issues associated with animals in entertainment.

The focus of the October 17, 2012 symposium is the legal protection of animals used for entertainment purposes, including movies and television, magic shows, dog fighting, circuses, and horse racing. These areas will be examined through a filter of the ethical responsibilities involved in using animals for entertainment purposes, legal liability for the misuse of animals, the history of the field of animal law in entertainment and what happens to animals after they "retire."

For more information on our Fall Symposium, "Examining the Legal Protection of Animals Used in Entertainment," please go to


Spotlight on Animal Crimes: A Discussion with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart

On March 14, 2013, DePaul Center for Animal Law hosted a lunchtime talk by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. During this hour-long presentation, Sheriff Dart focused on the Chicago Police Department Animal Crimes Unit, animal welfare issues within Chicago and related topics. Video to be available soon.

Center for Animal Law