AUSTRALIA’S FIRST animal law referral service is in need of more funding if it is to remain operational beyond November this year.
Marianne Maguire of the Redfern Legal Centre established PALS (a pro bono animal law service) with the help of a financial grant made in 2006 by animal rights organisation Voiceless. Unless it receives more funding, the project will wrap-up in November.
“We haven’t got another source of funding and the program needs funding. It’s only getting off the ground now and it’s the first of its kind and there’s been a demonstrated need for the service, as evidenced by the fact that we do have clients,” Maguire said.
“There are literally hundreds of organisations out there in Australia fighting for animals and they all need advice at one point or another, whether it’s just corporate or commercial assistance for their organisation or matters that arise out of the work that they do.”
PALS maintains a register of lawyers who will provide legal services in their area of expertise for free or at substantially reduced cost. Since the first case referral in late-June this year, Maguire said she had dealt with over half-a-dozen cases and managed to obtain suitable representation for each client who has approached the service, in a number of areas of law.
“There are matters being referred through the pro bono animal law service from various jurisdictions. One of the matters involved a civil matter with the client being sued for trespass to a commercial piggery, while another is a council complaint issue concerning rescued cats,” Maguire said.
“I anticipate that when the project wraps up in mid-November we will have had 12—15 cases come through.”
Speaking at the National Community Legal Centres Conference in Brisbane last week, Maguire said that while setting up the project had been rewarding, there were numerous hurdles to overcome, including a conservative attitude in big law firms towards animal law, despite its increasingly popularity.
“As you are no doubt well aware, the majority of large firms are extremely conservative and are generally not willing to consider animal law matters for pro bono assistance,” Maguire told the conference.
“Therefore, you need consider your approach on a case-by-case basis and sell it as either an environmental issue, a public interest issue, which is more difficult, or an access to justice issue — which depends heavily on the personal circumstances of the client and the nature of the matter to a lesser extent.”