B.A., New College of Florida, Psychology/Biology, 1998
M.S. in Animals and Public Policy, Tufts University, 2001
J.D., University of Michigan Law School, 2005
Legal Advocacy Counsel, ASPCA
What were you doing before entering the Masters in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) program?
I was living in Orlando, Florida the year before starting the MAPP program. After I finished college, I decided to apply to veterinary schools, and I was missing some prerequisites. So I spent a couple years waiting tables while I took the necessary chemistry, physics, and other hard science classes. I applied to a handful of vet schools and didn’t get accepted anywhere. But, a few weeks after the last rejection, I got a letter from Tufts. The Center had seen my application to the vet school, and, based on my animal welfare advocacy and volunteer work in college (and before then), thought I might want to apply to the MAPP program. I did, and the rest is history!
What aspects of MAPP led to your decision to join the program?
Growing up, I thought the only way to have a career helping animals was to become a vet. Then, unexpectedly, I had something of a crisis of faith during the Animal Science course I took before applying to vet school. While acknowledging the importance of food animal medicine, as someone who’d been vegetarian since I was 11 (the first time I read Peter Singer), I knew it would be really tough for me to learn to treat the animals that would end up as food. So when I got into the MAPP program, and realized I could focus on studying animal rights and welfare, and eventually become an advocate for animals, it felt like a much better fit for me than becoming a vet.
In what ways do you use your MAPP degree in your current position?
ALL the time! In my current role, I focus on civil litigation involving companion animals, horses, and farm animals. I also assist prosecutors around the country working on animal cruelty cases. The bulk of the subject matter knowledge I brought to my current position, including the Link, breed-specific legislation (BSL), and even basic information about how the legislative process works, I learned as a MAPP student.
Tell us about your MAPP project or preceptorship. In what ways did it help you form your career goals?
My final project was a collaboration with HSUS. We surveyed shelters around the country to learn about their humane education programs; this data didn’t exist anywhere else at the time. My undergrad thesis had also been focused on humane education, and I continue to believe that teaching kids how to treat animals with kindness is one of the most important factors in building a more humane world. I presented the study results at HSUS Expo in 2002, which was my first time speaking at a conference of any kind.
What did you like most about the MAPP program?
My immediate response is to say my classmates, some of whom I’m still in touch with now, 17 years later! I also have to say that before the MAPP program, I’d never even considered becoming a lawyer. I also had no idea the very new field of animal law existed. MAPP helped me realize, for the first time, that I could combine my desire to work on behalf of animals with my aptitude for writing, speaking, and advocacy (all of which came much more naturally to me than the hard sciences I struggled with for my vet school applications). I’ve been a lawyer now for 12 years, and focused on animal law for the past 3. I still pinch myself every day to make sure it’s really happening!
Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective MAPP students?
Attend conferences, volunteer, and above all, get to know other people in the field (including your classmates!). Our ideas and philosophies are not always 100% aligned, but all of us want better lives for animals. There are so many people out there doing amazing things on behalf of animals, and building your network early means you’ll get to keep informed of everything going on in the field.
Also, make sure you have a proper winter coat. As a lifelong Floridian, I came to Massachusetts with only a fleece jacket and no idea how to tie a scarf. It was a steep learning curve, and one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.