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Important Dates

Spring Semester Begins

January 8th, 2025


Spring Application Deadline

October 7th, 2024

Faculty Spotlight with Rebecca Critser

Rebecca Critser’s passion lies in helping animals. An ethicist and lawyer by training, she is a post-doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health. She also serves on the Indiana State Bar Association Animal Law Committee (and is the former chair), Chairs the Science & Technology Subcommittee of the American Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee, and serves on the Board of Animal Advocates International, a non-profit organization founded by a fellow Lewis & Clark Animal Law LLM alum. She also translates her passion for animal protection to students through teaching two courses at Lewis & Clark Law School. 

When Rebecca graduated from law school (she simultaneously obtained a degree in bioethics), she knew that she wanted to pursue animal law. After a stint advocating for access to gender-affirming care for transgender clients, a job she loved, she decided to return to pursuing animal law. Given the feedback from her job searches that she needed more experience in the field, she applied to the Animal Law LLM program at Lewis & Clark Law School because she knew Lewis & Clark could supply in-depth study in animal law. She received her Animal Law LLM in 2022.

Teaching The Law & Ethics of Animal Testing and Animal Legal Philosophy

Now a professor in Lewis & Clark’s online degree program, she co-teaches The Law & Ethics of Animal Testing with Dr. Paul Locke, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Animal Law Law & Science, and she teaches Animal Legal Philosophy. 

She took The Law & Ethics of Animal Testing course when she herself was a student, then spent years as a teaching assistant for the course, and is now proud and happy to co-teach it. Coming from a science and ethics background, Rebecca says, “I feel really fortunate to be able to jump into this course that was, in a lot of ways, already designed and running smoothly, and to lend my support and hopefully my ethics expertise.”

Students in the course develop:

  1. A foundation in the laws that surround animals and testing;
  2. An understanding of the tensions, techniques, and strategies within the field; and
  3. Ideas and inspiration for how to continue to work in the field so they can be an advocate for animals used in testing and research.

And what does Rebecca personally want students to get out of this course? Two things. “I want them to understand the truth around the use of animals in testing – there’s a lot of misinformation in the space,” she admits. Though she assures students that much of that misinformation isn’t malicious, she still wants them to have a more complete and accurate understanding. Also, she wants to make sure students know that their skills and their voices are needed. “This space needs lawyers. This space needs legal advocates,” she says, adding, “Don’t be afraid just because science is in the mix!”

Meanwhile, the Animal Legal Philosophy course explores rights jurisprudence and explores whether the law should recognize animals as subjects of rights. The course then considers how rights might be obtained for non-human animals and addresses practical considerations such as “which rights apply” and “how will they be enforced.”  It’s an incredibly important class that Rebecca is honored to teach.

Rebecca is an expert at making course material accessible to students drawing from her experience as a student in the courses, which “allows me to be a little more sympathetic. I remember what it was like to go through the courses, and I think one of the ways I use that sympathy is to help students distill what’s most important.” She knows that students are busy, so she helps to guide their focus so they maximize their time and potential.

A Singular Degree Opportunity

She recognizes the shift in the landscape that she is part of. “The fact that Lewis & Clark set up an entire program for animal law has done a lot for the whole movement. In a lot of ways, it validates the movement.” Yes, believe it or not, there are some people out there who aren’t aware that animal law is a valid field and they do not understand its breadth and diversity of subject matter. 

Having obtained an Animal Law LLM degree herself, Rebecca knows the value of this particular degree and the benefits that study in the program brings to students. She says: “The culture here is unlike anywhere else. For somebody who loves this field and loves this work, it’s a nice reprieve to be around peers and like-minded individuals. It gives you an opportunity and a space to dive into greater details and depth.” The advanced degree program is an ideal starting point, from which students can take more steps forward – and do it faster.

Accessible, International, and Impactful

Rebecca notes that one of the greatest assets of the online program is its accessibility. The array of topics available, plus the depth of mastery students achieve, and all just from your own home? “I think the program’s unparalleled in that respect,” she notes. The issues that face nonhuman animals are really global issues, and by making this program available to students around the world, Lewis & Clark is creating an invaluable opportunity.

Because it is an international program, students make connections and form friendships with others around the world. Those connections serve students and graduates, personally or professionally, down the road. Some of Rebecca’s peers from her time as a Lewis & Clark student are now her dearest friends.

The Future of Animal Law

An important next step for animals used in research is going to be ensuring that there are defined pathways for alternatives to animal models to go through regulatory acceptance. That process exists to some extent in Europe, but the United States has yet to catch up. It makes companies nervous to use alternatives, even though they are far more ethical, when it means investing in a process potentially rife with regulatory roadblocks. 

There are many more issues surrounding animals used in research, and so much in animal legal philosophy that is ripe for discussion. That’s why Lewis & Clark’s program is so essential, and why it’s impactful to have a hub for these kinds of conversations.

“Every opportunity I get, I try to state and restate the need to see each other as potential allies and foster more collaborative efforts,” Rebecca says. If you aspire to be an ally for animals, you know where to start. Apply for the Online MSL or LLM in Animal Law at Lewis & Clark Law School today.

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