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Attorneys in Colorado, two other states form center to help animal owners

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An Arvada attorney who has represented dog owners in some of the highest-profile animal legal cases in the last few years has announced that she has formed a non-profit organization with two other attorneys to help citizens fight for animal rights.

Jennifer Edwards, founder of the Animal Law Center in Arvada, has formally incorporated the Animal Justice Center. It is a Colorado non-profit corporation 501(c)(3) and will serve Colorado, California and Montana with additional states to be added in the near future.

Los Angeles-based Jill Ryther, attorney and founder of Expand Animal Rights Now (www.expandanimalrightsnow.org) will lead the California efforts for the justice center. Lindsay Abernethy, an attorney licensed in Colorado and Montana, will handle cases in both states

“Since I founded The Animal Law Center in 2006, I realized the need for low-cost and pro-bono legal aid for animals and their people,” said Edwards. “The Animal Justice Center has been a dream of mine for several years.”

Among other cases, Edwards has represented the owner of a dog named Chloe, who was shot by a Commerce City police officer in November of 2012 while a neighbor videotaped the incident. The officer, Robert Price, was charged with aggravated animal cruelty but was found not guilty at trial.

Another high-profile case was her representation of Anthony Ortolani, a Westminster man who left his 5-year-old dog on Mount Bierstadt in August of 2013 after first trying to carry the injured dog down in bad weather. Missy was eventually rescued after eight days on the mountain.

Ortolani pleaded guilty to a charge of animal cruelty and gave the dog up for adoption.

“The Animal Justice Center is different than any other organization that exists,” said Edwards. “While there are national organizations that expand animal welfare through the legal system, there are none that help provide access and funding for an individual’s legal cases and causes. This will be a unique opportunity for animals and their people.”

The justice center is operating with a board of directors and is currently fund-raising and seeking regional and national grants. When the financial piece is complete, the Center will begin analyzing individual causes for funding consideration.

Edwards said The Animal Law Center(www.theanimallawcenter.com) strives to achieve legal recognition that animals are sentient beings, deserving of protection.

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