The 25 students of Visiting Professor Stefanie Kuerpick's Animal Law class travelled to Fort Lauderdale last Sunday to visit the South Florida Wildlife Center, part of the Humane Society of the United States. The Wildlife Center opened its gates to the students even though it's not normally not open to the public. In appreciation for the exclusive tour, the School of Law will donate $500 to the center, which is completely funded through private donations.
"Without donations like this one, our facility would not be able to care for the more than hundreds of sick and injured animals that pass through here every year," said the center's Executive Director, Sherry Schlueter.
The Wildlife Center rescues, rehabilitates, and releases native wildlife. Their modern wildlife nursery admits up to 120 orphaned, abandoned, or displaced baby animals a day during baby season and is open year-round, admitting nearly 13,000 injured, orphaned, abandoned, or abused wild animals every year.
"Having the chance to visit this Wildlife Center was a wonderful opportunity for my students to get an inside view of how rescue centers and shelters work," said Professor Kuerpick. "I wanted them to see and experience first-hand the impact civilization can have on the wildlife of South Florida and how much effort the Center has to make in order to help these animals recover as much as possible and to be able to be returned to the wild."
The center has three full-time ambulances, a staff of 60 including three full-time veterinarians and 400 volunteers to care for the up to 875 animals undergoing treatment and rehabilitation at any given time.
"What I wanted to communicate to the class today was that there are many ways to help animals. Having a career in law, and particularly animal law, is one of the most fulfilling ways and effective ways to do it," said the center's Executive Director, Sherry Schlueter. "We talked about many things today – from state law to federal issues to the protection of wildlife and how the correlation between animal cruelty and human interpersonal violence is really real. I hope hearing from a career law enforcement professional that has had many successes will be inspirational to the students. We also wanted to offer them an opportunity to see a wildlife trauma hospital and rehabilitation facility in action, a place where animals that have been harmed by collisions with human society can then be made well again by human beings and released back into nature to live wild and free."
The center is equipped to care for 252 possible species of animals in the dozens of habitats and rehabilitation areas over 4.1-acre property with a goal to release fully rehabilitated wildlife back to nature or, if not possible or in the cases of non-native species, into an appropriate placement.
Professor Kuerpick's Animal Law class studies the criminal law aspects of animal cruelty, including rodeos, dogfighting, and cockfighting, torts including veterinarian malpractice, commercial and constitutional Law, including freedom of speech Issues and religion as pertaining to animals, as well as the use of animals in sports and entertainment industries. Noted attorney and generous supporter of Miami Law's Animal Law Program, Arnold Grevior, JD '55, was instrumental in making the visit possible.
Accompanying the students' tour was the center's executive director. For more than three decades, Lt. Schlueter was the top "animal cop" at the Broward County Sheriff's Office. She led the Special Victims and Family Crimes section that she created, and is considered to be an expert on the connection between animal cruelty and human interpersonal violence. She initiated, helped to author, and lobbied for the successful passage of the original felony aggravated animal abuse statute that became law in Florida in 1989.
Long before that, she helped rescue and care for orphaned and injured animals at the Ft. Lauderdale home of a wildlife rehabilitator who in 1969 founded what later became the South Florida Wildlife Center. Schlueter served as vice president of the center's board of directors for much of the nearly two decades preceding her new executive director position there.
"I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit the South Florida Wildlife Center," said Morgan Nati, President of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. "It illustrated the importance of the legal concepts that we are learning in class, and also gave me great motivation as I move forward with my goal of using my legal education to help animals. The life-saving work that they are performing at this center is truly inspiring."