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Not Your Father's Courtroom

Lawyer and author Carolyn Matlack hopes to make animals “sentient property” in the eyes of the law

Lawyer and author Carolyn Matlack hopes to make animals “sentient property” in the eyes of the law

Carolyn Matlack’s career got off to an unlikely start in the pharmaceutical industry, where she worked in regulatory affairs and, among other duties, inspected animal research facilities around the world for government compliance. She remembers the good days, like the time she prepared batches of the first-ever heartworm preventative, mixed them into balls, and baked them in the oven like cookie dough. And she’s still haunted by the bad ones, like the time she longed to take home an old beagle who’d been forced to live and breed in a small cage for 11 years.

What helped Matlack cope was the knowledge that she could make a difference from the inside. She pushed her employers to start an animal care committee—“which no one in the private companies had” at the time, she says. “They begrudgingly agreed.”

Hoping to do more, Matlack eventually left the industry to attend Vermont Law School, studying under animal rights attorney and author Steven Wise and graduating at age 50. After many years in animal research, she felt a calling to help invigorate an outdated legal system she believes is at odds with the prevailing sentiments of today’s society.

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