During a virtual ceremony in April, WMU-Cooley Law School student Heather Silcott was presented the Wanda Nash Award for outstanding contributions to Animal Law by the State Bar of Michigan’s (SBM) Animal Law Section. On May 18, SBM held an in-person ceremony to honor Silcott and her achievements in animal law. The award recognizes one law student based on nominations from all of Michigan’s law schools. Those nominated must have contributed to animal law issues and participated in student animal law organizations, or animal law courses.
The award’s namesake, Wanda Nash, also a WMU-Cooley graduate, brought together attorneys in Michigan who were interested in animal law with the goal of establishing a State Bar section. The SBM Animal Law Section was founded in 1995 and is considered the to be the first statewide Animal Law Section in the United States. The Wanda Nash Award was established in 2006. Nash died in May 2008.
Silcott was originally named the award recipient during a virtual celebration in April. SBM presented Silcott with the Wanda Nash Award certificate, and honored WMU-Cooley with the traveling award for its efforts in animal law, during an in-person presentation on May 18.
Pictured: Donald R. Garlit, of the State Bar of Michigan Animal Law Section, and Heather Silcott.
WMU-Cooley Associate Dean Amy Timmer, who nominated Silcott for the award, noted that “the Animal Law Section is, indeed, staying true to Wanda's vision and hopes; its work has inspired many to consider animal law as a focus for their career in law. And with the cost of law school rising over the years, the monetary award is also appreciated.”
Silcott’s interest in animal law came after a visit to an animal shelter in Taylor, Michigan. During her visit, she learned that when two or more individuals are interested in an animal at the shelter, an auction is held and the dog goes to the highest bidder.
“I attended the auction and came home with a new dog, which was not my goal,” said Silcott. “I initially went to gain information on the process to try and see how these auctions work. After this process, I reached out to my local House of Representatives for my district to try and create change. Although I was unsuccessful, I decided to enroll in the animal law course. This course taught me so much about being more active and what the laws are for animals. Now, as I finish up my law school journey, I plan on doing pro bono work for animal rights when I graduate on the side.”
Two other WMU-Cooley grads have been presented with the Wanda Nash Award; Renee Hermanowski Topolski (2013) and Alicia Prygoski (2016).