Advocating for underserved people and their four legged friends
In addition to keeping on top of her studies at Concordia University School of Law, 3L student Ashley Marelius-White also dedicates many hours to community service – helping not only her fellow students and citizens, but advocating for the rights of Boise's canine community, as well.
As president of Concordia's chapter of the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) and student liaison to ITLA's Street Law Clinics, Marelius-White volunteers at the clinics, which provide on-the-spot legal advice to people who can't afford or don't have access to traditional legal services. In addition, she works to encourage other law students to get involved.
"By working at the clinic, students receive extremely beneficial pro bono hours, knowledge, and feel good helping people in need," she says. "The students develop skills crucial in any law practice – learning to talk to clients, define issues and work with seasoned attorneys to get clients the results they deserve."
If dogs could talk...
Marelius-White's passion for supporting those who might not normally have access to legal representation extends beyond her human neighbors to a truly voiceless group – abused and abandoned dogs. She serves as the Adoption/Foster Coordinator for Boise Bully Breed Rescue, Boise Black Dog Rescue, and Boxer Rescue of Boise. In this role, Marelius-White actively mentors the community, speaks out against animal cruelty, organizes fundraising events, and assists in placement of dogs that are in jeopardy of being euthanized at shelters. Over the years, Marelius-White and her husband have fostered more than 40 dogs, many with difficult medical issues, who went on to be successfully placed in forever homes. In addition, Marelius-White is currently working to establish a program to provide victims of domestic violence with low- or no-cost boarding for their animals while they are in transitional housing.
Marelius-White has managed to combine her love for dogs with her legal studies. She is assisting an attorney to overturn breed specific legislation in Idaho – laws that either regulate or ban certain breeds as a way to reduce dog attacks. Animal advocates feel these laws might be more aptly named breed-discriminatory laws and are ultimately ineffective. In many cases, responsible dog owners hide their outlawed dogs, foregoing vet visits, licensing, and outdoor exercise in order to keep their family pet. These laws also may encourage abuse and mistreatment – if a breed of dog is considered an outlaw, outlaws will be attracted to that breed.
"I love volunteering," says Marelius-White. "There isn't a better feeling in the world than helping those who need help, both human and furry. I truly believe that if we don't share our successes with others, our achievements are going to waste. As my dad used to say, why keep it to yourself – do something with it!"