An animal welfare bill that was just introduced in Maine would better protect animals by giving them a voice in court, according to advocates of the measure. As CBS 13 News in Portland reports, the bill would let law students or volunteer lawyers work on animal abuse cases at no cost to the state.

It’s officially titled “An Act to Provide for Court Appointed Advocates for Justice in Animal Cruelty Cases,” but it's nicknamed “Franky’s Law” after a pug mix that was abducted, tortured, and killed last summer. Two men have been charged with that crime.

A public hearing on the bill took place this morning at the State House, and from there it will move to a committee work session. Jessica Rubin, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, wrote in public testimony that the bill is modeled after a similar law in Connecticut. Desmond’s Law was passed in 2016, making Connecticut the first state to let court-appointed lawyers and law students intervene in animal cruelty cases.

Rubin said the law has not only provided justice to animals, but has also served as a positive learning experience for law students. “Students have enjoyed serving as advocates for two reasons—the work is gratifying and it provides them with in-court experience and training,” Rubin wrote in a letter supporting Franky’s Law. “Advocates typically collect information about a case by interviewing veterinarians and law enforcement personnel, conduct legal research, and then present recommendations to the courts regarding appropriate handling of the case.”

Desmond’s Law gets its namesake from a dog that was beaten and strangled by its owner, who entered a rehabilitation program instead of serving jail time. Advocates say the law ushered in stiffer penalties for those who commit such crimes, according to the New Haven Register.

“Since Desmond’s Law, we have seen a significant increase in jail time or probation with suspended sentences,” said Robin Cannamela, president of a volunteer animal welfare organization called Desmond’s Army.

Officials in New Jersey and New York are reportedly interested in similar legislation.

[h/t CBS 13 News]