Where are they Now? Emily Lewis Davidsohn, Naperville Central
By Jane Donahue firstname.lastname@example.org July 26, 2012 7:06PM
Emily Lewis Davidsohn, 30, is an attorney for the Oregon Humane Society, which she says is her dream job. She is also the proud companion of three rescue animals, including Dually the mastiff, shown here. | Submitted
Updated: November 30, 2012 10:45AM
Emily Lewis Davidsohn gives a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves. As an attorney and case coordinator for the investigations department at the Oregon Humane Society, the 2000 Naperville Central graduate spends her days fighting for creatures and critters of all kinds.
“Most lawyers involved in animal law are presented with cases after the animal has been rescued or after the crime has been committed; they are somewhat removed from the situation and do not always know what became of the animals involved with the case,” said Davidsohn, 30. “The best part of my job is that I get to play a role in every aspect of a case.”
The Central alum is on the front lines of preventing animal crime, as well as physically saving animals from the horrible situations from which they are discovered.
“I get to know exactly what happens to the animals we rescue, from the medical care they receive at the shelter to the new adoptive homes they get a second chance at life in,” Davidsohn said. “Finally, I get to work with the district attorneys who make sure the perpetrators of animal crimes are held accountable.”
Davidsohn’s passion for protecting animals began at an early age. After begging her parents for a dog when she was a kindergartner, a yellow Labrador named Star became part of the Naperville family.
“The night we got our first puppy, she slept on the floor with it so it wouldn’t be lonely,” said her mom, Linda Lewis. “A few years later, she saw a film in school about meat processing plants and immediately became a vegetarian. She still is.”
After graduating from the University of Portland in 2004 with a degree in environmental ethics and policy, Davidsohn took a volunteer position at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lives of animals through the legal system.
“It was at this organization that I realized with a legal background I could make a significant positive impact on animal welfare issues,” Davidsohn said. “Working for a few more environmental nonprofits after that only solidified this idea, and I was determined to go to law school and become an attorney.”
She graduated from Vermont Law School in 2009.
“While I never would have thought she would have gone into the legal area, I always knew she’d work with animals, possibly as a vet or a trainer,” her mom said. “But once she saw how effective lawyers could be in protecting animals, she decided to follow that path. Emily has always recognized the importance of protecting the vulnerable. Her views in that area can’t be compromised.”
Davidsohn said that, while her career is rewarding, the role comes with its own set of challenges.
“The investigations department is a law enforcement unit with officers commissioned under the Oregon State Police, and our authority extends to enforcing Oregon’s animal welfare laws,” the attorney said. “Sometimes our actions are limited by what the law allows, and that can be extremely frustrating. It is challenging when the law does not penalize behavior that I consider criminal when it comes to the care of animals.”
Spending each day hearing about animals living in potentially abusive or neglectful situations also takes an emotional toll.
“The best remedy for that is to devote myself to the work that I do, knowing that it does make a difference,” she said.
Davidsohn lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband, Ethan, and three rescued companions: Ramona the Great Dane, Dually the mastiff and Esio Trot the tortoise. She said, while it takes “patience and dedication to pursue a career path that you are passionate about, it also takes a reliable and unwavering support unit.”
“Without the help and encouragement my parents have and continue to provide, my journey to what I consider my dream job would have been significantly more challenging and convoluted,” Davidsohn said. “I feel lucky every day for the opportunities their support has provided me.”
Columnist Jane Donahue is looking for graduates of Naperville schools who have made Naperville proud. To offer candidates, e-mail her at email@example.com