Get to Know Donald Garlit

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Donald Garlit is a co-founder of Attorneys for Animals (AFA) where he is treasurer; and a co-founder of the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, where he was Section Council chair, and is now a Section Council member and newsletter co–editor.

Garlit is on the Board of Directors for RedRover, a national organization that helps animals in need, running temporary shelters after disasters such as fires, tornados, and floods and provides humane education.

He works at animal rescue groups including the Ann Arbor-based Leuk’s Landing shelter for feline leukemia cats, and The Bird Center of Washtenaw County, a rehabilitation center for injured wild birds.  

He has a degree in economics from Michigan State University, J.D. from The Ohio State University, and MBA from the University of Michigan; and spent more than 25 years in the automotive industry in both commercial and defense segments in finance, program management, sales, and contracts.

Garlit and his wife Bee Friedlander, who also co-founded AFA, live in Canton with three cats, Julia, Stella and Precious.

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Why did you become a lawyer? I saw the movie “Paper Chase” and decided I could get through law school. This was common in the mid-1970s.

What would surprise people about your job? I have been a Michigan attorney since 1977 but have never practiced law. That was unusual years ago although more people are taking different paths with their law degree now.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school?
Be sure your heart will be in it. Talk to attorneys before applying. It is painful to go on a lark. Give thought to an area of law that interests you.
 
What is Attorneys for Animals?
Wanda Nash started AFA in 1992 with the goal of forming an animal law section within the State Bar of Michigan. That happened in 1995, it is the first statewide section in the country. AFA was revitalized several years ago when we realized there was a place for a group that included animal activists and attorneys.  We are involved with legislative research and advocacy, an animal law referral service, and education, and have a book club that meets quarterly.
 
Who do you most admire? Jane Goodall, who went to Africa to study chimps and changed the way we think about our “closest living relatives” and all animals.
 
What’s your favorite law-related movie? “Inherit the Wind,” a fictionalized account of the 1920s Scopes Monkey Trial, about whether the teaching of evolution was legal in Tennessee. The trial testimony and cross-examination is outstanding pitting the Clarence Darrow character (Spencer Tracy) against the William Jennings Bryant character (Frederic March).  It is some lawyering to watch.
 
Who are your law role models? Joyce Tischler of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (who practically invented animal law in the 1970s); and Attorneys for Animals founder, the late Wanda Nash, who went to law school in the early 1980s with the express goal of helping animals. Wanda was the “mother” of Animal Law in Michigan, and a founding member of the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan. Also the many animal law attorneys and animal advocates I have met and worked with on campaigns, advocacy, analysis, and testimony-selfless people who are part of an important social justice movement.

What is your favorite animal book? I still have my childhood copy of “Black Beauty”. Anna Sewell completed the book in 1877 and it is told through the thoughts of a horse. Sewell was well ahead of her time and a pioneer in getting people to think of animals as sentient beings.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievements? Always interested in animal issues, I planned to work on them after retirement. Animal issues and causes are what I do now. Animal issues present many opportunities. I have met many caring, compassionate, and committed people in this work. I n the auto industry I headed finance for the team that brought the Hummer to production..

If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be?
Whoever is in charge of certain U.S. government historical records. I’d like to read the un-redacted Kennedy assassination papers. Withheld papers encourage conspiracy theories.
 
What do you do to relax? Walk, get involved with animal issues, and read about history, economics and animals. I have a library of books about animals in the World Wars. I recommend “Sergeant Stubby – How a Stray Dog and His Best Friend Helped Win World War 1 and Won the Hearts of a Nation,” by Ann Bausom.  
 
What would you say to your 16-year-old self? Take more risks and study harder.  I could have been more directed in high school.
 
Favorite hangouts: Local parks; restaurants with vegan offerings.
 
Favorite websites: Merritt Clifton’s animals24-7.org; covers many topics including the history of the animal rights and welfare movements back to the 1800s.

What is a treasured material possession? My Dad’s U.S. Navy uniform from WW 2, a great memory of the Greatest Generation.
 
What do you wish someone would invent?
A time machine since I like history.
 
What has been your favorite year? The late 1960s. The pace of cultural, political, and world change was incredible.
 
What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve been?
The Pyramids – incredible. I’m amazed Egyptian hieroglyphics are still not fully understood.
 
What super power would you enjoy?
Flying. I could understand the world of the birds better.  My clothes might be a mess, though.
 
What are some things most people don’t know about you? I’m distantly related to drag racing legend, Don “Big Daddy” Garlits. When I worked in the auto industry, my admin had been John DeLorean’s secretary. I once had lunch seated back-to-back with T. Boone Pickens—I listened in to see if I could get investment ideas!
 
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
  Kaiser Wilhelm, Czar Nicolas, and Emperor Franz-Joseph; they plunged the world and their dynasties into destruction for inexplicable reasons during World War 1.
 
What is the most unusual thing you’ve done?
I saw Richard Nixon at his first inaugural and I saw him going to his second-to-last public appearance as president (Phoenix, 1974) – I book-ended his presidency!
 

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