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June eNewsletter Article

A Spotlight on Spectacular Service: Danielle Lassiter
By: RJ Ferraro

If you are going to run with the big dogs, why not lead the pack?  Danielle “Dani” Lassiter does just that as she leads by example in giving her time, money and life to the outcast dogs that find their way to the Big Dog Ranch Rescue; one of Florida’s largest No Kill Animal Shelters for homeless and unwanted canines of all breeds.

There is no dispute that the life of a young lawyer in a prestigious firm setting is for the most part, captured in six minute intervals.  And although the billable hour is unquestionably effective in tracking work productivity, many of today’s young lawyers are looking at their lives through that microscopic lens and desire more balance.  Says Dani, “I started practicing law and needed to do something more with my life to feel whole.”

Dani graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 2009.  She began her practice with Gunster in West Palm Beach, focusing on business litigation, land use and development, employment litigation and environmental law.  She recently left Gunster to take an associate position with Pfeffer & Associates in Jupiter.  She is a member of the Palm Beach County Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division and The Florida Association of Women Lawyers.  Like many young lawyers, Dani’s calendar was full of commitments but she felt in her heart that something was missing.  She agreed to foster a shelter dog that was on a fast track to be euthanized.  The experience forever changed her life.

Dani dove into the adoption process - helping to locate permanent homes for the displaced dogs.  Her first foster pet was quickly united with a loving family and so Dani took on more pet projects.  She now leads a pack of three to five dogs at a time, including presently a white, deaf boxer with terminal cancer.  The boxer is one of her first foster pets and will likely be with her until the end; as his significant health issues make him a poor candidate for adoption.  She fields dozens of emails a week asking if she can take another, or point to someone who can.  She currently sits on the Big Dog Ranch Rescue, Inc. Board of Directors and donates over 40 hours a week assisting in fundraising and managing volunteers, all while maintaining and growing her full time legal career.

The Big Dog Ranch Rescue’s original site was purchased by the 501(c)(3) one day after a zoning law was changed by the county which ultimately forbid the shelter from operating at that location.  Dani contributed over 200 hours of her time to handling code enforcement matters, as well as presenting options to rezone or “grandfather in” the Ranch Rescue.  Ultimately, the Big Dog Ranch found a new 28 acre location in Wellington, formerly the Folke Peterson Wildlife Refuge.  Nine acres are reserved for dog rescue while the remainder continues to function as wildlife preserve.

For her public service and outstanding contributions to those in need, Dani was a nominated finalist for the 2012 Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Award.  More importantly, she is making a difference in her community, helping families find loving pets that would have otherwise been killed.  She has found that crucial balance between work life and extracurricular activity that was once missing.  Her tireless efforts in utilizing her legal training and compassion are a reminder to all young lawyers to wag more, bark less.