While not devoid of its share of drama, Sony Pictures’ Judge David Young isn’t your everyday small-claims circus. And that’s due to the man holding the gavel. Now into his second season and fast becoming one of the most-loved on-air judges on the block, Young brings campy quick wit, a penchant for bursting into show tunes, and something even more heart-warming to his courtroom: a passion for animal rights. Throughout November, Young, an ardent and long-time supporter of the Humane Society, dedicated a weekly segment called Thank Dog It’s Friday to the issue of responsible dog ownership. Here’s what he had to say when we chatted with him.

MD: One of the big differences between being a sitting judge and an on-air judge is you can now voice your opinions. Is that as liberating as it sounds like it would be?
DY: It is incredibly liberating. Being a judge, one of the most frustrating things is yelling to yourself in the car when you see an injustice being done. If I saw someone mistreating an animal, I’d want to throw something at them, but as a judge you have to remain impartial. You could only show your disdain for what they had done after they’d been found guilty.
MD: Can you tell us about your friend Maggie?
DY: My partner Scott was running for judge. And he was invited to this event that was a fundraiser for the Humane Society/Adopt-a-Pet. There was a silent auction and I figured we’d bid on an item. You know, dinner at a restaurant… and all of a sudden, my friend walked by with this gorgeous little [dog] and said, “David I want you to meet Maggie.” Well, actually, it was Shelley at the time. And I said “Hi Shelley,” and she jumped right into my arms.
MD: So she picked you?
DY: Oh, she did. She is just so gorgeous. So I went to Scott and said: “This is our new dog.” And he said: “We’re not getting a dog.” I said: “You hold her and then tell me we’re not getting a dog.” So he held her and it was: “Okay, we’re bringing her home.”
The rest was history!
MD: Do you have a response for people who are in the market for a dog who claim they just don’t want to get a rescue?
DY: Yes, I do. Quit being such a snob. We should want to adopt an animal in need. And that’s the great thing about the Humane Society. We save dogs’ and cats’ lives. They need loving homes.
MD: What frustrates you the most about the law as it pertains to animals?
DY: The fact that they are considered property. Which I think is absurd.
MD: Is there anything that we can do to change that?
DY: There is: lobby the legislators.
MD: The issue of puppy mills is one that plagues us. What do you think needs to be done to stop them?
DY: First of all, we need to cut off the consumers. We need to make consumers aware of what they’re doing when they go into these pet stores. They say, oh I want a purebred. Well, contact the Humane Society and get on a waiting list.
MD: And there’s PetFinder.com as well. It’s amazing.
DY: It is.
MD: So your belief is that puppy mills must be stopped at the consumer level?
DY: Well, that’s point A. Point B would be to have local law enforcement take animal abuse seriously and launch investigations, to go into these puppy mills to shut them down. Arrest the owners. Make it a felony. And before the business is even open, it should have to meet certain codes and criteria. If the communities in which [these puppy mills] are in say “we’re not going to take this anymore,” they need to re-examine the zoning codes. That’s the third way we can deal with it.
MD: And the penalties themselves are currently quite pathetic.
DY: I agree.
MD: What case—either animal-related or human-related—are you most proud of, professionally?
DY: Probably America West pilots’ case [two pilots were convicted of trying to fly a plane while intoxicated]. That came at a time when people’s perception of the judicial system was at an all-time low thanks to OJ [the 1995 acquittal of OJ Simpson]. And by doing that, it helped restore confidence in the judiciary. And that’s what I’ve always been about.
MD: Did you ever think, when you were in law school, one day you’d be nominated for an Emmy?
DY: No. I really thought one day I’d be nominated for a Tony. But I wanted to be nominated for a Heisman Trophy. And that never happened, either.
MD: What’s your favourite Broadway musical?
DY: Oh, Gypsy. Without a doubt. Hands down. Patti LuPone was amazing. “I had a dream, a wonderful dream, baby…”
MD: And you have a dream too.
DY: I do! That all abandoned animals will be adopted into loving homes.