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Animal Grantmakers 2022 Conference

We are honored to have the following speakers join us at our conference. More speakers will be added as they are confirmed. Photos and full bios of all speakers will be added to this page in the coming weeks.

Aysha Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H., is a double Board-certified neurologist and preventive medicine/public health specialist who demonstrates the mutual benefit to humans and animals when animals are protected. Aysha is the co-founder, president, and CEO of the Center for Contemporary Sciences, which is catalyzing the replacement of unreliable animal testing with more effective human-specific research techniques.

A U.S. veteran, she served as deputy director of the U.S. Army Traumatic Brain Injury Program. She also served as a commander in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. For a decade, Aysha was a medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration, most recently in the Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats, implementing studies on vaccine effectiveness and safety and using her top-secret security clearance to develop national preparedness strategies for public health threats. She is published in peer-reviewed journals including Lancet, Pediatrics, Journal of Public Health Policy, and Reviews in the Neurosciences.

Aysha is a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. She is the author of the two books, Our Symphony With Animals: On Health, Empathy and Our Shared Destinies and Animals and Public Health, which argues for the need for health institutions to include animals as part of the “public” in public health. Aysha also is a TEDx speaker. She and her husband, Patrick, live in Maryland with their two beloved felines, Nessie Petunia-Monster and Tumbles.

Melanie Anderson served as program director for the Summerlee Foundation for 33 years and is currently a board member. She assisted the donor, Annie Lee Roberts, in creating the animal program and its funding priorities. Melanie graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in journalism and worked for the Dallas Times Herald. Before joining Summerlee, she volunteered for various animal protection organizations throughout the U.S. and conducted her own feral cat rescue in Dallas. Melanie has served on several nonprofit boards, including Animal Grantmakers and the Mountain Lion Foundation of California.

Through Summerlee, Melanie has implemented several strategic initiatives, including the Animal Funding Atlas, an animal grantmaking database, developing and funding sustainable model programs to humanely address Mexico’s dog and cat overpopulation crisis, and the Sunny Summit Initiative to address the trade of captive orcas and whales in the entertainment industry and the critical need for rehabilitation and sanctuary. Melanie resides in the “urban-wildlands interface” west of Denver, Colorado. Besides living with indoor domestic cats, she also manages to peacefully co-exist with outdoor resident foxes, black bears, and an occasional mountain lion.

Bobak Bakhtiari is an actor, philanthropist, and wantrapreneur. Recent theater credits include Wife of a Salesman at Milwaukee Rep, Art at SF Playhouse, and Yoga Play at Laguna Playhouse. During pandemic heights, he was alongside Brian Cox and Kirsten Dunst in Hunger Relief Night Live, a scripted online fundraiser he produced for Moms Against Poverty, which raised over $350K for hunger relief initiatives globally. On TV, Bobak can be seen on Homeland, Silicon Valley, NCIS, All Rise, and a few others he can’t remember. He is on the board of directors for Moms Against Poverty, and volunteer produces digital content devoted to orphanages, building schools globally, and hunger relief initiatives. In 2022, Bobak opened Hangry Planet (, the nation’s first plant-based C-Store, featuring animal welfare alliances. Bobak suffers from spontaneous dance syndrome and a rare ecstatic fervor for aquatic activities. He is a graduate of Bowdoin College

Josh Balk is the vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). In addition, he is a cofounder of Eat Just, a food technology company that is behind the Just Egg and Good Meat, the first-ever cultivated meat produced and sold. Previously, he was known for his work at Animal Outlook (formerly Compassion Over Killing), where he conducted undercover investigations.

Josh is more recently best known for leading ballot measures and winning successful legislative campaigns for farm animals, including passing laws in California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Massachusetts. He also has led successful campaigns against food companies—such as McDonald’s, Burger King, IHOP, Kraft Heinz, Kroger, and more—to enact animal welfare policies that include eliminating gestation crates for breeding pigs and cages for egg-laying chickens. He is also known for his work with the food service industry to shift its focus to plant-based foods. His work has been covered by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC, Financial Times, CBS, and numerous other media outlets.

Chris Berry works on a broad range of animal issues at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, including puppy mills, factory farms, and consumer rights. He helps formulate creative legal theories to help animals and challenges government agencies that are not following the law as in Legal Rights and Duties in Lost Pet Disputes. Chris also fights abuse on factory farms and protects consumers who want to make humane choices. For example, Chris served on the Cal-Cruz Hatcheries case, applying the animal cruelty code to a chicken hatchery through a consumer protection law. Chris also worked on Glover v. Mahrt, a class-action lawsuit alleging that egg packaging depicting outdoor hens mislead consumers who wanted to buy more humanely produced eggs.

Chris graduated with honors in 2008 from the University of South Dakota, where he majored in political science and minored in psychology. He attended law school at the University of Michigan while maintaining his interest in animal rights with a focus on litigation. Chris was involved in student advocacy in Ann Arbor and acquired experiences interning at the public defender’s office in the child abuse and neglect docket, participating in the environmental law clinic, and serving as a law clerk for the Humane Society of the United States, where he worked on the farmed animal litigation team.

Chris cares for a Rocky Mountain Retriever mix named Rigby and lives in Oakland, California.

Lewis Bollard leads Open Philanthropy’s strategy for Farm Animal Welfare. In that role, he makes grants to support effective farm animal advocacy. Prior to joining Open Philanthropy, he worked at The Humane Society of the United States and Bain & Company. He graduated from Harvard University and Yale Law School.

Vicky Bond is president of The Humane League. Vicky graduated with distinction in Veterinary Science from Liverpool University and holds a Masters in Environment Development and Policy from Sussex University. Using her veterinary degree and experience, Vicky has dedicated her career to reducing the suffering of animals on factory farms and has persuaded major food companies to change their animal welfare policies to eradicate the worst forms of cruelty. She served as managing director of The Humane League UK from 2017 to 2022, leading the team in getting big businesses to commit to welfare policies, and working closely with the Open Wing Alliance to end the abuse of chickens worldwide.

Allison Cardona joined the Koret Shelter Medicine Program in January 2022 as California state director. Prior to this, Allison worked for nearly five years as deputy director for the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control. In that role, she oversaw two full-service animal care centers, a communications center, public relations, adoption partners, behavior and enrichment, and volunteer programs.

Allison also served as liaison to the county’s Homeless Initiative, ensuring that people experiencing homelessness have options and resources for their pets. She also participated in the county’s Anti-racism, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, helping implement an anti-racist policy agenda. Before that, Allison spent 14 years as a senior program director at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals working on adoptions, spay/neuter, disaster response, large-scale cruelty operations, animal hoarding cases, cruelty intervention programs, and community engagement.

She received a bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs from Empire State College and is a graduate of the USC Price School of Public Policy Executive Leadership Development Program and Southern Utah University Certificate in Executive Animal Services. The proud daughter of Colombian immigrants, Allison is deeply committed to racial justice and equity work. She lives in Los Angeles with her partner, Yvonne, and beloved dog, Emma.

Tipping Point Private Foundation invests its resources in causes that most support its mission: to improve animal welfare and reverse climate change by the displacement of factory farming. The foundation supports a variety of causes and initiatives that aim to reduce or eliminate animal agriculture, as well as efforts to shift the demand for meat through development of plant-based and cultivated meat. Verónica’s work at the foundation sits at the intersection of animals, people, and the environment as they relate to the industrial food system.

Verónica’s main interests are fish welfare initiatives, animal welfare initiatives in Asia, and impact investment. She is a court appointed special advocate, chairman of the board of Animal Charity Evaluators, member of the board of Beyond Carnism, and a Farmed Animal Funders steering committee member.

Geraldine D’Silva's career has spanned India, Scotland, and the U.S., and in the last 10-plus years she has adapted her skills to identify barriers and bridge the gap between human and animal welfare through strategic planning and partnership building, innovative program development and organizational leadership, market research, and building high performance teams. She led a small nonprofit through a successful merger with the San Diego Humane Society, one of the largest animal welfare organizations in the U.S., and was instrumental in integrating this proactive program so the entire organization of more than 550 employees had the knowledge and tools to pivot and provide compassionate care and integrated safety net services to help people keep their companion animals. She has enjoyed volunteering on three continents, from equine therapy for children with special needs, to seniors, the chronically ill, people experiencing homelessness, humane education, and a summer internship caring for factory farmed animals.

Brought up in India, she completed her bachelor’s degree in Sociology when she traveled to remote villages to study the caste system, female infanticide, and women’s empowerment. She has an M.B.A. from the Edinburgh Business School in Scotland and a background in research consultancy, advertising, and branding.

Bio coming soon

Marcus Davis is a co-founder and co-CEO at Rethink Priorities (RP), where he leads research and strategy. He's also a co-founder of Charity Entrepreneurship and Charity Science Health, where he previously systematically analyzed global poverty interventions, helped manage partnerships, and implemented the technical aspects of the project. Marcus manages RP’s animal welfare research and global health/development research.

As the community manager at Maddie's Fund®, Kim Domerofski is responsible for the strategic development and execution of initiatives to engage and support Maddie's Fund's online community, Maddie's Pet Forum (MPF). She leads the MPF team and oversees content, programs, planning, and special projects related to the forum to support organization-wide objectives.

Over the past 25 years, Kim has held marketing and customer service leadership positions in both the private and public corporate and nonprofit sectors. Prior to her work in companion animal welfare as a volunteer, foster, board member, dog trainer, and communications manager, she spent the bulk of her corporate career at Southwest Airlines overseeing regional marketing efforts in six states.

Kim has a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara and lives in Northern California with her husband and two All-American mutts, Gidget and Dexter.

Rachel Dreskin is the CEO of the Plant Based Foods Association and Institute. Previously, she was the U.S. executive director at Compassion in World Farming, where she led the organization’s growing role in forging a more humane and sustainable food and farming system through measurable farmed animal welfare improvements and protein diversification. Rachel also served as the head of food business at Compassion in World Farming, where she oversaw the growth and development of the organization’s corporate engagement program.

A graduate of Northeastern University’s School of Business with a dual focus in marketing and entrepreneurship, Rachel has worked extensively with Fortune 500 companies to incorporate and strengthen animal welfare within corporate sustainability programs.

Rachel serves on the boards of Global Animal Partnership and the Regenerative Organic Alliance. She has guest lectured at top U.S. universities including Stanford, the University of California Santa Cruz, and the University of Delaware, and has been featured in Bloomberg, Fortune, and the Chicago Tribune, among other media outlets.

Since February 2020, Ann Dunn has been the director of Oakland Animal Services (OAS), a Human Animal Support Services (HASS) pilot shelter. Under Ann’s leadership, OAS is shifting from a shelter-based to community-based model, focusing on preventive programming to keep animals in their homes whenever possible, and increasing lifesaving of shelter animals.

Ann began her journey in animal welfare as a volunteer at OAS. In 2011, her experience as a volunteer led her to found Cat Town, a cat rescue organization that helped increase the live release rate for cats at OAS from 58 percent to over 90 percent by focusing on the hardest-to-place cats. Prior to working in animal welfare, Ann worked for more than 20 years in public housing and is passionate about supporting pet guardians with limited resources in experiencing the transformative love of an animal in their life.

Dr. Karlyn G. Emile is a driven and compassionate educator and healthcare professional with several years of hands-on experience in a major university, as well as in fast-paced community health organizations. The scope of her expertise includes full project lifecycle management, program development, and staff training/mentoring for numerous organizations. She holds a Doctor of Health Science degree from Nova Southeastern University and a Master’s of Public Health from Florida International University.

Dr. Emile has served as program director for Carrfour Supportive Housing for the Homeless, Special Olympics Florida, and currently, senior vice president for Community Health and Empowerment Network. She has put forth noticeable efforts in ensuring equality for all.

James Evans is a multi-award-winning creative strategist and leader with more than 25 years of experience developing relationships between organizations and their constituents. His expertise has been utilized across a diverse group of brands, both non- and for-profit. Specific brand experience includes Timberland, Disney, The Mills Corporation, NAACP, Baltimore Health Department, Maryland Health Department, Kennedy Krieger Institute, CVS Caremark’s Project Health, Safe Streets Baltimore, and many other brands.

James and his team have initiated several programs, including the groundbreaking Gulf Spay/Neuter Campaign and the Humane Society of the U.S.’s (HSUS) Pets for Life. He has also played an integral role in HSUS’ Adopters Welcome, Outdoor Cats Research, Stop Puppy Mills, and HSUS’ Spayathon, as well as Best Friends Animal Society’s Outreach Action Team.

In 2019, inspired by Chetana Mirle and supported by Spring Point’s Life of Riley, James founded Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (C.A.R.E.).

James is a husband, a proud father of five children (two four-legged), a brother, and part of a great group of friends, family, and colleagues.

Erika Fleury serves as the program director of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA), a coalition of the leading primate sanctuaries on the continent who care for over 800 rescued and retired nonhuman primates. She has served as the spokeswoman for the alliance since 2014, and in 2019 began leading Chimpanzees In Need, NAPSA's $5M collaborative fundraiser focused on rescuing 40 chimpanzees from an unaccredited refuge in Los Angeles that unexpectedly shut down.

Erika discovered a love of primatology and philosophy while completing her English degree at University of Delaware, then continued her education with additional undergrad and graduate level primatology courses. She has been involved with primate sanctuaries since 2006.

Erika is the author of "Monkey Business: A History of Nonhuman Primate Rights," the forthcoming "The Founders," and various chapters and articles in academic and mass media publications. Erika's work has been featured live on CNN and in the New York Times, National Geographic, podcasts, and other media, and she speaks at primatology conferences advocating for responsible primate retirement.

Erika lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and rescue dog, Billie, who looks like a wolf.

Camilla H. Fox is the founder and executive director of Project Coyote, a national nonprofit organization that promotes compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife. Camilla has more than 25 years of experience working on behalf of wildlife and wildlands and a Master’s degree in wildlife ecology, policy, and conservation. She has spearheaded national, state, and local campaigns to protect native carnivores and foster humane and ecologically-sound solutions to human-wildlife conflicts.

Camilla’s work has been featured in several documentaries, including Coyote: The Hunted Hunter, American Coyote – Still Wild at Heart, Wild Things and On Nature’s Terms. It also has been featured in The New York Times, the BBC, NPR, Orion, National Geographic, and Mother Jones. She is co-author of Coyotes in Our Midst and Cull of the Wild, co-producer of the companion award-winning documentary Cull of the Wild: The Truth Behind Trapping, and director and producer of KILLING GAMES ~ Wildlife in the Crosshairs—a documentary film released in 2017 aimed at ending wildlife killing contests in the U.S. In 2006, Camilla received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Marin Humane Society and the Christine Stevens Wildlife Award from the Animal Welfare Institute. She was named one of the 100 Guardian Angels of the Planet in 2013 and the 2014 Conservationist of the Year Award by the John Muir Association. In 2016 she was honored with the Grassroots Activist of the Year Award by the Fund for Wild Nature.

Mitchell Fox has spent the last 40 years advocating for animals, evenly split between grant-seeking and grant-making organizations. For 17 years he led advocacy campaigns and legal and legislative endeavors at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society. He secured that organization’s first-ever grant award—from the Summerlee Foundation—in the early 1990’s. At the Glaser Progress Foundation for another 17 years, Mitchell’s grantmaking portfolio included independent media, global health, and animal protection. In between those positions, Mitchell briefly served as a Seattle Times columnist. More recently at the Center for a Humane Economy, he worked to stop the commercial killing of kangaroos in Australia. In addition to consulting for a half dozen animal philanthropies and serving as Trustee of the Susan Michaels Compassion Trust, Mitchell has been on the Summerlee Foundation Advisory Board for five years, cementing his devotion to Waco-based bottled beverages. Mitchell has two grown kids and lives in Seattle with his wife and a dog resigned to being outnumbered by cats.

Lori Grange, president of Animal Grantmakers’ board, is strategy officer in the Hewlett Foundation‘s Effective Philanthropy Group. The group guides strategy, evaluation, progress tracking, and listening practices within the foundation; it also makes grants to strengthen nonprofits and the philanthropic sector. Lori partners with Hewlett’s programs to create, implement, refresh, and exit their strategies. She also oversees the foundation’s Bay Area housing work.

Previously, she was a senior director at the Pew Charitable Trusts, where she helped develop new strategies on state policy issues, including sentencing and corrections and low-income children’s health care. Before that, she worked at Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit that helps new lawyers develop full-time public interest legal careers.

Lori, a former journalist, has been in philanthropy for more than 20 years. She received a bachelor’s in journalism and philosophy from the University of Southern California and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She lives with her spouse, Sandra, and their two cats, Silver and Pawpy, in the Bay Area.

Stevan Harnad ( is professor of cognitive science at Université du Québec à Montréal and University of Southampton. His research is on category learning, language evolution, consciousness, and open access. Founder and former editor of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Stevan is becoming increasingly active in the problems of animal welfare, animal rights and animal law.

Mye Hoang is a Los Angeles-based producer and director. She was a producer on the award-winning noir thriller, “Man from Reno,” (Best Feature at the LA Film Festival and Spirit Award Nominee 2014), as well as the narrative feature, “I Will Make You Mine,” by Lynn Chen (SXSW 2020). She is also the founder and former executive director of the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, and former artistic director of the San Diego Asian Film Festival.

“Cat Daddies” is her first documentary feature, and it has won multiple awards such as the Tallgrass Film Festival’s Excellence in the Art of Film, Newport Beach Film Festival’s Outstanding Achievement in Documentary, and the Audience Award: Dallas International Film Festival, San Francisco Indiefest, and Frozen River Film Festival.

Jill Hoffman is an award-winning communications professional with two decades of agency experience working with “big brands” like General Motors, Nike and Mattel. She has also helped several start-ups and smaller organizations raise their profiles.

As a consultant, Jill is able to focus her time in the nonprofit world where she derives the greatest sense of professional satisfaction. A Los Angeles native, she has worked with several “hometown” nonprofits, including A Place Called Home and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust. Currently, Jill is a consultant to Animal Grantmakers where she is involved with member engagement and outreach, communications, program development, and more. She played an active role in planning and marketing the organization’s 2022 Conference.

Jill is also actively involved in animal protection in her personal life. Since 2014, she has run three half marathons to raise funds for the ASPCA (and was honored as a top fundraiser each time) and several (seven and counting!) Los Angeles Marathons to fundraise for Angel City Pit Bulls (ACPB), a local nonprofit founded in 2010 to address the problem of overpopulation and high euthanasia rate of pit bull terrier-type dogs in Los Angeles shelters. She is also a volunteer for the rescue organization, taking Team ACPB’s 5K runners to the LA Big 5K each year and lending communications support as needed.

Jill graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Psychology.

Amy Huang oversees the university engagement efforts at the Good Food Institute (GFI), a global nonprofit working to build a sustainable, secure, and just protein supply. She is the co-founder and director of GFI’s Alt Protein Project, which empowers students and scientists to build research and education programs at universities around the globe. Amy has a background in global health, education, effective altruism, and design thinking. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and is thrilled to be devoting her career to accelerating alternative proteins in service of human, animal, and planetary health.

Mary Ippoliti-Smith joined Maddie's Fund® in 1998 and currently serves on the executive leadership team, with responsibility for the development of the strategic direction, annual operating business plan, and policies to fulfill Maddie's Fund's mission. Prior to this role, Mary was the vice president of Operations at Maddie's Fund, where she was involved in every facet of corporate and philanthropic activities, supervising the day-to-day operations of the foundation and managing a multi-million-dollar budget and distributions of more than $10 million in grants annually.

Before Maddie's Fund, Mary spent seven years at the San Francisco SPCA and saw firsthand how much a dedicated group of staff and volunteers could accomplish to save animal lives in unprecedented ways.

Mary has a degree in development studies from the University of California, Berkeley (Go Bears!).

Mikko Jarvenpaa is the founder of Sentient Media, a nonprofit focused on changing the discussion around animal agriculture to include the rights and welfare of farmed animals. Sentient Media builds capacity for digital visibility and reach in the farmed animal movement, works with existing media outlets to increase coverage of diet change and farmed animal issues, and trains activists and journalists on getting published. Additionally, Sentient Media operates a news website.

Prior to founding Sentient Media, Mikko worked in the business of media technology. He was the CEO of the data visualization startup Infogram, which was acquired by Prezi in 2017. Mikko started his career as a product marketing manager at Google.

As Stray Dog Institute’s director of Food Systems Philanthropy, Lauren Kohler develops and executes the institute’s food system-related grantmaking, activities, and strategy. Lauren brings an academic and professional background in food systems and environmental studies to her work. Previously, Lauren worked for the Yale Sustainable Food Program as a senior advisor, farm manager, and volunteer coordinator, leading community engagement in food systems learning. Lauren’s work is motivated by a deep care for people, animals, and the environment and a lifelong interest in the interconnections between people and the natural world.

Peter J. Li is an associate professor of East Asian Politics and China’s Animal Law and Policy at the University of Houston-Downtown. He has been China Policy Specialist for Humane Society International (HSI), a consultant position, since 2008. He supervises HSI’s China program, which covers all animal-related projects and collaborative work. Earlier, Dr. Li worked as a business analyst with a major corporation in Denver. He also was a junior faculty member at Beijing Institute of Foreign Affairs.

Dr. Li’s research covers two major areas: international relations in East Asia and China’s animal policy and law. He writes on China’s strategic ties to North Korea and China’s animal protection subjects. He has written a number of op-eds and peer-reviewed journal articles. Animal Welfare in China: Politics, Culture and Crisis (Sydney University Press, 2021) is Dr. Li’s latest publication on China’s animal welfare crisis, animal policymaking, and legal development at a time of great social and economic transformation. As one of the few scholars who studies China’s animal protection policy and laws, Dr. Li talks frequently to the media in the U.S. and around the world.

Thomas Linzey serves as senior legal counsel for the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights. He is widely recognized as the founder of the contemporary “community rights” and “rights of nature” movements, which have resulted in the adoption of several hundred laws across the U.S. and around the world. Linzey is a cum laude graduate of Widener Law School, a three-time recipient of the law school’s public interest law award, and a former finalist for the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World Award. He is the author of On Community Civil Disobedience in the Name of Sustainability and other books, and his work has been featured in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, and the Nation magazine. He has been named one of Forbes Magazine’s “Top Ten Revolutionaries” and one of the top 400 environmentalists of the last 200 years in American Environmental Leaders. Linzey lives in Spokane, Washington.

Catalina Lopez is the director of the Aquatic Animal Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 organizations working around the globe to reduce the suffering of aquatic animals exploited in the food system. Catalina is a veterinarian who graduated from Universidad de Caldas in Colombia, and she currently resides in Mexico City. She has worked in the farmed animal protection movement for more than five years, previously leading the Corporate Engagement team at Mercy For Animals Latin America on their work in cage-free campaigns.

Michelle Lute is the Carnivore Conservation director for Project Coyote, overseeing the organization's programs and campaigns across the country. Dr. Lute is a conservation scientist and advocate with more than 15 years of experience in biodiversity conservation on public and private lands around the globe. She dedicates her professional life to promoting human-wildlife coexistence through effective public engagement, equitable participatory processes, and evidence-based decision-making. Dr. Lute holds a Ph.D. in wolf conservation from Michigan State University, a Master’s of Science in animal behavior and ecology from the University of Notre Dame, and a B.S. in geography and environmental science from Valparaiso University.

Bobby Mann oversees the Humane Rescue Alliance’s (HRA) advocacy efforts, community programs, humane education, and public pet services, all with the goal of uplifting and keeping people and pets together. Bobby also oversees the WayStation program, HRA’s best-in-class animal relocation program.

Shaped by more than a decade of experience at municipal animal shelters, Bobby’s deep operational expertise, leadership, and creativity have helped change the public’s perception of the animal welfare industry. In his most recent role for American Pets Alive! as the Maddie’s® Human Animal Support Services (HASS) pilot director, Bobby focused on developing programs and protocols to implement community-supported sheltering and help keep pets in homes with families who already love them. Previously, Bobby spent more than a decade working in Sacramento animal shelters, at both the Sacramento SPCA and later at the state capital’s municipal organization, Front Street Animal Shelter.

Monica Miller is a senior consulting attorney with the Nonhuman Rights Project. A highly experienced lawyer who has been with the NhRP since our founding, Monica graduated cum laude from Vermont Law School in 2012. She holds an M.A. in Public Administration for Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Pitzer College. Monica has served as lead counsel in over 30 federal cases, and she is one of the youngest women to argue before the Supreme Court. Last May, Monica argued before the New York Court of Appeals in the historic case the NhRP brought on behalf of Happy the elephant. She continues to serve as one of Happy's attorneys, and also works closely with other members of the NhRP legal team to help free NhRP's nonhuman animal clients.

Eric Mills, named in honor of his parents’ much-loved Doberman Pinscher, seemed to have a pre-ordained future in animal protection. After graduating from the University of Kentucky (B.A. in Romance Languages, 1963) and a brief stint in the Peace Corps (Colombia), Eric headed for Berkeley, where he volunteered at the Whale Center in Oakland, Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth for years. Inspired by Cleveland Amory's 1974 book, Man Kind? Our Incredible War on Wildlife, Eric began working with The Fund for Animals, spending countless hours picketing, letter writing, and lobbying in Sacramento. He also spent more than 30 years on the board of Paw PAC, California's Political Action Committee for Animals, and founded Action for Animals in 1984.

Much of Eric’s work has been on rodeo and live animal food market issues, with varying degrees of success, mostly on the rodeo front. Eric sponsored a 1993 Alameda County ordinance that outlawed the Mexican charreada's brutal “horse tripping” and “steer tailing” events, also requiring onsite veterinarians at all rodeos. He also co-sponsored 1994 state legislation to outlaw “horse tripping.” A dozen other states quickly followed suit. In 1999, Eric sponsored winning legislation to require onsite or on-call veterinarians at all California rodeos, plus a requirement that animal injury reports be submitted to the State Veterinary Medical Board—the most comprehensive such law in the U.S. More recently, Eric co-produced the prize-winning rodeo documentary short, Bucking Tradition. Eric has received several awards for his efforts: “Humanitarian of the Year” from both the Peninsula Humane and Marin Humane societies, and Paw PAC’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Andrianna Natsoulas is the campaign director for Don’t Cage Our Oceans. For more than two decades, she has organized around fisheries and agricultural policies in varying capacities on the international to local levels. Andrianna has been an independent consultant and worked for organizations such as Food & Water Watch, the North American Marine Alliance, and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York. She has coordinated with global movements and served on the international steering committee of Nyeleni 2007: A Forum on Food Sovereignty. In 2012, Andrianna wrote the book, Food Voices: Stories From the People Who Feed Us, which is a collection of stories from farmers and fishermen across five countries who are part of the food sovereignty movement.

Andrianna has a B.S. from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York, and a Master’s of Science from the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Sharon Negri’s love of wildlife and wild places led her to a 40-year career in conservation. In 1994, she founded WildFutures, a project of Earth Island Institute, a nonprofit organization. WildFutures is dedicated to advancing the protection of large carnivores, with a special focus on mountain lions, and Sharon remains its executive director.

With a passion for engaging and empowering scientific experts, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, Sharon has worked in various capacities to identify and advance protections for large carnivores. Working to expand protections for large carnivores and other species, Sharon co-founded and directed the Mountain Lion Foundation in 1986 and co-founded the Wild Felid Research and Management Association in 2004. She was instrumental in helping pass a California ballot initiative that permanently banned the trophy hunting of mountain lions and allocated $30 million annually for 30 years to critical wildlife habitats. She also has published high-profile works such as Cougar Ecology and Conservation, Cougar Management Guidelines, and co-produced two short films, “The Secret Life of Mountain Lions, La vida secreta de los pumas,” and the award-winning, “On Nature’s Terms—How Predators and People Can Live in Harmony.”

With the expected loss of a million species in the coming decades, she teamed up with two philanthropic advisors in 2021 to accelerate financial support to organizations addressing climate change, species extinction, and underserved communities impacted by environmental injustice. Sharon received a B.S. in Environmental Policy and Planning at University of California, Davis, in 1981.

Miguel Ordeñana, who joined the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) in 2013, is an environmental educator and wildlife biologist. As a community science manager, Miguel promotes and creates community science projects and recruits and trains participants. He utilizes his mammal research background by conducting urban mammal research in L.A. and co-leads NHMLAC’s Southern California Squirrel Survey. Miguel continues to work, locally and internationally, on carnivore and bat research, including a jaguar project in Nicaragua.

Miguel holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Southern California, and a M.S. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis.

lauren Ornelas is the founder of Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.), a vegan food justice nonprofit seeking to create a more just world by helping consumers recognize the power of their food choices. F.E.P. promotes veganism for the animals, works in solidarity with farm workers, advocates for chocolate not sourced from the worst forms of child labor and slavery, and focuses on access to healthy foods in Black and Brown communities. lauren has been active in the animal rights movement for more than 30 years. She is the former executive director of Viva!USA, a national nonprofit vegan advocacy organization that Viva!UK asked her to start in 1999 and for which she investigated factory farms and ran consumer campaigns. In cooperation with activists across the country, she persuaded Trader Joe’s to stop selling all duck meat and achieved corporate changes within Whole Foods Market, Pier 1 Imports, and others. (She was the spark that got the founder of Whole Foods Market to become a vegan.) lauren also helped halt the construction of an industrial dairy operation in California. In addition, she served as campaign director with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition for six years. Watch her TEDx talk on “The Power of Our Food Choices.

Dr. David Peña-Guzmán received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Emory University in 2015. He works on the history and philosophy of science, animal studies, feminist philosophy, bioethics and social theory. His work has appeared in journals such as Foucault Studies, The Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy, and Hypatia. Before joining San Francisco State University, he was a postdoc at The Centre for Evolutionary Ecology and Ethical Conservation in Ontario, Canada and at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bio coming soon

Biologist David Phillips has been executive director of Earth Island Institute since its founding in 1982. He has played a leading role in building its network of activist projects involved in conservation action and youth leadership development. David has a scientific specialization in marine wildlife conservation and directs Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project.

David has represented marine mammal conservation issues at international marine conventions, including the International Whaling Commission, and has testified before Congress on marine mammal protection, endangered species conservation, and the impacts of trade on the environment. The U.N.’s Environment Programme granted David its Leadership Award in honor of his efforts to protect dolphins from indiscriminate fishing techniques. Earth Island Institute’s success in negotiating an agreement with the world’s largest tuna companies to adopt dolphin-safe policies in 1990 was recognized by Time magazine as one of the most significant environmental victories of that decade. In 1994, David founded the Free Willy–Keiko Foundation, successfully overseeing a five-nation, $10 million international campaign accomplishing the historic rescue, rehabilitation, and first-ever release of a captive orca whale to its native habitat in Iceland. David was featured in the book, Freeing Keiko: The Journey of a Killer Whale from Free Willy to the Wild. In 1995, David was awarded the Joseph Wood Krutch Medal by the Humane Society of the United States for his efforts to protect marine mammals.

In 2009, he helped open the David Brower Center, a LEED Platinum-rated green building that serves as a hub for the environmental movement, as well as a conference center and gallery.

Annette Ramirez is interim general manager for Los Angeles Animal Services. In her role, she directs and manages the field and shelter operations of one of the largest municipal shelter systems in the country, with six centers throughout Los Angeles that house approximately 60,000 animals annually and respond to 20,000 emergency calls about people and animals in danger.

Annette started her career with LA Animal Services as an animal care technician in March 2000. She has since played an integral role in developing the department’s Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Task Force, Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team, and most recently programs related to the Human Animal Support Services (HASS) international coalition to transform the way shelters provide services to keep pets and their families together. Previously, Annette was the assistant general manager responsible for lifesaving programs, which included volunteer and community outreach, foster and adoption programs, and grant research and funding. In addition, Annette sits on the NKLA Coalition and the Los Angeles County Task Force, and works with approximately 300 partnered nonprofit rescue organizations on lifesaving efforts.

Dr. Jyothi Robertson is an internationally recognized specialist in shelter medicine who has spent the past 15 years improving organizational structure, the use of statistics to influence policy choices, and access to veterinary care. Her passion project for the past two years has been developing the Journey You Own, a platform for weaving spirituality and awareness through highlighting social injustice, animal welfare, the climate crisis, and education reform.

Jyothi is on the Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) committee for the Human Animal Support Services (HASS) and joined HASS’ executive committee last year. She chairs the national Animal Welfare Committee for the American Veterinary Medical Association and co-chairs the subcommittee on Access to Care. She served on the executive board of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and is currently on their DEI task force. She was on the advisory board of Shelter Animals Count, the National Shelter Database Project, in its early stages. She also was a delegate to the House of Delegates for the California Veterinary Medical Association for two terms and is currently on their Animal Welfare Committee.

Jyothi was lead veterinarian and medical director for Oakland Animal Services for multiple years while starting her consulting business as JVR Shelter Strategies. She completed her veterinary degree and residency from University of California, Davis, and her undergraduate degree from Princeton University. She is boarded with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Shelter Medicine. Jyothi resides in California on Ramaytush Ohlone lands with her husband, three children, one dog, one cat, and tortoise.

Dr. Andrew Rowan has spent more than 40 years working on animal welfare science and animal and environmental advocacy. He has served on many government and corporate consultative committees and several boards of national and international NGOs. Most recently, he was the CEO of Humane Society International (1998-2017) and the board chair of the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust. Andrew was a professor at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, where he established the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy (1983-97), launched an academic journal on human-animal relations (Anthrozoos, 1987-97), launched the first Masters’ degree on animals and public policy (1995), and was chair of the department of Environmental Sciences (1993-97). He has authored or co-authored several books and more than 100 academic papers on animal research and alternatives, on companion animal demographics and management, on humane wildlife management, and on human-animal interactions. He is a recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship (1968-1971). He co-founded Animal Grantmakers in 1999.

Melissa Rubin has worked in animal protection for more than 30 years. She started out in law school with a group called “Students for Animal Welfare” and eventually began working at The Humane Society of the United States. There, she ran the direct care programs, which included the Animal Rescue, Care and Sanctuary department, including the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, Duchess Sanctuary, Rural Area Veterinary Services, Pets for Life, Second Chance Chimpanzee Refuge Liberia, and the Global Animal Rescue and Response team. Melissa is very knowledgeable in setting program strategy and has developed strong relationships in the field, which she continues at Greater Good Charities.

Hakeem Ruiz, 29, was born and raised in Philadelphia. While attending Lincoln High School, Hakeem and other friends started a group called, “The Block.” Years later that friend group went on to become a very successful nonprofit called, “The Block Gives Back.” Hakeem became the vice president and was given the task of hosting block parties, street cleaning events, and networking with the adults and youth of the community. In 2019 the group was recognized by KYW radio as a winner of the Black History Month “GameChangers” award for the continued efforts in minority communities.

Aside from community volunteering, Hakeem formerly worked in the social work field as a case manager before joining the C.A.R.E. team. He spent parts of three years working with at-risk youth from ages 13-17 to earn expungement of permanent charges. Hakeem is the C.A.R.E. Center Director of Camden/Philly, continuing to create and build connections for more organizations along with CARE and being able to assist an unaddressed need in a forgotten area. Having raised a 13-year-old stray dog, Gucci, Hakeem has seen the low points of the animal care system locally and is determined to change it for the better of the community.

Mikaela Saccoccio is the executive director of Farmed Animal Funders, a group of funders committed to replacing factory farming with a more humane and sustainable food system. Previously, Mikaela worked as a donor relations manager at The Humane League, where she matched donors with their passion to end factory farming, and at West End House Boys & Girls Club, where she organized the annual gala. She holds a B.A. from the College of William & Mary.

Recognized by the United Nations as a “Vegan Revolutionary” in its The Future of Women's global initiative and a member of the inaugural Forbes 50 Over 50, Miyoko Schinner, founder of Miyoko’s Creamery, is an epicurean activist working to transform dairy products through an evolution from animal milk to plant milk. Through an innovative proprietary process that merges culinary arts and food science, Miyoko has cracked the code in making fermented cheese and cultured butter from plant milks that rival animal dairy in taste and nutrition. Miyoko’s Creamery products can be found at more than 30,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada, as well as in South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan. The pioneer of the plant milk cheese revolution, she is a passionate culinarian, former restaurateur, best-selling author of six cookbooks, and the former co-host of a cooking show on public television. Miyoko has dedicated her life to inspiring others to adopt a compassionate lifestyle through food and awareness of the animals with whom we share this planet. She is the co-founder of Rancho Compasión, a farmed animal sanctuary in California that provides a home to more than 100 rescued farm animals.

Ed Stewart co-founded the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in 1984 to advocate and provide sanctuary for abandoned, abused, and retired performing animals and victims of the exotic animal trade. He has positioned PAWS as the leader in the "confront captivity" movement, which examines the ethics and efficacy of confining wild animals for novelty, education, and conservation. Ed and PAWS co-founder, the late Pat Derby, established the nation's first elephant sanctuary in Galt, California, in 1986.

Ed oversees all aspects of PAWS, including its captive wildlife sanctuaries, direct action advocacy, and legislative efforts. Currently, PAWS operates three sanctuaries in Northern California, including the 2,300-acre natural habitat ARK 2000 refuge, and cares for elephants, tigers, lions, bears, and other wild and exotic species. In 2013, he and PAWS’ co-founder and the elephants of ARK 2000 were featured in the critically acclaimed HBO documentary An Apology to Elephants.

Ed consults for organizations worldwide on wild animal rescues and habitat design and has worked in range countries on mitigating human-elephant conflict. He serves on the Director’s Advisory Committee on the Humane Care and Treatment of Wild Animals for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. He also sits on the advisory committees for the Detroit Zoological Society’s Center for Zoo Animal Welfare and The Whale Sanctuary Project. He is a popular speaker, both locally and around the world, about issues affecting wildlife in captivity and in the wild. He regularly provides expert testimony at state, county, and city public policy hearings.

Professor Joyce Tischler joined Lewis & Clark Law School in 2019. Prior to that, she had been an adjunct faculty professor since 2011. She has taught as adjunct faculty at the UC Davis Law School, John Marshall Law School, and John F. Kennedy Law School, and has lectured at law schools throughout the U.S.

Professor Tischler has been a trailblazer in the field of animal law for more than 40 years and has dedicated her career to improving the lives of animals through the legal system. She is internationally recognized for her work and speaks across the globe on issues germane to animal protection, including in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the UK, Belgium, Mexico, Kenya, Spain, Finland, and China. In 1979, she founded the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the first nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting animals through the legal system. She served as ALDF’s executive director for 25 years and as its general counsel until she retired in 2019. There, she conceived of and litigated cutting-edge cases aimed at protecting the interests of animals. Her deep experience and shaping of the field of animal law is detailed in her two-part article, A Brief History of Animal Law, Part I (1972-1987) and Part II (1985-2011), published in the Stanford Journal of Animal Law and Policy.

In 2019, she was honored with the Center for Animal Law Studies’ Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes achievements in the field of animal law, including the creation, enforcement, and skillful litigation of animal protection laws

As director of Education at Maddie’s Fund®, Lisa Ward works closely with the executive leadership team and manages the day-to-day activities of Maddie’s® University. She also manages, mentors, and coaches Maddie’s University employees while overseeing the management of programs and projects.

Lisa comes to Maddie's Fund with 30 years of experience as an educator in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, where her career started in 1987. She has been a teacher, middle school principal, and recently the director of Student Services. She has dedicated her life to education and feels it is the foundation for change and growth in the world and is extremely excited to carry on the work in education with Maddie's Fund.

Lisa holds two Masters Degrees, one in Educational Leadership, and one in Athletic Administration, along with a Bachelor of Arts in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation—all from Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California. During her undergraduate years, Lisa competed in intercollegiate athletics and has been named into the college’s Hall of Fame. She lives in the East Bay with her husband, two daughters and three rescues: Thunder, a labradoodle mix; Lightning, a lab mix; and Houston, a brown Texas dog. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, sporting activities, and hikes with the dogs.

Jason Wrobel is the digital marketing and social media director at Switch4Good. With 21 years of experience in digital marketing, copywriting, and social media content creation, Jason brings a wealth of experience and a dynamic creative spark. He is also the co-founder of Wellevatr and co-host of the podcast “This Might Get Uncomfortable.” As the first-ever plant-based chef in history with a primetime television series, his groundbreaking show “How to Live to 100” on the Cooking Channel and Food Network Canada taught millions of people worldwide how to prepare delicious, organic, and healthy meals at home. Described as the love child of Jim Carrey and Alton Brown, Jason infuses his live speaking events, videos, and digital offerings with a relentless drive to grow and a lighthearted, joyful approach to plant-based health, wellness, and activism.

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