National Veterinary Council

NVC extends the reach of the Animal Wellness Foundation’s and Animal Wellness Action’s programs and priorities by putting vets in the forefront of the animal protection movement. In addition, the NVC will help with hands-on advocacy programs, putting their professional training and public credibility to advance animal protection goals.

Randall Cannon, D.V.M.

Orlando, Florida

Since graduating from University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine with honors, Dr. Cannon has devoted over 22 years toward animal care in his private practice and almost a decade toward animal protection.

He works to raise public awareness about animal issues in myriad ways and in 2012 founded Take Your Blinders Off, Inc., a non-profit that owns and operates a truck equipped with two video screens that educates the public about a wide range of animal welfare issues. He’s been featured in two documentaries exposing animal abuse and is the recipient the Pollination Project Lisa Shapiro award.

Dr. Jimmy Desmond DVM, MS

Liberia, West Africa

Desmond is a wildlife veterinarian specializing in emerging infectious diseases. He is a consultant with several international NGOs including EcoHealth Alliance, Smithsonian Institution, Jane Goodall Institute, and the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). As a consultant, Jimmy has worked in many countries around the world conducting field-based infectious disease research. In addition, he and his wife, Jenny, have consulted with several members of PASA, including Ngamba Island Sanctuary in Uganda, Colobus Conservation in Kenya, Centre de Rehabilitation des Primates de Lwiro, and Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center, both in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

​Desmond spent two years as Consulting Veterinarian and Deputy to the Director for The Humane Society of the United States in Liberia. He is founder of both Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection in West Africa and Partners in Animal Welfare and Protection in the United States.

Pernilla Edstrom, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Los Angeles, California

Dr. Edstrom brings 12 years of veterinary care experience as Medical Director of the Animal Wellness Centers animal hospital in Los Angeles. After receiving her veterinary doctorate at Western University of Health Sciences, she accepted an internship at Animal Surgical and Emergency Center (ASEC) in West Los Angeles. There, she was exposed to a multitude of specialties, such as Emergency and Critical Care, Surgery, Cardiology, Radiology, and Internal Medicine.

As a practicing veterinarian, she treats and rehabilitates pets and rescue animals while actively supporting animal protection policies.

Annie Harvilicz, D.V.M.

Los Angeles, California

A graduate of the Virginia Tech School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Harvilicz is the Chief Medical Officer of the veterinary hospital Animal Wellness Centers in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of the Sherrie Clark Compassion and Caring Award and the Tobey Award for helping lost, abandoned, or homeless dogs and has served on the national leadership council of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

Dr. Harvilicz founded the Animal Wellness Foundation to create a rescue organization that enables her veterinary practice to extend animal care more broadly into the community.

Elizabeth Hassinger, D.V.M.

Exeter, Rhode Island

After graduating from Tufts Veterinary school in 1989, Dr. Hassinger completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery. In 1997 she founded the Wolf Rock Animal Health Center, the first Integrative Veterinary Medicine practice in Rhode Island, providing lifelong health care, combining alternative therapies with conventional medicine, surgery and dentistry. She is trained in Acupuncture, Animal Chiropractic, Homeopathy, Chinese and Western herbal medicine, Flower Essence therapy and clinical nutrition. 

Dr. Hassinger served as an elder in the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, during which time she was among the first to lecture and write on the topic of veterinarian suicide and wellness education. She has an interest in the issues involved in management of wolves and wild horses in the American West.

Matt Holland, D.V.M.

Washington, D.C.

Dr. Holland graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine and is currently an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture.

Dr. Holland completed an AAAS/AVMA Congressional Fellowship in the office of Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos with his policy interests including One Health — issues that impact the intersection of human, animal, and environmental health (e.g. antimicrobial resistance, infectious disease, disaster preparedness & response, etc).

Dr. Jim Keen, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Hastings, Nebraska

Graduating with his veterinary medicine degree and doctorate in epidemiology from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Keen has 30 years of experience in veterinary and biomedical research, with a specialty in livestock infectious disease issues, public health and more recently, industrial farm animal protection and advocacy.

Dr. Keen spoke publicly about abusive treatment of animals at the USDA Meat Research Center in central Nebraska in 2015 gaining worldwide attention. These revelations were instrumental in driving reforms toward better livestock welfare, better science and more accountability in dozens of federal farm animal research laboratories.

He is currently a visiting fellow in Harvard Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Program, focusing on laws and policies that can reduce the use of livestock, dogs, cats and primates in federally funded in-house research programs.

Sarah LaMere, D.V.M., Ph.D.

San Diego, California

Having earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine and her Ph.D. from The Scripps Research Institute, Dr. LaMere is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Diego.

Dr. LaMere’s current research focus is on HIV, and her interests are specifically aligned with the concept of the One Health Initiative, which seeks to form collaborations between veterinarians and the human health professions with the purpose of furthering our understanding of both animal and human health and disease. In addition to her research career, Dr. LaMere has done both international volunteer work and disaster response.

Dr. Armaiti May, D.V.M.

Los Angeles, California

Dr. May obtained her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in June 2005, before spending 20 months working at a 24-hour emergency dog and cat hospital.

She is certified in veterinary acupuncture and animal chiropractic and has graduated from the Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy and operates her own vegan-friendly integrative veterinary practice and non-profit, Veterinary Association for Protection of Animals, that encourages and educates on animal advocacy.

Louise Murray, D.V.M., DACVIM (SAIN)

Rye, New York

Dr. Murray is a graduate of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, completing her residency in veterinary internal medicine at the Animal Medical Center in NYC. She worked as Medical Director before becoming Vice President of ASPCA Animal Hospital in New York. Dr. Murray has been the recipient of multiple veterinary awards, including the American Association of Feline Practitioners Award for Outstanding Interest and Ability in Feline Medicine and Surgery. Currently, she is the Staff Internist at Katonah Bedford Veterinary Center.

She has authored the consumer guide to veterinary medicine Vet Confidential: An Insider's Guide to Protecting Your Pet's Health and has made television appearances including CNN American Morning, Anderson Cooper 360, and Good Morning America to help pet parents attain the information they need to be successful advocates for their animal companions.

Katy Nelson, D.V.M.

Alexandria, Virginia

Dr. Nelson graduated from the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2001. Her career has ranged from working for a Fortune 50 company as a technical services veterinarian, to emergency medicine, to her own media and marketing consulting business for the last 11 years. She’s the host and executive producer of The Pet Show with Dr. Katy on Washington DC’s ABC7 News station, and is an impassioned national advocate for animal rescue.

Pete Otovic, M.A., D.V.M., DACLAM

Naples, Florida

Pete Otovic began his career studying the social behavior and communication of non-human primates during his time in a Cognitive Neuroscience PhD program at the University of South Florida. He earned his veterinary degree from the University of Florida and then pursued a residency/board certification in laboratory animal medicine at Johns Hopkins University, where he specialized in the care, anesthesia, surgery, analgesia, and welfare/behavior of a wide range of small mammals and exotics, with an emphasis in non-human primates. He spent a large portion of his career working to improve the welfare of primates living in laboratory animal facilities within both university and industry, but unfortunately was unsuccessful, and the experiences were traumatic. Dr. Pete now spends his time working with primates in sanctuaries and with dogs and cats at rescue facilities.

Thomas Pool, D.V.M., M.P.H., DACVPM

Mongmong, Guam

Thomas Pool earned his master’s degree in public health (tropical medicine) from Harvard University, and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Oklahoma State University. He is a 30-year diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. He spent 26 years in the US Army, and served as commander of the US Army Veterinary Command, a worldwide, tri-service command. He also graduated from the US Army War College.

Earlier he worked in the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command writing peer-reviewed publications on leptospirosis and dengue hemorrhagic fever. Upon retirement as a full colonel from the Army, Dr. Pool served as the Territorial Veterinarian for Guam for 17 years. He continues to serve as adjunct professor for the University of Guam and the University of Wyoming School of Pharmacy. He joined Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy in July 2022.

Dr. Barbara Royal, D.V.M., C.V.A.

Chicago, Illinois

Dr. Royal is an integrative veterinarian, author, pet food formulator and educator. She is an IVAS certified acupuncturist, with extensive experience in conventional and integrative veterinary care, including nutrition, acupuncture, emergency medicine, pathology, conventional practices, herbal remedies, physical rehabilitation techniques and alternative treatments for pets, zoo, marine, and wildlife animals.

She has written several books, including “The Royal Treatment, A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets.” She has been featured in the film documentary “Pet Fooled” and in other films, books, television, print and online media publications. She is Oprah Winfrey’s “go-to” veterinarian and is the first veterinarian to perform acupuncture on a zebra. Her uniquely practical and open-minded veterinary approach to pet health is informed and continually enriched by her unique experiences.

Royal is founder and owner of The Royal Treatment Veterinary Centers in Chicago and Wilmette, Illinois; co-founder of the Royal Animal Health University (RAHU); and an adjunct professor at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo. She is the past president of both the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association ( and the AHVM Foundation (, and a Board Member of the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society (RFVS) and PAWS Chicago, a nationally renowned no-kill humane animal shelter.

Avenelle Turner, D.V.M., Dip ACVIM

Alexandria, Virginia

Dr. Turner is a Colorado native and is a graduate of Colorado State University. She has 20 years of experience in the veterinary field and is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Oncology). She served as head of the oncology service at Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists, located in New York City.

Currently, she is the senior oncologist and lead investigator of multiple clinical trials at Veterinary Cancer Group at the City of Angels Specialty Center in Los Angeles, CA. She supports a combination approach to cancer care, utilizing both eastern and western principles while working regularly with holistically trained doctors to meet the needs of her patients.

Neil L. Wilcox, D.V.M., M.P.H.

Coldwater, Michigan

Dr. Wilcox served in various roles at the Food and Drug Administration, including science and regulatory expert; veterinary medical officer, Center for Veterinary Medicine; senior science policy officer, Office of Science; Office of the Commissioner and Science Policy Analyst; Office of Colors and Cosmetics: and Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Dr. Wilcox brings substantive international understanding of product safety, regulatory affairs, quality control and clinical study management as related to numerous product types including consumer products, cosmetics, over-the-counter drugs, medical devices, and veterinary products. He is experienced in the review of new drug applications for regulatory approval and was actively involved in the development of science policy for FDA-regulated products. He represented FDA on all issues related to alternatives to animal testing and was responsible for developing FDA’s policies related to alternatives. Dr. Wilcox chaired the Interagency Regulatory Alternatives Group and was instrumental in developing the strategy and implementation for the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods.

He graduated Cum Laude from Michigan State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. He also holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Public Health Policy and Administration from the University of Michigan. Dr. Wilcox is currently an independent consultant.