Our Team

Meet the team behind the Action

Board Members

Deborah Wilson, M.D.

Board member, Chair of the Board
Phoenix, Arizona

Deborah is a board-certified Gynecologist in Scottsdale, Ariz. with a specialty in advanced laparoscopic surgery. In practice for 32 years, she attended George Washington University Medical School and completed a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Josephs Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. She has been voted an Arizona Top Doc for the last 10 years and is nationally recognized as an authority on laparoscopic hysterectomy. She is an instructor for Olympus America, teaching surgeons laparoscopic surgical skills nationally.
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Deborah owns a farm animal sanctuary in Prescott Valley Arizona, Circle L Ranch Rescue and Sanctuary, which is a permanent home for abused or abandoned horses, burros, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, ducks, geese, and dogs.

Annie Harvilicz, D.V.M. CVA

President, Animal Wellness Foundation Board member, Animal Wellness Action
Los Angeles, California

A veterinarian, Annie Harvilicz is the founder and chief medical officer of Animal Wellness Centers in Marina Del Rey, California. She is also the cofounder of Animal Wellness Action. She has authored several studies on evolutionary genetics and biology including Species-specific impacts of grazing amphipods in an eelgrass-bed community, which contributed to understanding the root causes of deterioration of the Chesapeake Bay. In 2012, she conducted an unpublished study using an animal’s own blood to harvest iPSCs (induced pluripotent stem cells) to treat cancer.
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She’s appeared on the Discovery Channel’s Animal Precinct television program during her tenure at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City.

Dr. Annie graduated with High Honors in Research Biology from The College of William & Mary in Virginia and received her DVM degree from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine where she served as president of the school’s chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and her CVA from the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine. Dr. Annie has been licensed to practice veterinary medicine in California, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Sherry Kellett

Board Member, Treasurer
Clyde, North Carolina

Sherry, a resident of western North Carolina, retired after a career in business where she served as a controller and executive focused on accounting and financial management responsibilities.

She’s also served on for-profit and not-for-profit boards where she’s led oversight on finance and governance issues.
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She received her undergraduate degree from Duke University in chemistry and later took courses in accounting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She spent 19 years at BB&T Corporation and retired as Senior Executive Vice President & Corporate Controller. She was an auditor at Arthur Andersen & Co. She’s served and led on board committees focused on Audit, Risk, Compensation, Compliance and Corporate Governance. Her primary hobby is caring for her dogs, and she’s devoted to protecting all animals.

Marion Look-Jameson

Board Member, Austin, Texas

Marion Look-Jameson, a native Texas, spent her childhood in Guam, and it was her firsthand experiences in seeing stray animals and non-existent animal-care programs that partly inspired her instinct to promote kindness to all animals. She returned to Texas and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in fashion design. But rather than work in fashion, she turned to real estate and property management and has been extremely successful in that work during recent decades.
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Her greatest passion though is animal protection, and she's been working with Wayne Pacelle to halt animal fighting in the U.S. territories, including her beloved Guam, where she's been a primary supporter of Guam Animals in Need (GAIN). She's been deeply immersed in so many animal protection programs, including helping the animals of her community, Guam, Mexico, and elsewhere. 

Joseph Goode

Board Member
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The former president of the board of the Dane County Humane Society (Madison, Wisconsin) and a trial lawyer who’s litigated cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and myriad other tribunals, Joseph S. Goode is the Managing Partner of Laffey, Leitner & Goode LLC, a law firm based in Milwaukee. Mr. Goode annually teaches segments of Wisconsin’s humane officer certification course and regularly presents to lawyers, judges, humane officers, shelters, and other animal constituencies on best practices for sheltering and seizure-related matters.
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He played a central role in Animal Wellness’s efforts to block wolf hunting, trapping, and hounding in Wisconsin and dispensed with an effort by a known cockfighter to sue AWA executives for defamation.

When not doing his legal work, he loves to hang out with his wife Dina, cats Audrey and Valentino, and an 11-year old spoiled boxer named Greta.

Candis Stern

Board Member
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Candis Stern grew up in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and then moved to San Diego where she spent 15 years.  She spent a large share of her life subsequently (31 years) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she was very active with ballot measures to ban the target shooting of mourning doves and to forbid trophy hunting and commercial trapping of wolves – both winning measures. She then moved to Las Cruces, N.M., and has been there for 12 years. She is there year-round now. 
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She was born into an animal-loving family, with cats and dogs. She also had a horse and is today a guardian for three cats and a dog. She worked in development for Planned Parenthood and the University of Michigan Business School and as editor of the alumni publication at the U-M School of Public Health.

She served on the board of the Humane Society of Huron Valley for 6 years and helped raised the money for its new state-of-the-art shelter which opened in 2009.  She also served on the City of Ann Arbor’s Animal Ordinance Committee.  She was the Washtenaw County (where Ann Arbor is) representative for an animal protection political action committee in the 1990s. She served on the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation Distribution Committee, the Washtenaw Community College Foundation board, and the Soundings board (a non-profit for displaced homemakers). More recently, she served on the board of Safehaven, a no-kill shelter in Las Cruces.

She is deeply committed to the mission of Animal Wellness Action and has been a supporter of the 501(c)(4) and also AWA PAC.

Suzy Bennitt​

Board Member
Ojai, California

Suzy Bennitt is former president of Friendship Force International, a cultural exchange organization that promotes global goodwill through personal friendships in over 60 countries.  For the majority of her career, Suzy organized and led international journeys including a two-year humanitarian relief effort throughout the former Soviet Union, while she was based in Moscow, Russia.  The organization was consequently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its groundbreaking, peace-making initiatives.
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Ms. Bennitt holds a B.S. in Political Science, M.A. in Counseling Psychology and was awarded the International Fellowship scholarship by American University, Washington, D.C.  In her early career, Suzy served as Executive-Administrative Affairs Manager, The Yosemite Conservancy, Administrative Manager, World Without War Council, paralegal specializing in civil litigation and corporate transactions, and mental health crisis specialist.  More recently, Suzy and her husband, Bob Bennitt, founded Pink Moment Press, a boutique publishing house that focuses on the lives of extraordinary human beings and themes of loving-kindness.

Suzy’s lifelong devotion to fostering kindness toward animals has been expressed through numerous philanthropic and volunteer associations.  She has served on the National Council for the Humane Society of the US, Board of Lifeline for Pets, supported fundraising, adoption and spay-neuter programs with Fix Our Ferals, Humane Society of Marin County, and Humane Society of Pasadena, CA. She has served on the Yosemite Conservancy’s Council of Directors since 2004.  Suzy is currently writing a fantasy-adventure novel with a kindness toward animals’ theme.

Staff Members

Wayne Pacelle

Founder

Before joining the Animal Wellness groups, Wayne Pacelle was the president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, tripling the budget and net assets of the organization. He founded the Humane Society Legislative Fund and prior to that, he was executive director of The Fund for Animals. The Non-Profit Times named him seven times as one of the nation’s top 50 non-profit executives, and in 2005, he was named executive of the year.
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He wrote two New York Times bestselling books: The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals and Our Call to Defend Them and The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals. Wayne has led efforts to pass 1,500 state laws for animals, more than 100 federal laws and amendments, 30 ballot initiatives, and 500 corporate agreements. He is a graduate of Yale University.

Scott Edwards

General Counsel

Scott has been deeply involved in educational, environmental and animal advocacy for over 30 years, leaving behind a career working with disadvantaged youth in alternate outreach programs in New York City, to pursue a law degree with a focus on environmental and community protection. For the past two decades, Scott has worked tirelessly to advance and enforce our system of laws that safeguard our airways and watersheds.
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Since 2000, he has also worked extensively to hold accountable our fundamentally inhumane and unsustainable factory farm method of meat production, where tens of thousands of animals are held in horrendous conditions, producing mountains of waste that are dumped indiscriminately on nearby fields, poisoning local rivers and streams.

In addition to a domestic body of work, Scott has also engaged on community protection internationally, working alongside activists in India, Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Mexico, Canada, Europe and elsewhere to further environmental protections. He has written numerous articles and blog entries and his worked has appeared in the New York Times, Huffington Post, and several other outlets, as well as making appearances on several news outlets, including Fox News.

Scott lives just north of New York City with his family and 3 dogs and, every summer, hundreds of endangered Monarch butterflies that hatch from the waystation he and his wife maintain in their backyard.

Kate Chupka Schultz

Senior Attorney

Since graduating NYU School of Law in 2015, Kate has aimed to build her career around using the law in aggressive and creative ways to give power and voices to those who have none.

Prior to joining AWA, Kate was the staff attorney of the Animal Law Litigation Clinic, part of the Center for Animal Law Studies of Lewis & Clark Law School and the first law school clinic in the country to solely focus on farmed animals.
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Before that, Kate was an Assistant District Attorney for five years at the Queens County District Attorney’s Office in New York City, where she specialized in investigating and prosecuting crimes against animals as part of the office’s Animal Cruelty Prosecutions Unit.

She also has broader experience prosecuting domestic violence, trafficking, and pattern financial crimes. Finally, Kate has also spent time working in the civil law sphere on behalf of local government.

Kate is currently an L.L.M. candidate in Environmental Law at Vermont Law School, and was a 2011 magna cum laude graduate from Columbia University. Nowadays, after well over a decade in New York City, she has returned to her native West Coast. She currently lives in Washington State with her family, which includes an emergency medicine healthcare provider, two cats (one of whom is her greatest achievement: a former feral turned cuddlebug foster fail), and one dog.

Zach Bennett

Senior Policy Counsel

Zach Bennett is a former legislative counsel to Senator Rand Paul, M.D., R-Ky., for whom he worked on the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, the first bill introduced since the 1960s to reduce animal testing that was enacted into federal law. Before working in politics, he worked in development as assistant director of the Washington Fund at Washington College, among other private sector roles.
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Zach holds a B.A. and M.A. from Washington College, an M.A. from George Washington University, and a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School.

Don Green

Political Director

Don Green is a former senior policy advisor to Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., for whom he worked on a wide range of animal policy measures over more than seven years. He also has worked for John Linder, R-Ga., and three other U.S. House members and for U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe in a congressional staff career spanning more than 25 years. He also has worked on a U.S. Senate campaign and a presidential campaign, and done private consulting on policy and government relations. 
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Don holds a B.A. in History from Bates College. He and his wife are empty nesters residing in Virginia.

Joseph Grove

Senior Director of Communications

Joseph Grove is a writer, journalist and editor whose involvement with the Center began in 2019, when he co-developed the Animal Wellness podcast for companion organization Animal Wellness Action. He continues to serve as host. Grove is the recipient of multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and a former media and communications advisor for The Arrow Fund, a Louisville, Ky.-based organization focused on rescuing severely abused and neglected animals.
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He shares his life with an infamously misanthropic Chihuahua named Apple.

Karen Duarte

Director of Philanthropy

Karen Duarte guides the organization’s philanthropic efforts and is responsible for the oversight, planning, and implementation of a comprehensive fundraising program. She comes to the Center with more than 34 years of fundraising experience serving in leadership positions at various animal welfare and health and human service organizations.
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She recently held the position of Vice President of Conferences and Special Events at the Humane Society of the United States where she led a team executing award-winning fundraising galas and educational conferences. In addition to events, she created the HSUS’ next generation philanthropy group (Humane Generation) and oversaw the donor travel program, Humane Journeys. Prior to her VP position, she served as the Regional Director of Major and Planned gifts and Senior Director of Philanthropy.

Karen served as the Executive Director at the American Heart Association where she oversaw all fundraising events and initiatives along with board development and recruitment. Karen also held leadership positions at United Cerebral Palsy in NYC and United Way of Tri-State.

Karen earned a B.A. in Political Science from Pace University in NYC. She lives North of New York City with her family including two foster-fail cats, Justin and Jolene.

Natalie Ahwesh

Director of State Affairs,
Pennsylvania State Director

Natalie earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Legal Studies, Administration of Justice, French, and Mathematics. She received her master’s degree from The George Washington University in Secondary Mathematics Education. After working as a collegiate mathematics instructor for over a decade, Natalie is proud to take her passion for animal welfare full-time with Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy.
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Currently residing in Pittsburgh, Penn., Natalie helped found Humane Action Pittsburgh, a grassroots organization advancing animal protection through education, policy, and community action. She has helped pass dozens of local laws, including Pennsylvania’s first ban on circus animal performances.

Natalie has several awards and accolades, including the 2023 City & State PA Power 100, 2019 Incline’s “Who’s Next” Animal Advocates, and PUMP’s and Pittsburgh Magazine’s "40 Under 40" honorees. She was awarded a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellowship in 2023.

Tamara Drake

Director of Research and Regulatory Policy

Tamara’s 30-year career included founding and running a successful nonprofit and working in busy, high profile law firms. She was also a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and EMT instructor.

Drake coordinates research regarding regulatory testing methods for new product development, monitors agency rule-making changes, and drafts guidance policies.
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She has co-authored three Citizen’s Petitions to the US Food and Drug Administration on behalf of the Center for Responsible Science, requesting regulatory change to update decades-old preclinical testing requirements, to allow for and incentivize use of human-relevant test methods.

Drake also coordinated litigation in Center for Responsible Science v. Norman E. Sharpless, MD, in his official capacity as Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration in DC District Court and the United States Court of Appeals, for the District of Columbia.

Jennifer Skiff

Director of International

Jennifer Skiff brings to Animal Wellness Action a lifelong focus on, and passion for, environmental issues. She crisscrossed the globe as an investigative correspondent for CNN for more than a decade, receiving several honors including the prized Environmental Media Award. Her independently produced programs about animals have aired on The Discovery Channel and other networks globally.
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As a bestselling author, Jennifer’s inspirational books, The Divinity of Dogs and God Stories have been published in seven languages. Her latest book, Rescuing Ladybugs: Inspirational Encounters with Animals That Changed the World has received three 1st place literary prizes.

Jennifer has more than 25 years of experience leading animal welfare organizations and she leads by example. After witnessing the torture of Asiatic bears in 1998, she initiated and led the successful campaign to build the first bear sanctuary in the country of Laos. Today that sanctuary is home to 22 bears. While on vacation in Indonesia, she witnessed extreme neglect of animals at a hotel zoo. She negotiated with management, facilitating the release of twelve chained monkeys into their natural habitat. Her intervention was credited for shuttering the zoo six months later.

Jennifer is currently a trustee of the Dogs’ Refuge Home in Australia and an advisor to Animal Aid USA and the Institute for Humane Education.

In her aforementioned book, Rescuing Ladybugs, Jennifer coined the phrase “The Compassion Movement.” She defines it as “the collective quest to alleviate suffering for all forms of life.” Teachers around the world are using the book to inspire students to create lasting change.

Jim Keen

Director of Veterinary Sciences

Jim Keen, D.V.M., Ph.D., earned his veterinary medicine and epidemiology doctorate degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was a senior veterinary researcher focused on livestock and zoonotic infections with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Nebraska for 15 years and later faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Veterinary Medicine for 13 years. His specific expertise is emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases of farmed animals. 
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He has broad field experience in outbreak investigation and animal disease control including enteric zoonotic bacteria from livestock in the U.S., Foot and Mouth Disease in the United Kingdom, and African Swine Fever in the Caucasus. Keen lives on his family’s 140-year old grain farm in South Dakota. He is Director of Veterinary Sciences at the Center for a Humane Economy.

Ryan Luterman-Sevel

Director of Social Media

Ryan Luterman-Sevel is a Maryland-based videographer, editor, and animator with over a decade of experience in the creative space. He joined Animal Wellness Action in 2023, taking charge of the various social media channels, infographic output, and video productions produced by the foundation. Ryan lives in what he jokingly calls “the farm,” after he and his wife rescued a dog, a cat, a guinea pig, and a rabbit.
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Ryan’s video prowess enabled him to work on productions of all sizes, from consumer product advertisements to museum documentaries, from animated comedy specials to multi-cam live events with celebrity guests.

Julie Marshall

Director of Public Relations

Julie Marshall has more than 30 years of experience in print journalism and was the opinion editor for the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper before joining AWA and the Center for a Humane Economy in May 2022. She started her career as a city and police news reporter on staff for the Orange County Register in Southern California, and later worked as a features staff writer (and pet columnist) for the Camera.
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Marshall also worked as a public information officer for Colorado’s Division of Wildlife. She is the author of Making Burros Fly: Cleveland Amory, Animal Rescue Pioneer (Big Earth, 2006), which could not have been written without help from the Center’s board member Marian Probst, with the foreward written beautifully by Wayne Pacelle.

She lives in Colorado, where she was born and raised, with her family that includes a husband and two teenagers, who are constantly recognized even wearing masks, for being featured in Netflix’s film Unwell about the lucrative wellness industry. The Marshalls have three cats (Minka, Tanjiro and Nezuko – from the anime Demon Slayer) and two dogs (Leo and Bella). Marshall rightly acknowledges that she has only named her pets.

Desiree Bender

Executive Administrator
Arkansas State Director

With more than 25 years of experience in diverse roles with national animal protection organizations, Desiree Bender has effectively led local, state, and federal initiatives, driving critical animal welfare reforms. She developed campaigns and secured landmark laws to shield animals from cruelty and needless suffering. Additionally, she combatted measures detrimental to animal welfare, pushed for regulations to implement existing laws, and secured vital funding to enforce new and existing animal protection laws.
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Her efforts have included protecting animals from cruelty and fighting and protecting wildlife from trophy hunting, human conflict, and commercial exploitation. Most recently, she worked to eliminate unnecessary animal testing and defund government animal experiments. Furthermore, she worked to prohibit the substandard exhibition and private ownership of exotic animals and curtail the exotic pet trade.

Earlier in her career, Bender spearheaded countless multi-agency investigations and the rescue of thousands of animals from criminal animal neglect, fighting, and cruelty. Moreover, she was pivotal in educating lawmakers, advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement, veterinarians, and other stakeholders nationwide on animal protection laws and enforcement.

Bender lives in Arkansas, sharing her life with four dogs and six horses, all rescues.

Thomas Pool, D.V.M, MPH, Dipl. ACVPM

Senior Veterinarian

Thomas Pool, MPH, DVM, earned his Masters in Public Health (tropical medicine) degree 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.
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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.

Samantha Miller

Campaign Manager for the Cats Aren’t Trophies ballot measure campaign
Colorado State Director

Samantha has spearheaded critical legislative victories in the domain of wildlife policy making, including an effort to block a spring black bear hunt in Washington in 2023 and promoting the adoption of a 2023 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Accountability and Reform Study that programs the outlook of a conventional fish and wildlife agency. Miller has worked on environmental conservation policy as well, with experience on Colorado water policy through the Outstanding Grand Lake Foundation.
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She has also served on the board of directors for the local animal shelter. Her academic background includes a Master of Public Policy from Pepperdine University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside.

In her free time, she enjoys horseback riding with her son, Sawyer, and is an active member of Backcountry Horsemen.

Fred (Freddie) Hudson

Director of Equine Welfare

Freddie Hudson is a former driver/trainer who grew up in the harness racing industry and was the protege of Hall of Fame driver/trainer Del Insko. He has written for several harness racing publications and authored books, including Amazon bestsellers Roosevelt Raceway Where It All Began and his most recent The Superfecta Trial.

Hudson is a strong supporter of equine welfare and rescue programs and has spoken several times on Capitol Hill representing the harness racing industry on equine welfare legislation. He lobbied in Washington D.C. with Animal Wellness Action and the Jockey Club on both the Horseracing Integrity Safety Act (HISA) and Save America's Forgotten Equines Act (SAFE Act.)
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Hudson is the founder and CEO of the U.S Harness Racing Alumni and host of the weekly Harness Racing Alumni Show. He also acts as an adviser to several harness-horse owners and has organized several fund raisers for the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, for which he is spokesman.

In 2017 as a candidate for the United States Trotting Associations presidency, Hudson's platform was anti-drugs and anti-slaughter. He is a vocal supporter of sanctuaries, non-profits, and organizations that support horses after their racing careers end. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Susan, and dog, Dex.

Kevin Chambers

Assistant Director of International
Oklahoma State Director

Kevin Chambers brings decades of global and local business, government, and animal advocacy experience to Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. A former U.S. diplomat and global business expert, Chambers grew up in Oklahoma but has lived and worked around the world. He represented the United States as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service in China, Japan, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Angola after earning a master’s in international management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a B.S. in wildlife ecology from Oklahoma State University.  He also served as a Chinese translator for the U.S. Army Security Agency and was stationed in South Korea.
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Before joining the Foreign Service, Chambers was the director of international trade and investment for Oklahoma and Missouri, serving five governors. He is the author of five books on international business, travel, history, and languages.

Kevin has been a volunteer cruelty investigator and animal advocate for decades. He was a leader in the effort to pass a ballot measure to outlaw cockfighting in Oklahoma in 2002 and has attended many cockfights in Oklahoma as an investigator and been thrown out of more than one for photographing the cruelty he witnessed.

Zaher Nahle, PhD, MPA, MBA'27

Senior Scientific Advisor

Zaher Nahle is an interdisciplinary executive scientist. He served in senior positions at U.S. medical foundations, including as Chief Scientific officer, Vice President for Research, and Chief Executive Officer. Earlier in his career, he served on the faculty at major research universities where he led scientific teams and published groundbreaking work in top journals like Nature.
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Dr. Nahle earned many recognitions, most recently as a Dean's Scholar at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, a merit award “For outstanding academic achievement, demonstrated leadership abilities, and commitment to Carey’s values of relentless advancement, boundless curiosity, unwavering humanity, and collaborative leadership.”

He is an awardee of the American Heart Association (AHA), the Department of Defense (DoD - CDMRP), the American Cancer Society (ACS) Scholar program (Pay if), and the National Priorities Research Program (NPRPQF). He is also a founding investigator of an NIH-funded U24 Data Management and Coordinating Center (DMCC) and the recipient of the White label PEER award from Genetic Alliance/RWJF.

Dr. Nahle is a staunch exponent of credible modeling in science, including the New Approach Methodologies (NAMs). He is a frequent organizer and speaker at international conferences in the U.S. and Europe, and served on specialized workgroups at federal agencies like the NIH and the CDC. For years, he has been making the case for change through written professional publications, contributions to committees and panels, engagement with health officials, and impactful advocacy on Capitol Hill. He is the founder of IVYCTORY Group.

Dr. Nahle earned his Master's degree in Public Administration (MPA) alongside a certificate in Public Policy & Management from Harvard University, where he was a Mason fellow. He received his PhD in Physiology and Biophysics from the Stony Brook University/Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) joint programs. He was a pioneer in developing and manufacturing high-throughput technologies like microarrays. His doctoral work uncovered new mechanisms for viral oncoproteins in genomic instability, cellular toxicity, and cancer.

Jana Germano

Digital Media Specialist

After running a graphic design studio in D.C. for non-profit organizations for 12 years, Jana received her M.F.A. in Film and Media Arts with a focus on Digital Media from American University. She has worked in Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia in film post-production and advertising as a 3D and visual effects specialist. An expert in web development and design, Jana has supported organizations and content teams with her technical and creative skills.
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As a life-long animal companion and animal-lover, she is proud to be part of Animal Wellness Action’s team and mission.

Tina Meredith

Investigation Specialist

Originally from Wisconsin, Tina moved to Phoenix in 2000 and very soon after found herself rescuing dogs, volunteering for rescues and for the last six years serving on the Board of a local all-breed dog rescue. 

Advocating for dogs and learning about their plight seemed to naturally lead to an awareness and examination of the unfortunate issues that other animals like farmed animals and wildlife also face.
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A love for all animals and the desire to work on their behalf with other determined advocates is what draws her to an organization like the Center. Tina shares her life with her husband and four dogs, two chihuahuas a pit bull, and a boxer.

Brandon Burr​

Director of Food Policy

Dr. Brandon Burr is a practicing optometrist in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to helping patients, Brandon serves as a consultant to Clear Conscience, a cruelty-free eye care brand. 

Growing up with his beloved Staffordshire Bull Terrier in the Chicago suburbs, Brandon developed an early understanding of the sentience and intelligence of all animals. It was only natural for him to make animal advocacy his Personal Legend, as inspired by The Alchemist.
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Brandon previously served on the HSUS – Arizona State Council, and was chosen as the 2019 Volunteer of the Year in recognition of exceptional leadership to advance animal protection efforts in Arizona and nationally.

Brandon’s role as Director of Food Policy is to engage local and state governments and corporations about their food policies, and inspire change, to protect farm animals, wildlife and their habitats, and our planet’s fragile biodiversity. His dream is to create a humane economy with a shift towards a plant-based culture.

In his free time, Brandon enjoys practicing yoga, playing tennis, hiking, reading, traveling, and spending time with his companion animals.

State Directors

Desiree Bender

Arkansas State Director​
Executive Administrator

With more than 25 years of experience in diverse roles with national animal protection organizations, Desiree Bender has effectively led local, state, and federal initiatives, driving critical animal welfare reforms. She developed campaigns and secured landmark laws to shield animals from cruelty and needless suffering. Additionally, she combatted measures detrimental to animal welfare, pushed for regulations to implement existing laws, and secured vital funding to enforce new and existing animal protection laws.
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Her efforts have included protecting animals from cruelty and fighting and protecting wildlife from trophy hunting, human conflict, and commercial exploitation. Most recently, she worked to eliminate unnecessary animal testing and defund government animal experiments. Furthermore, she worked to prohibit the substandard exhibition and private ownership of exotic animals and curtail the exotic pet trade.

Earlier in her career, Bender spearheaded countless multi-agency investigations and the rescue of thousands of animals from criminal animal neglect, fighting, and cruelty. Moreover, she was pivotal in educating lawmakers, advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement, veterinarians, and other stakeholders nationwide on animal protection laws and enforcement.

Bender lives in Arkansas, sharing her life with four dogs and six horses, all rescues.

Kayla Capper

California State Director

Kayla Capper is a lifelong advocate for animals, whose passion ignited at the age of 11. She began her advocacy journey by attending city council meetings and campaigned to remove a live lobster tank at a local grocery store and halted a goldfish experiment at her school. She became a volunteer youth coordinator for In Defense of Animals and later became a senior humane policy volunteer leader at a major animal-welfare group. She managed the Prop. 12 campaign in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.
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She also was the volunteer coordinator at the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center and built their humane education program. She mainly focuses her advocacy on legislation and engaging volunteers. A vegan personal chef and distance runner, Kayla now resides on her five-acre animal rescue in Ojai and shares her home with a diverse family of dogs, cats, horses, pigs, goats, and chickens.

Zach Skow

Central Valley, California Director

Zach was born and raised in hermosa beach California. As a kid he aspired to become a fighter pilot but would later find his passion in providing second chances for pets and people.

Zach began working in local animal welfare in 2004, developing the first large-dog foster program, which he headed, as well as an education and therapy dog program called Miracle Mutts.
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In 2008, Zach was diagnosed with and stage 4, acute alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and given less than 90 days to live. He was admitted to the Comprehensive transplant center at Cedars Sinai, where he is still a patient.

It is out of this desperate situation that Marley’s Mutts dog rescue was born. Zach found a way to save his own life, by saving the lives of others, a Philosophy of service which Marley’s Mutts has adhered to since its founding. Marley’s Mutts was honored in Sacramento as best non-profit of the year for our district of California in 2019.

Marley’s Mutts has rescued over 6000 dogs, cats, horses and pigs in the last 11 years and has created numerous progressive programs including barks and books, miracle mutts and Pawsitive change — an inmate/canine rehabilitation program which is spreading throughout the California penal system and hopefully the world.

Zach married the woman of his dreams, Heather Skow, and they have a 19 month old daughter together, as well as 5 dogs, 1 cat, a pig and three horses.

Samantha Bruegger

Colorado State Director
Campaign Manager for the Cats Aren’t Trophies ballot measure campaign

Samantha has spearheaded critical legislative victories in the domain of wildlife policy making, including an effort to block a spring black bear hunt in Washington in 2023 and promoting the adoption of a 2023 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Accountability and Reform Study that programs the outlook of a conventional fish and wildlife agency. Bruegger has worked on environmental conservation policy as well, with experience on Colorado water policy through the Outstanding Grand Lake Foundation.
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She has also served on the board of directors for the local animal shelter. Her academic background includes a Master of Public Policy from Pepperdine University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside.

In her free time, she enjoys horseback riding with her son, Sawyer, and is an active member of Backcountry Horsemen.

Angela Li

Connecticut State Director

Angela Li is the co-head of the Hotchkiss Humane Society, the animal advocacy organization at her school dedicated to fundraising for local and international causes and spreading awareness on animal welfare related issues. Serving as a volunteer administrative assistant for Animal Wellness Action has allowed her to gain firsthand experience with policy, from collaborating with nonprofits nationwide to writing op-eds and working with legislators.
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In college, she hopes to major in English while dedicating a large amount of time to advocating for animal justice and learning effective means to do so.

Since her childhood, Li has had an affinity for animals. In 2019, she produced a documentary with Hong Kong Dog Rescue, a local dog shelter, about the benefits of adopting rather than buying pets. Having significantly less time to spend with her pet corgi, Zack, after leaving for boarding school has pushed her to put even more effort into ensuring the welfare of animals in her new community as a way of feeling close to her pet again.

Laurie Hood

Florida State Director

Laurie is the founder of Alaqua Animal Refuge, the premier, no-kill animal refuge and sanctuary for both domestic and farm animals located in Northwest Florida. She has created multiple programs including Equine Interactions, an equine assisted therapy program, and the Unconditional Love program, which provides trained companion dogs free of charge to the elderly and special needs individuals, and offering inmates a contributing role in the process.
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Laurie starred in Animal PD, a television series on Nat Geo WILD showcasing stories of Alaqua’s animal rescue efforts; authored a curriculum to assist law enforcement with animal abuse cases; served on the Committee to Protect Greyhounds in Florida; and is a founding board member of The E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center. She is currently undertaking a bold endeavor to create an educational and training center for animal welfare advocates on 100 acres of land.

She has received numerous awards, including “Daily Point of Light Award” from President George H. W. Bush; the Pinnacle Award in from 850 Magazine in Northwest Florida for her community service and leadership; Communicator of the Year for Non-Profit from the Florida Public Relations Association, Northwest Florida Coast Chapter; and is currently featuring in the Female Disrupters series in Authority Magazine and Thrive Global.

Pam Rogers

Kentucky State Director

Although Pam was born in Minneapolis and spent her early years in Southern California, she says she has been in Kentucky long enough to “ya’ll with the best of them!” She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a master's degree in economics and held a variety of positions in both the public and private sectors before starting her own consulting firm in the late 90’s.
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Over the past 20 years, Pam has served as a representative and lobbyist for several state and national animal protection organizations. She is a long-time resident of Louisville where she currently resides with her husband, two rescued Jack Russell Terriers and a cat named Peaches, who is the self-proclaimed “boss of the house.”

"Animal advocacy is tough work but Animal Wellness Action has the right focus and built a strong team to make great strides for animals. I am thrilled to join them on this journey. "

Gina Garey, M.S.

Maine State Director

Gina is a former financial services professional who served as Vice President of Wealth Management for two New York-based firms, specializing in strategic wealth management, marketing, public speaking and presentation development, estate planning and planned giving for high net worth clients. She was recognized as a top producer with MetLife Securities in her home state, and served as Field Advisor to the Board of Directors, MetLife NY, N.Y.
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Gina incorporated her life-long love for animals into a professional path in animal behavior, obtaining an MS in Applied Animal Behavior Analysis and Counseling. She is the founder and principle of Animal Behavior & Healing, and she collaborates with veterinary clinics, supporting animals and their owners in the successful navigation of behavior issues for animals often rescued from abandonment, abuse, or neglect. Gina served in a multitude of animal welfare causes, including on the board of directors at the Animal Refuge League in Portland.

She served as a state council member for the Humane Society of the United States for five years, successfully initiating two ordinances in the City of Portland, banning the retail sale of puppy mill dogs and cats in 2106 and in 2017, banning exotic performing animals in circuses and traveling or roadside shows.

Raised on the coast of Massachusetts, Gina's love for animals began early, as she spent her early years at the local horse farm caring daily for the animals, where she learned to ride. She went on to care for her own horses, competing locally. From early experience with her own animals, to a life-long passion for advocacy promoting animal welfare causes, she has a personal investment in the improvement of all animals’ lives. She has supported a vegetarian lifestyle since the age of 17.

Scott Schulman

Maryland State Director

Scott earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Vermont in Philosophy and Political Science. He received his law degree from George Mason University. He has experience in environmental and non-profit law and is currently doing appellate litigation in veterans' benefits cases.
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Scott became interested in animal advocacy in law school and is very excited to be working with AWA to bring positive change.

Carolyn Hall

Montana State Director

Carolyn Hall, an insurance professional, is a proud resident of Montana. She is an enthusiastic wildlife and landscape photographer and an animal advocate. She resides in northwest Montana near Glacier National Park, and spends most weekends photographing grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, lynx, mountain lions, and elk in one of the few ecosystems in America with a full complement of its native predators. 
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She is an avid hiker, snow shoer, and skier, and adores the Big Sky Country and its public lands. Carolyn has been an active animal advocate for the last 20 years serving as a board member and vice president of NOAA. She volunteered for North Valley Search and Rescue Group, and volunteered for Humane Society for NW Montana, a shelter advocating for adoption of dogs and cats. Carolyn lives with a rescue dog named Jasper.

Rachel Stupak

Ohio State Director

Rachel received a full scholarship to West Liberty University and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in writing. She has spent the last four years working as an advocate and forensic interviewer at a child advocacy center where she assists local law enforcement and child protective services to help children and families that have suffered physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and neglect.
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Rachel is a certified yoga teacher and spends her free time teaching, practicing, and meditating. She has published a positive affirmation coloring book inspired by the children she works with and two collections of poetry. In addition to writing and drawing, she also loves to read classic novels and explore the Ohio wilderness with her rescue dog, Sybil.

Kevin Chambers

Oklahoma State Director
Assistant Director of International

Kevin Chambers brings decades of global and local business, government, and animal advocacy experience to Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. A former U.S. diplomat and global business expert, Chambers grew up in Oklahoma but has lived and worked around the world. He represented the United States as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service in China, Japan, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Angola after earning a master’s in international management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a B.S. in wildlife ecology from Oklahoma State University.  He also served as a Chinese translator for the U.S. Army Security Agency and was stationed in South Korea.
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Before joining the Foreign Service, Chambers was the director of international trade and investment for Oklahoma and Missouri, serving five governors. He is the author of five books on international business, travel, history, and languages.

Kevin has been a volunteer cruelty investigator and animal advocate for decades. He was a leader in the effort to pass a ballot measure to outlaw cockfighting in Oklahoma in 2002 and has attended many cockfights in Oklahoma as an investigator and been thrown out of more than one for photographing the cruelty he witnessed.

Natalie Ahwesh

Pennsylvania State Director,
Director of State Affairs

Natalie earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Legal Studies, Administration of Justice, French, and Mathematics. She received her master’s degree from The George Washington University in Secondary Mathematics Education. After working as a collegiate mathematics instructor for over a decade, Natalie is proud to take her passion for animal welfare full-time with Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy.
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Currently residing in Pittsburgh, Penn., Natalie helped found Humane Action Pittsburgh, a grassroots organization advancing animal protection through education, policy, and community action. She has helped pass dozens of local laws, including Pennsylvania’s first ban on circus animal performances.

Natalie has several awards and accolades, including the 2023 City & State PA Power 100, 2019 Incline’s “Who’s Next” Animal Advocates, and PUMP’s and Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 Under 40 honorees. She was awarded a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellowship in 2023.

Robert Galvin

Vermont State Director

Robert “Bob” Galvin recently earned his M.S. degree in Biology at the College of William & Mary, a premier public research university widely recognized for its outstanding reputation situated in Virginia, where he worked with 26 different landowners around Virginia to conduct bird and turtle research on their properties.

After graduating from William & Mary, he worked as an Assistant Action Team Coordinator at the nonprofit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and he found nonprofit work to be substantially fulfilling.
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He coordinated a huge volunteer database containing tens of thousands of activists that included the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and provided support to local grassroots activists throughout that area. He also worked in PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department as a Campaign Coordinator.

Galvin is adeptly skilled at organizing volunteer events with local activists in the community. Additionally, he is a proud vegan and is dedicated to making the world a better place for animals.

Paul Collins

Wisconsin State Director

Paul is a lifelong animal advocate that was born and raised in Wisconsin. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Disaster and Emergency Management from Upper Iowa University and has worked as a public servant for law enforcement and higher education public safety agencies for over two decades.

Paul also served in the United States Army Reserve as a quartermaster. While that might be a different path to animal advocacy, Paul has had a lifelong passion for animals and has been actively advocating for them for over a decade in Wisconsin, especially for wildlife.
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Outside of AWA, he is also a board member of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife. He also worked with the Wisconsin based Alliance for Animals in 2019 to help design and erect numerous billboards about how Wisconsin pays reckless hound hunters when their dogs are killed by wolves.

Paul lives with four rescue dogs and two rescue cats. He has also worked with wildlife rehabilitators to transport injured and orphaned wildlife for many years. He is an avid hiker, wildlife watcher, aviation enthusiast, and has a fondness for rock music. Paul considers himself a 24/7/365 animal advocate and he shares the ethos and passion that the AWA team possesses.