2016 Speakers

Joyce Tischler, Founder, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)

Joyce Tischler, affectionately known as “the Mother of Animal Law,” is the co-founder of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and was ALDF’s executive director for twenty-five years. Currently, as ALDF general counsel, Joyce is responsible for in-house legal matters, as well as writing, lecturing on, and promoting the field of animal law. She has been called a visionary, a leader, an inspiration, and a role model–she is that and so much more. She’s also an exceptional attorney.

Joyce Tischler has devoted her career to the development and advancement of animal law. When she began, there was no field of animal law: no animal law courses, no animal law programs, and no animal law nonprofits. Joyce decided to change that.

Animals have always been a very important part of Joyce’s life. As soon as her parents allowed her to walk around the block, she was bringing home cats and injured birds. A sheltie she named Princess Fox was adopted by her family when Joyce was nine years old and became Joyce’s soul mate for thirteen years. As Joyce reached adulthood and thought about her career, there was no obvious fit for animals. But in college, she helped run an ad-hoc cat shelter on campus, while working towards her BA in Political Science from Queens College of the City University of New York.

In law school, the only law review article she wanted to write was about legal rights for animals (one of the very first to address this issue). Her article, “Rights for Nonhuman Animals: A Guardianship Model for Dogs and Cats,” received dramatic response from her professors and colleagues and continues to influence the greatest philosophers in animal law today. She earned her JD from the University of San Diego, where she was also a member of the San Diego Law Review, Steering Committee on Women in the Law, and Environmental Law Society.

lara-tomlin.pngLara Tomlin, Esq., Assistant District Attorney, Denton County District Attorney’s Office

Lara Tomlin, Esq. is the Secretary of the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Texas and an assistant district attorney in Denton County, Texas.  She works in the appellate and intake divisions, and handles animal-related cases, including all the seizure hearings for cruelly treated animals. She graduated from the University of North Texas with her bachelor’s degree, and from Texas Tech University School of Law with her juris doctorate. She is a member of the board of directors for the Denton Animal Shelter Foundation, an organization that supports the Denton Animal Shelter and raised funds for a new adoption center to open up in 2014.  She lives with her two rescue dogs, three hens, and her fiance.


felicia.pngFelicia Kerney, Esq., Assistant District Attorney, Dallas County District Attorney’s Office

 Felicia Kerney has been a prosecutor with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office since 2011 where she has prosecuted a number of misdemeanor and felony cases. In 2013, Ms. Kerney was placed in a specialized unit where she prosecuted solely domestic violence cases; it was here that she came into contact with her first animal cruelty case. Her desire to protect our four legged friends as well as educate the community about animal abuse inspired her to apply for the position of animal cruelty prosecutor and in March, 2015, Ms. Kerney was hired as the new animal cruelty prosecutor. She graduated from Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia where she received her Bachelor’s Degree and Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas where she received her Juris Doctorate. Ms. Kerney began her prosecutorial career in the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office in Galveston, Texas.  

nancy-perry.pngNancy Perry, Senior Vice President of Government Relations, ASPCA

BIO:  Nancy Perry is the Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and is responsible for the overall strategic and tactical direction of the ASPCA's legislative efforts and public policy at the local, state and federal government levels. Ms. Perry also worked at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) where she served as vice president of Government Affairs and oversaw HSUS's state and federal legislative efforts, including ballot measure campaigns and nationwide grassroots activities. During her 16-year tenure at the HSUS, Nancy led successful efforts to secure federal legislation preventing the distribution of notorious animal crush videos, prohibiting the practice of shark finning, requiring truthful labeling of fur garments, banning the import of puppies from foreign puppy mills, prohibiting the interstate commerce of birds for fighting, requiring disaster planning for pets, banning tigers and other big cats as pets, securing greater protections for pet food safety, and defunding government-supported horse slaughter. She has testified before U.S. House and Senate committees and worked directly with legislators on pending federal legislation to improve oversight of puppy mills and other high priority bills. Nancy has also been a key architect and leader on more than 20 successful state ballot measures to protect animals since 1995.  Ms. Perry graduated from Wellesley College with a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. She received her M.A. in Communications from California State University and a J.D. with an Environmental Law Certificate from Northwestern School of Law, Lewis & Clark College, where she co-founded Lewis & Clark's Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. She also co-founded the Animal Law Journal and organized the country's first animal law conference - an event that recently celebrated its 19th anniversary. Nancy is an advisory board member of the Animal Law Review, teaches animal law at both George Washington University and Lewis & Clark Law Schools, and has published several articles on animal law.

kevin-oneil.pngKevin O’Neill, Vice President, State Affairs, ASPCA

Kevin O’Neill currently serves as Vice President, State Affairs of ASPCA Government Relations.  He works closely with lawmakers, their staff, and other animal advocates to pass legislation and regulations that improve and strengthen animal welfare laws, while working to defeat policies that seek to lessen protections for animals. Prior to joining the ASPCA in September 2012, Kevin worked in the California Legislature for 15 years in various policy roles. As one of the state Assembly’s longest serving chiefs of staff, he played a key role in advising his Assemblyman to support many critical animal welfare issues like Proposition 2,
the banning of shark finning and recent legislation to ban the use of hounds in hunting bears and bobcats. Kevin also played an integral role in establishing California’s Animal Protection Caucus. Kevin graduated from California State University at Sacramento with a B.A. in History. He lives just east of Sacramento in Gold River, California with his wife, Kristin and their 8-year-old rescue dog, Louis. In his free time, Kevin enjoys working on his self-published comic strip, SPACED, which covers an array of subjects, with a focus on space-related topics.

john-pippin.pngJohn J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)

BIO: John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., is director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nationwide organization of physicians, scientists, educators, and laypersons that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition, and addresses controversies in modern medicine, including ethical and scientific issues in education and research. Dr. Pippin works to replace the use of animals in medical and drug research, medical education, and the training of physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals. He has testified before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Institute of Medicine on how misleading animal experiment results contributed to the approval of Vioxx and other dangerous drugs. He also testified in 2011 before the Institute of Medicine Committee on the Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research and has participated in a debate regarding animal experiments in the U.K. House of Commons. Dr. Pippin directs the Physicians Committee's’ campaigns to replace medical school animal laboratories, to end the use of animals for trauma and specialty training, to replace animals for medical research and drug development, and many other projects. After receiving his M.D. from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Dr. Pippin completed his medical residency, chief residency, and clinical cardiovascular fellowship at New England Deaconess Hospital (now Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital) in Boston. He was awarded a five-year Clinician Scientist Award from the American Heart Association in 1986, and carried out studies in nuclear cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and the Medical College of Virginia.  Dr. Pippin is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular diseases, and nuclear cardiology. He has been on several medical school faculties including Harvard Medical School and the Medical College of Virginia, where he was chosen Cardiology Professor of the Year three times. He has held many clinical, research, and administrative leadership positions, and was the founding director of cardiovascular medicine and medical imaging at Cooper Clinic in Dallas before joining the Physicians Committee in 2005. Dr. Pippin is the author or co-author of more than 80 articles, abstracts, and book chapters that have been published in leading medical journals. He also has served as an invited speaker and panelist for numerous medical organizations including the American College of Cardiology and the Society of Nuclear Medicine. Dr. Pippin is also a frequent speaker to law schools and bar associations regarding animal law and animal experimentation.

natalie-roetzel.pngNatalie Roetzel Ossenfort, Director, Texas Office, Alliance for Justice

Natalie Ossenfort serves as the Director of AFJ’s Texas office. She previously helped to create and run the Innocence Project of Texas, a non-profit organization dedicated to freeing those wrongfully convicted of crimes in the state. At IPTX, Natalie held both Executive Director and Chief Staff Attorney positions, and she specialized in the litigation of cases involving the use of DNA evidence. She also worked with the organization to successfully advocate on behalf of reforms designed to reduce the number of wrongful convictions and assist those reentering society after lengthy terms of unjust confinement.  Natalie obtained her law degree from the Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth.  During law school, she served as a Notes and Comments editor for the Texas Wesleyan Law Review and received multiple national awards for excellence in appellate advocacy, including a Best Oral Advocate award from the American College of Trial Lawyers and New York City Bar Association during their 2007 National Moot Court Finals. She earned her undergraduate B.A. from Trinity University in San Antonio, where she majored in Political Science and graduated cum laude.  Natalie is a member of the State Bar of Texas and currently resides in Dallas. In her spare time she enjoys relaxing by the pool, playing with her 115 lb. lap dog, traveling, and kayaking with her fiancé and future stepson.

colleen-tran.pngColleen Tran, Esq., TDLR

BIO: Colleen Tran is a new Assistant General Counsel at the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). She comes to TDLR with over 11 years of legislative experience working for State Representative Senfronia Thompson. During her time with Rep. Thompson, Colleen served as the main policy analyst for both House Bill 3180 and House Bill 1451, which ultimately created the Licensed Breeder Program here at TDLR. Colleen is a graduate of the University of Texas with a degree in Government. She also holds a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Texas School of Law. She is the proud Mommy to her fur-baby Bella. 


charlotte-melder.pngCharlotte Melder, Esq. Senior Prosecutor, TDLR

Charlotte Melder is one of two senior prosecutors who work Licensed Breeder cases for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. She has been a prosecutor for over 15 years, the first 5 of which were spent at the City of Austin working criminal cases, including all animal code violations at the Austin Municipal Court. She graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Social Work before getting her Doctor of Jurisprudence from Texas Tech University. She is married with two amazing children and an equally amazing dog.



don-vara.pngDonaciano Vara, Lead Investigator, TDLR

BIO: Don Vara has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a supporting concentration  
in Criminal Justice. Mr. Vara has attained Certification in Texas Peace Officer Sequence, National Certification in Advanced Interview, Investigative Analysis and Report Development as well as TX Licensed Breeder Certification. Mr. Vara has 13 years of Civil/Administrative Investigations experience which includes experience with Child Abuse, Labor Law and Licensing Regulation of various industries to include the Texas Breeder Licensed Breeder Program as administered by the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation.


david-balmer.pngDavid Balmer, Political Director, Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF)

BIO: David Balmer is a former Republican member of the Colorado State Senate, representing District 27 from 2013 to 2015. Balmer resigned on December 31, 2015, in order to become the political director of state campaigns for the Humane Society Legislative Fund. Balmer served in the Colorado House of Representatives, representing District 39 from 2005 to 2013. He served as Assistant Minority Leader.



katie-jarl.pngKatie Jarl, Texas State Director, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

BIO: Katie Jarl, the Texas Senior State Director for HSUS, works to pass animal welfare legislation at the state and local levels, coordinate disaster and rescue response for animals in need, and engage animal advocates on animal protection issues. Previously, she served as the Deputy Director of the HSUS Media Relations department and worked closely with the animal fighting campaign to promote federal and state legislation. Jarl traveled with the HSUS rescue team to dozens of cities across the country to handle on-site media and assist with dogfighting, cockfighting and animal cruelty cases.


audrey-perdue.pngAudrey Perdue, Grassroots Manager, ASPCA 

Audrey Perdue manages the ASPCA’s legislative advocacy efforts and strategizes development of direct citizen lobbying across the country. She manages three volunteer programs and travels the nation training advocates to use their voices to help animals. As part of her advocacy management, Audrey oversees and coordinates the planning of all advocacy-based events and community outreach efforts, including ballot measure and campaign work. She joined the ASPCA from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), where she was a legislative coordinator for the Federal Affairs team. Audrey graduated Cum Laude from the University of Georgia in 2012 with a degree in Journalism and minors in Spanish and Religious Studies. She lives in Austin, Texas with her 17-year-old Rat Terrier, Skeeter, and her French Bulldog, Miss Peaches.

kelsey-eberly.pngKelsey Eberly, Staff Attorney, ALDF 

Kelsey Eberly assists ALDF with its cases and projects. She graduated from UCLA Law School in May 2014, where she focused on animal, environmental, and administrative law. While attending law school, Kelsey was the chair of the UCLA Animal Law Society—that school’s student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter (SALDF). She was also a writing advisor to first year law students in UCLA’s Lawyering Skills clinical program. Prior to this, she earned a graduate certificate in Animal Policy and Advocacy from Humane Society University. In 2006, she received a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Middlebury College, with a double major in English and Spanish.

Kelsey is a former clerk for ALDF and before that served as a legal intern with Compassion Over Killing. She has concentrated her academic study on the abuse of factory farmed animals and is interested in the international trade of exotic animals, the free speech rights of animal advocates, and the humane management of urban wildlife. Kelsey enjoys running, vegan cooking, fostering kittens, and observing beautiful underwater creatures while scuba diving.

jeff-pierce.pngJeff Pierce, Legislative Counsel 

Jeff Pierce serves as Legislative Counsel for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, collaborating with the organization’s several programs to structure and implement legislative priorities. He joined the Animals Legal Defense Fund in 2013 as a Litigation Fellow, developing and bringing lawsuits under various causes of action including the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, and continues to maintain a litigation docket in addition to his legislative responsibilities. Jeff earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School (2013) where, as a SALDF (Student Animal Legal Defends Fund) member, he oversaw his chapter’s pro bono efforts and conducted legal research for the nonprofit Compassion Over Killing. Jeff clerked for the Animal Legal Defense Fund while a law student and served as Editor-in-Chief of Stanford’s Journal of Animal Law and Policy. In addition to law, Jeff studied biology at Duke University (2001), where he graduated summa cum laude, and theology at Yale University (2006). As a Fulbright Scholar in Swaziland, southern Africa (2002), Jeff researched the impact of commercial forestry on rural communities and wildlife.