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The ANIMAL Conference 2018 will host speakers from across Oklahoma, the United States, and the world. Please visit,, to see more information about the upcoming conference.

Below is a list of our wonderful speakers from the 2015 conference. 

Vint Virga

DVM, DACVB, President of Veterinary Healing Arts and Author

The Soul of All Living Creatures

When we look into a puppy’s eyes and feel their affection or tenderly stroke a horse’s mane as she nuzzles up next to us, we catch a glimpse of the kinship we share with all creatures. In this talk, Dr. Virga explores the nature and depth of our connection with animals. Tracing back to our earliest origins as humans, he explores traits we share with other species to reveal how understanding animals can make us better human beings. 


Dr. Aysha Akhtar

Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats of the Food and Drug Administration

Aysha Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H., is a neurologist and public health specialist who is on a mission to demonstrate how protecting animals provides a mutual benefit to both humans and the animals themselves. She is the author of the book, Animals and Public Health. Why Treating Animals Better is Critical to Human Welfare, which examines how the treatment of animals impacts human health. Dr. Akhtar is a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, works for the Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and serves as LCDR in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She is also a regular blogger for the Huffington Post. Find out more by visiting her website, (The opinions expressed are solely those of Dr. Akhtar.)

Charles Siebert

New York Times Journalist

Charles Siebert is the author of three critically acclaimed memoirs, a children's book, an e-book and a novel. Siebert is one of the foremost journalists on issues surrounding animal emotions and the complex issues of human nature and what our violent tendencies are doing to other species. His work includes The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward A New Understanding of Animals, A Man After His Own Heart, Angus, The Secret World of Whales, and Rough Beasts: The Zanesville Zoo Massacre One Year Later. His memoir Wickerby: An Urban Pastoral is also a New York Times Notable Book of 1998.  A poet, journalist, essayist and contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, Seibert's work has appeared in a broad array of publications, including the New York Times Sunday Magazine, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Harper's, Outside, Esquire and Men's Journal. 


Jonathan Balcombe

Animal Behaviorist

Jonathan Balcombe is currently Director for Animal Sentience with the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, in Washington, DC. Balcombe earned his PhD in ethology (animal behaviour) in 1991 from the University of Tennessee. He has published over fifty scientific papers and book chapters on animal behaviour and animal protection. His popular books include: Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (2006), Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals (2010), and The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure (2011). He is currently at work on a new book about the inner lives of fish, and a novel, After Meat. In his spare time, Jonathan enjoys biking, baking, birdwatching, piano, painting, and trying to understand his two cats.

Diana Webster

President of the Native America Humane Society
Diana Webster is a California attorney and an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) in Northern Minnesota.  After a successful business career with Northwest Airlines for twenty years, Webster went back to school to get her law degree.  Upon graduation, she practiced civli litigation in Palos Verdes, California, until 2010 when she began working with tribal courts around the country as a Tribal Courts Specialist with the Tribal Law and Policy Institute.  During this time, an encounter with a starving stray dog in Cancun led Webster to become involved part time, then full time in animal protection efforts in Mexico and the US. As president of the Native American
Humane Society, Webster draws on her cultural traditions, education, experience, and passion for helping animals to make tribal communities safer for tribal members and animals.

Lee Fairchild

Friends for Folks coordinator

Lee Fairchild is the coordinator for the Friends for Folks program.  The program trains dogs at the medium-security prison in Lexington, Oklahoma, for placement with senior citizens, handicapped persons, and private individuals in the state. An additional benefit to this program is that the presence of dogs at the facility allows the men an opportunity to express affection and experience an increased sense of normalcy while imprisoned.

Mr. Fairchild also is a world champion at disc dog and can be seen throughout Oklahoma at university and sporting events entertaining crowds with his and his dog’s frisbee skills.

Nicole Forsyth

President and CEO of RedRover

Nicole Forsyth has been the President and CEO of RedRover, a nonprofit organization that brings animals from crisis to care and strengthens the bond between people and animals, for the past eight years. Forsyth led the organization through a major re-branding effort in 2011, which successfully laid the groundwork for current growth initiatives. In 2007, Forsyth initiated the RedRover Readers program to help build empathy in children and will launch a new education division and social enterprise under the name RedRover Learning next year. Forsyth lives in Sacramento, California with her dogs, chickens, cat, precocious 6-year-old daughter, Audrey, and her ever-supportive husband, Greg.

Phil Arkow

Coordinator of the National Link Coalition

Phil Arkow is an acclaimed lecturer, author, and trainer who has conducted more than two hundred trainings internationally and authored dozens of books, chapters, and articles. He is coordinator and co-founder of the National Link Coalition which serves as the National Resource Center on the Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence. Arkow chairs the Latham Foundation’s Animal Abuse and Family Violence Prevention Project and is consultant to the ASPCA and the Animals & Society Institute.

Arkow co-founded the National Animal Control Association, the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey and the Colorado Federation of Animal Welfare Agencies. He is a prolific authority on the human-animal bond, violence prevention, humane education, animal-assisted therapy and animal shelter management. He has served on boards and committees with the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Delta Society (Pet Partners), the American Humane Association, and the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians.

Curt Pate

Stockmanship presentations and horsemanship handling

Curt Pate conducts demonstrations and clinics on stockmanship, colt starting, horsemanship, and safety. Mr. Pate recognizes the growing public scrutiny surrounding livestock production and the impact that improved livestock handling practices create for the sustainability of the cattle industry.

When not at speaking events, Mr. Pate is managing his grazing operation in western South Dakota. His lifelong experience in ranching adds credibility and enables him to communicate his methods effectively to cattle ranchers throughout the country. In addition, Curt continues to seek out new learning opportunities to increase and hone his knowledge and skills and enjoys sharing this knowledge with others.

Dr. Lisa Lunghofer

Director of AniCare and Rapid Response for Animals and Society Institute

Dr. Lunghofer has 20 years of experience developing and evaluating violence prevention programs for local, state, and federal clients and has served as a consultant to a variety of animal-related programs throughout the country, helping them to develop conceptual frameworks, write successful grants, develop evaluation plans, and identify outcomes. Dr. Lunghofer also volunteers with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Washington, D.C., serving as a member of the foster screening team and a puppy foster.

Greg Mellott

Professor of Film and Video

Greg Mellott teaches film at Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC). In 2012, he directed The Dogs of Lexington, a 43-minute documentary telling the story of the Friends for Folks dog-training prison program at Lexington correctional facility in Oklahoma. He is currently at work on a sequel, called Bassett Tales, about the new program at Mabel Bassett women's prison.

Mellott has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a Master's Degree from the University of Southern California, now called the School of Cinematic Arts. Mellott comes from a career of writing and producing in Hollywood and Asia, and has a long friendship with OCCC's artist-in-residence, Gray Frederickson. Professor Mellott has worked with Jackie Chan and David Chan, producer of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and traveled all over the world making films - Canada, Australia, the Philippines, Istanbul, Sweden and Spain. 

Tim Hetzner

President of Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry

Tim Hetzner has served in parish ministry for twenty-five years as a Director of Christian Education, including twenty-two years in the Northern Illinois District of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Tim has also served as President of Lutheran Church Charities in Addison, Illinois, since October 2001.

In August 2008, Hetzner started the LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry that places trained comfort dogs into churches, schools, and religious institutions. The K-9 Comfort Dogs are then deployed to crisis and disaster situations nationally such as Newtown, Conneticut; Boston; West, Texas; Moore, Oklahoma, and Prescott, Arizona. Today they have more than seventy LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs in eight states with two more states coming soon. 

Drew Edmondson

Attorney General and District Attorney
Drew Edmondson is a former state Attorney General and District attorney, having been involved in some of Oklahoma’s highest-profile and most-complex criminal and civil litigation. He brings more than 30 years of legal experience in practice areas including administrative law, case settlement, commercial litigation, government law, and white collar crime.

Dr. Robin Ganzert

President and CEO of the American Human Association

Dr. Robin Ganzert is president and CEO of the American Humane Association, the nation’s oldest organization dedicated to the protection of both animals and children. AHA programs include Humane Heartland for farm animal welfare, and Red Star® Animal Rescue program, which focuses on emergency response. The AHA also grants the “No Animals Were Harmed” entertainment certification.

Tim Harrison

Exotic Wildlife Specialist and Consultant

Officer Tim Harrison is a first-responder, exotic wildlife specialist, and consultant. He has combined his unique skillsets to become a nationally-sought-after authority on the rescue and capture of wild and exotic animals, often in suburban settings. Harrison’s work has inspired two books and an HBO documentary, The Elephant in the Living Room.