Speaker Bios

Jessica Rubin, Director, University of Connecticut School of Law’s Legal Practice Program

Jessica RubinProfessor Jessica Rubin is the Director of the University of Connecticut School of Law’s Legal Practice Program and teaches Animal Law. She was instrumental in creating Desmond’s Law, which allows Connecticut courts to appoint advocates—law students under supervision—in animal cruelty cases. Professor Rubin actively supervises students and appears in court to advocate for justice in cases of animal cruelty.  She created UConn Law School’s Animal Law Clinic, a clinic through which students appear in state courts as advocates under Desmond’s Law.  She is widely regarded as an expert in the field of animal law and is a graduate of Cornell University and the Cornell Law School.  Professor Rubin has taught in Istanbul, Turkey for the Open Society Foundation, and in Seoul, South Korea.  In both locations, she supplemented her teaching activities with local stray animal rescue and relocation efforts.

Tom Linney, Pro Bono Program Director, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Tom LinneyAs Director of the Pro Bono Program for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Tom Linney oversees the nation’s largest pro bono network for animal protection. He collaborates with the Litigation, Legislative and Criminal Justice programs to secure pro bono counsel for cases, recruiting interested attorneys and law firms from around the country. Under Tom’s leadership, the Pro Bono Program has created successful partnerships with many of the nation’s largest and most well-respected law firms, and secured more than 47,000 pro bono hours for different Animal Legal Defense Fund projects, totaling more than $15 million in legal work to help animals.

Tom is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, where he established a Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter, successfully petitioned the school to add an animal law course, and coordinated several successful projects as SALDF President. . When he’s not working, Tom enjoys volunteering, playing just about any sport, and spending time with his family, which includes six rescue animals: Rhea, Athena, Hello Kitty, Captain America, Hulk, and Thor (who – if you can believe it – is actually way more handsome than Chris Hemsworth).

Michelle Welch, Senior Assistant Attorney General and Director of Animal Law Unit, Virginia Attorney General’s Office

Michelle WelchMichelle Welch is a Senior Assistant Attorney General in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. She is the Director of the Animal Law Unit at the Attorney General’s Office. She is charged with taking all animal law questions in Virginia. She is called on by agencies all over the Commonwealth to act as a special prosecutor in animal cruelty and animal fighting cases. Ms. Welch has also been appointed a special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia to aid in animal fighting prosecutions.

Ms. Welch frequently gives advice to law enforcement authorities and prosecutors all over Virginia, the nation and internationally.   She trains prosecutors, animal control and law enforcement officers on the state of Virginia animal law and testified before a U.S. Congressional Caucus examining the enforcement of animal laws and the cooperation between state and federal partners. She is a frequent speaker at many conferences, including the Virginia Animal Control Association.

Amanda Howell, Staff Attorney, Litigation Program, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Amanda HowellAs a staff attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund Amanda Howell uses her background in strategic impact litigation to help us win big for animals.  Prior to joining us, Amanda’s career was focused on improving the food system and curbing the harmful practices of multinational corporations. She is dedicated to using her skills to combat iniquity and believes that changing how we view and treat animals will simultaneously improve life for all sentient beings and positively impact individual health, public health, and our environment.

Amanda graduated from Northwestern University with a triple major in Political Science, International Studies, and Spanish. She received her law degree from Boston University, where she was the managing editor for the American Journal of Law and Medicine. She now lives in Cotati with her 10-year-old rescued mutt Jessie—a street dog turned spoiled dame. When she’s not fighting against animal cruelty and abuse, Amanda enjoys reading, running, playing Celtic fiddle, and traveling.

Rajesh Reddy, Interim Director, Animal Law LL.M. Program, Lewis & Clark Law School

Rajesh Reddy

Rajesh Reddy directs the Animal Law LL.M. Program at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School, where he also teaches courses in animal law. As a graduate from Lewis & Clark Law School, Rajesh served as co-Editor in Chief of the Animal Law Review and co-Director of the Lewis & Clark Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter, as well as clerked for the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program.


Amy Trakinski, Managing Director, VegInvest 

Amy TrakinskiAmy Trakinski is Managing Director of VegInvest, a mission-driven investment firm which provides early-stage capital to companies focusing on providing alternatives to the use of animals. Amy has also practiced animal law for 18 years and was a partner in Egert and Trakinski, where she litigated on behalf of national animal protection organizations, grassroots advocacy groups, and individual clients. She serves on the boards of Animal Welfare Trust and Compassion Over Killing, and is a member of the Humane Society of the United State’s New York State Council. Amy holds a B.A. in History from Binghamton University and a J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Mary Hollingsworth, Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Division

Mary HollingsworthAs a trial attorney in the Wildlife & Marine Resources Section of ENRD, Mary handles Endangered Species Act, Lacey Act, and Animal Welfare Act cases, with a focus on pursuing civil forfeiture actions of dogs seized in animal fighting cases. To remove one of the impediments to the federal prosecution of animal fighting cases, Mary worked with the U.S. Marshals Service to develop the Seized Animal Care Program. The Program sets the standard for the seizure and civil forfeiture of all dogs seized during the execution of federal warrants on properties suspected of being connected to an animal fighting operation. The purpose of the Program is to ensure that the dogs are assessed and placed quickly so that they do not languish in a shelter setting while at the same time reducing the financial burden of shelter care. Since the inception of this Program, the federal government has rescued over 700 dogs. Mary also provides advice to and trains federal agents and prosecutors on the seizure of animals involved in animal fighting. She received a John Marshall Award in 2017 for her efforts from the U.S. Attorney General.

After graduating from the University of Arizona College of Law, Mary clerked for Justice Michael Ryan of the Arizona Supreme Court and Judge Murray Snow of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona before joining the U.S. Department of Justice through the Honors Program. Mary currently lives in Denver, Colorado where she spends as much time as possible outdoors with her 13-year old dog Puck—a rescue dog she found while volunteering overseas years ago.

Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Nicole Pallotta Nicole has been with the Animal Legal Defense Fund since 2005, first as student programs coordinator – overseeing the expansion of the student chapter network to more than 200 chapters and managing clerkship, scholarship, and project grant programs – and currently as academic outreach manager. In this capacity, she develops and manages initiatives that support the continued advancement of animal law in academia, including expanded course offerings at law schools and educational resources and opportunities that advance ALDF’s mission.

Prior to joining the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Nicole earned a Ph.d. in sociology from the University of Georgia, where she developed and taught the school’s first Animals & Society course. Her dissertation was titled, “Becoming an animal rights activist: An exploration of culture, socialization, and identity transformation.” Her writing has appeared in Society & Animals, Sociological Perspectives, Animal Wellness Magazine, and the Journal for Critical Animal Studies, among others. She is also the author of the blog Alec’s Story (alec-story.com). Nicole lives in Portland, Oregon, with her best friend Teagan, a little German shepherd with a big heart.

Kelly Levenda, Student Programs Attorney, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Kelly LevendaKelly Levenda is the ALDF Student Programs Attorney and a 2013 graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. During law school, she completed a research project on federal and state laws for Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection and participated as a Source Checker and Associate Editor on Animal Law Review. She served as co-director of the school’s SALDF chapter, where she organized Meat Out, an annual vegan barbeque, and compiled the group’s bi-weekly action alerts that include animal related news, events, jobs,

and volunteer opportunities. Kelly also worked with Farm Sanctuary on the Someone Project, where she compiled a scientific survey of cognitive abilities of animals through Lewis & Clark’s Animal Law Clinic.

Kelly completed her bachelor’s degree at University of Illinois where she studied Animal Science. She has been active in the animal protection movement her entire adult life, and is dedicated to helping animals through her career. She completed an animal behavior research project at the Champaign County Humane Society, was an active member of the University of Illinois Campus Vegetarian Society, and volunteered for Mercy for Animals. Her paper, “Legislation to Protect the Welfare of Fish,” which addresses the capacity of fish to feel pain, was published in Animal Law Review. She hopes to continue using her scientific background to improve conditions on farms for farmed animals.

Priscilla Rader, Education Coordinator, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Priscilla RaderPriscilla develops and oversees educational programs and opportunities for law students, attorneys and the general public—working closely with the Academic Outreach Manager. Joining the Animal Legal Defense Fund was a natural progression after being inspired by the organization for the past 10 years throughout undergrad and law school. After graduating from Pacific University with a B.A. in Philosophy: Ethics, Society and Law, Priscilla went on to earn her J.D. in 2016 from Lewis & Clark Law School. While in law school, she acted as the 2014 student coordinator for the Animal Law Conference and the school’s SALDF co-director. Priscilla also clerked with the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Litigation Program, working on cases involving captive wildlife, farmed animals and public nuisance claims. Priscilla is passionate about progressing and further validating the field of animal law through education, advocacy and mentorship. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Oregon.

Priscilla’s commitment to animal law has been recognized with the Animal Law Leadership Award, the Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship and the Richard J. Peppin Animal Rights Scholarship. Priscilla was also selected by professors and faculty of her law school to join its Cornelius Honor Society after graduation. When she’s not working, Priscilla loves to paint, kick-box, sew and experiment with vegan baking and cooking. She lives in Portland with her husband, and the household is managed by their cat Wesley Wyndam-Pryce II, who was rescued from a high-kill shelter.

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