Speaker Bios

R. Avery Bennett, Jr.  DVM received his BS from Western Michigan University in Secondary Education – Math and Spanish. He received his DVM from Michigan State University with High Honors and his Masters of Science (MS) in Veterinary Clinical Sciences from Colorado State University.  He became a Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgery in 1988. Before joining Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Bennett’s most recent position was Chief of Surgery at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City.  Prior to that, he held the position of Professor of Small Animal Surgery at the University of Illinois, Associate Professor of Small Animal Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania; Assistant Professor of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine at the University of Florida, receiving early Tenure and promotion to the rank of Associate Professor of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. He was the Chief Veterinarian of the San Francisco Zoo for 3 years before joining the faculty of the University of Florida. Bennett has published numerous scientific articles and book chapters on surgery of exotic animals.

Susan Brown, DVM graduated from Purdue University in 1976 and has practiced exclusively exotic companion animal medicine since 1980. In 1985 she and her husband Richard R. Nye, DVM founded the Midwest Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital which was the first all exotic animal veterinary hospital in the United States. Brown has lectured extensively at both veterinary and companion animal caregiver conferences across the United States and in Europe on the topics of husbandry, medicine and surgery of small mammals. She has published numerous articles and chapters in veterinary texts and journals. She has also published dozens of articles in rabbit and ferret club periodicals. Dr. Brown was on the review board of several veterinary journals as well as being the main author of the majority of articles on www.veterinarypartner.com Small Mammal Health Series. She was also the health director for the House Rabbit Society of Chicago and was the Health Director for national House Rabbit Society. Brown started Rosehaven Exotic Animal Veterinary Services in 2007, which is a consulting business aimed at providing support to rescue, sanctuary and animal control organizations that take in exotic pets. She started The Behavior Connection  to help teach companion animal caregivers about the science of behavior, using humane, positive reinforcement and fun strategies for behavior change resulting in a harmonious relationship with their companion animals.

Mary Cotter, EdD, LVT, serves as Vice-President of House Rabbit Society and Chapter Manager of NYC HRS (Rabbit Rescue and Rehab).  She is a nationally recognized expert on rabbit care and behavior whose articles have appeared in both peer-reviewed and general-interest publications, including Rabbits Annual, Exotic DVM, Lab Animal, AEMV Newsletter, and ASPCA’s Animal Watch. She co-founded and co-manages Etherbun, the world’s largest rabbit health/behavior listserv, and for more than two decades has presented lectures and workshops for rabbit caretakers, veterinary and veterinary technician students, veterinary staff, and shelter personnel. Her acclaimed video on rabbit handling and restraint has been sold worldwide, and is presently being used by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University to train veterinary students.  Her long-standing interest in learning and behavior led her to complete a masters degree in psychology and a doctorate in education, and she is currently taking CE courses in the use of Applied Behavior Analysis to train companion animals. She is a NY State licensed veterinary technician and an adjunct assistant professor of veterinary technology at the City University of NY, LaGuardia Community College.

Margo DeMello, PhD is President of House Rabbit Society and the Program Director for Human-Animal Studies at Animals & Society Institute, and is a nationally known expert on rabbit behavior, and in particular, the behavior of free-range domestic rabbits. She received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from U.C. Davis in 1995, and currently teaches at Canisius College in the Anthrozoology Masters program, and at Central New Mexico Community College. She has been rescuing rabbits since 1989 and has lived with large groups of domestic, free-range rabbits since the early 1990s. She has written extensively on animals, rabbits, and human-animal studies, publishing five scholarly books and twelve articles in peer reviewed journals on animal issues, including Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural and Cultural History of a Misunderstood Creature (with Susan E. Davis), and the upcoming “Rabbits in Captivity” to be published in The Ethics of Captivity (Lori Gruen, editor, Oxford University Press). DeMello has spoken about rabbits at major national conferences, including the Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Expo Conference and the International Society of Anthrozoologists’ annual conference.

Peter Fisher, DVM  is the senior owner of Pet Care Veterinary Hospital,  a busy, 5-doctor, 25-employee facility offering state-of-the-art services in Virginia Beach, Florida. Fisher earned his DVM degree at Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, where he graduated in the top 10% of his class.  He has a special interest in exotic animal medicine, and has authored numerous articles on this topic, including “Standards of Care in the 21st Century: The Rabbit,” published in the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. Passionately committed to educating not only clients but also budding veterinarians, he is active in the veterinary community, and served as president, secretary, and treasurer of the Tidewater Veterinary Academy (Hampton Road’s continuing education organization) for over twelve years. In 2004 Fisher was presented with the Exotic DVM of the Year award from Exotic DVM magazine at the International Conference for Exotics in Naples, Florida. He currently serves as the public relations chair for the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians and served as the Association’s president from 2003-2004. In 2012, he passed the board exam for the exotic companion mammal track to become a Diplomate American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, Exotic Companion Mammal. He lectures regularly on exotic animal health at both national and international veterinary conferences.

George Flentke, PhD is Chapter Manager of the Wisconsin House Rabbit Society, and has been volunteering with rescued rabbits for more than two decades.  He has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and has held positions in the School of Pharmacy, and the Interdepartmental Program for Molecular and Environmental Toxicology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he presently conducts research in the Department of Nutrition.  Flentke is widely viewed by both rabbit caretakers and veterinary professionals as the “go-to” person for drug questions pertaining to rabbits, a species where virtually all drug use is “off-label.” He has a strong interest in drug design and toxicant interactions and, for more than twenty years, has shared his knowledge by contributing generously to multiple rabbit listservs, and by by teaching CEU courses for veterinarians interested in rabbit pharmacology.

Marinell Harriman is founder and president emeritus of House Rabbit Society, and served as its executive director from 1988 til 2001. Harriman literally “wrote the book” on companion rabbits:  her groundbreaking House Rabbit Handbook, first published in 1985 by Drollery Press, is now in its fifth edition almost 30 years later.  It is referenced by rabbit caretakers worldwide, and is commonly referred to as “the Bunny Bible.” From 1988 through 2013, Harriman and her husband, Bob, both of whom have a fine-arts background, produced, edited, published, and distributed the House Rabbit Journal, an educational newsletter now celebrating its 60th issue. After incorporating HRS as a nonprofit in 1988, Harriman wrote and produced a series of videos on rabbit health and behavior, began collecting data for what would eventually become an international rabbit health database for veterinarians, partnered with web expert Paige Parsons to launch the HRS website in 1995, and, along with Dr. Carolynn Harvey and a cadre of dedicated volunteers, produced the first-ever, rabbits-only veterinary conference in 1997.  In 2000, after several years of intensive fundraising on behalf of the corporation, Harriman spearheaded the purchase of a building in Richmond, CA, that would serve as the first-ever, all-rabbits shelter in the USA, as well as headquarters for the now-international HRS.

Carolynn Harvey, DVM is Health Director and chief veterinarian for the international House Rabbit Society’s Rabbit Center in Richmond, CA.  She has been involved with HRS from its inception, served on its board for more than a decade, and was its first national Health Director. Since 2007, she has also worked as an associate at Chabot Veterinary Center, focusing on small animal medicine and soft tissue surgery, as well as on rabbit and rodent medicine and dentistry.  After receiving her DVM from the University of California, Davis, in 1985, Harvey did an internship in veterinary medicine and surgery at Washington State University, specializing in small animals and exotic companion mammals.  Although she relies primarily on western medicine in her work, she has also studied acupuncture at the Chi Institute, and uses complementary medicine (herbs, acupuncture, and Ttouch) whenever they are indicated.  She is one of the most experienced rabbit veterinarians in the country, and the first to focus on geriatric and palliative care, and quality of life issues for senior rabbits. Harvey’s contributions to HRS have been legion. She played a seminal role in the organization’s first-ever rabbit veterinary conference by recruiting all of its veterinary speakers.  She lectures frequently for rescue groups in California, educates other veterinarians in the Richmond Rabbit Center, donates time weekly to care for rescued rabbits in the center, and provides free exams bimonthly not only for HRS foster rabbits, but for all foster rabbits of any rescue group in the area.

Joy Gioia  is President and Chapter Manager of the St. Louis House Rabbit Society, and a member of the board of directors of the international House Rabbit Society.  Gioia has been deeply involved in educating not only rabbit caretakers, but also veterinarians interested in rabbit medicine. Under her leadership, St. Louis HRS planned and produced two MVMA-accredited rabbit veterinary conferences, offering CE units to all attending veterinarians. After managing St. Louis HRS out of her own home for sixteen years, Gioia was instrumental in the acquisition and renovation of a 5000 square foot building in St Louis County, to serve as Missouri’s first free-standing, rabbits-only shelter, as well as St.  Louis HRS’ new headquarters. Though most of her working career was focused on training in the corporate world, she has also worked as a veterinary assistant and regularly attends various annual veterinary conferences to continue her knowledge. In addition to rescuing and working with domestic rabbits, Ms. Gioia is also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, previously dealing with all Missouri wildlife as a supervisor, animal manager, and ICU specialist and now specializing in cottontails. She helped to create the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic in Fenton, Missouri, and, through her work with the Bi-State Wildlife Hotline of MO and IL, she has received calls for advice from as far away as New Zealand.

Micah Kohles, DVM, MPA  is Director of Veterinary Science and Outreach at Oxbow Animal Health, adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska, and veterinary associate (focusing on exotics) at the Nebraska Animal Medical Center. He serves on the board of the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, and is actively involved in multiple other professional associations as well.  He was recently named one of 25 up-and-coming veterinarians by Veterinary Practice News, and was selected as a member of AVMAs inaugural Future Leaders Program. Kohles earned his DVM from Kansas State University (2001) and his MPA from the University of Nebraska-Omaha (2010).  He was a featured speaker at the 2013 AEMV conference, where he lectured on “Gastrointestinal Anatomy & Physiology of Exotic Companion Mammals” and presented his paper “Pharmacokinetics of meloxicam administered long-term in the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).”

Dana Krempels, PhD is founder and president of Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E.,Inc.), and chapter manager of the Miami chapter of House Rabbit Society.  She has been rescuing and rehabilitating both domestic and wild rabbits for more than 30 years and, over the past decade, has also developed special expertise with hares by rescuing, rehabilitating, and maintaining a population of wild hares from the Miami airport.  Krempels earned her PhD in biology from the University of Miami in 1989 and is currently Senior Lecturer in Biology and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the UM the Department of Biology.  She is co-founder of EtherBun, the world’s largest listserv focused exclusively on the health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.  She has written numerous articles on various rabbit health topics for the H.A.R.E. website and for HRS newsletters, and was primary author of an article on ileus published in Exotic DVM.  As one of the volunteer experts on allexperts.com, she is one of HRS’ most visible members on the internet, and has answered thousands of questions about the health, care, and behavior of companion rabbits over a period of more than a decade.

Marlene Larkin, MS has been an educator with House Rabbit Society since 2011 and an HRS member since 1991. In her Educator role, Larkin has contributed multiple articles to the House Rabbit Journal, developed courses such as “Bunny  201” taught at the Georgia House Rabbit Society, and published internationally through medirabbit.com, provided monthly rabbit wellness articles to all HRS Georgia members and other chapters, and has taught other HRS educators in training in her home state. She has a BBA in computer information systems and a Master of Science in management information systems with a specialization in artificial intelligence healthcare applications. She has worked 25 years in the Healthcare I.T. profession, having  previously served as the Director of Clinical Healthcare Systems for multiple hospitals and I.T. organizations. It was the development of an artificial intelligence expert system which measured adaptive impoverishment in human health models, developed at the University of Virginia, as well as Larkin’s new “Rabbit Wellness Model” which lead to the course being co-presented with Joy Gioia. When not caretaking her own rabbits, one of whom received the 2004 Guinness World Record “Oldest Living Rabbit in the World,” Larkin has donated her time to care for rescued rabbits every weekend since the 2010 opening of Georgia House Rabbit Society’s dedicated rabbit rescue shelter.

Nancy LaRoche is founder and chapter manager of the Colorado House  Rabbit Society, one of the oldest chapters of HRS.  During its 23 years, the chapter has rescued and placed an average of more than 160 rabbits per year.  After managing the chapter out of her own home for a decade, LaRoche realized her goal of establishing Colorado’s first ever, rabbits-only shelter.  She purchased a 2-acre property with a barn and a 5-room building which she retrofitted to use as a foster residence, chapter headquarters, rabbit supply shop, and store room. LaRoche, a former systems programmer for Bell Laboratories, has written extensively for Colorado House Rabbit Society, and is co-author of Rabbits: Gentle Hearts, Valiant Spirits.  Her articles have appeared in Fur & Feathers and Rabbits USA.

Anne Martin, PhD is Executive Director of the international House Rabbit Society, Shelter Director of the Richmond Rabbit Center, and a board member of Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary (the Stockton chapter of HRS).  She  received her PhD from UC Berkeley in 2012, and, since joining HRS in 2013,  has already made a significant and visible impact on the organization. Martin has skilfully networked to create multiple new vendor relationships resulting in dramatically expanded fundraising. She quadrupled HRS’ monthly donor program in less a year, and launched a low-cost spay/neuter clinic available to all rabbit caretakers across the entire Bay area.  Having lived with rescued rabbits herself for eight years, Dr. Martin regularly gathers and analyzes statistical data from animal shelters in the Bay area, with the goal of reducing relinquishments and increasing adoptions.

Diane McClure, DVM, PhD is an associate professor of veterinary medicine at Western University of Health Sciences. She received her PhD in cardiorespiratory physiology, DVM, and postdoctoral training in laboratory animal medicine—all at UC Davis. She became a Diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine in 1995. Dr. McClure has practiced in a variety of settings with a multitude of species and has broad small mammal and exotic experience. She is also an independent consultant, offering her services as a Professor, an IACUC member, and more, to a variety of organizations. She has written on rabbits in a number of publications, including The Merck Veterinary Manual, and has been heavily involved in the trap/neuter/release program with over 300 feral rabbits at Long Beach City College in Long Beach, California.

Anthony Pilny, DVM, ABVP (Avian) is medical director of the international House Rabbit Society.  After graduating from the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, he completed an internal medicine and surgery internship at Florida Veterinary Specialists in Tampa and a residency in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine and Surgery at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. A diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners certified in Avian practice, Pilny has lectured nationally about exotic pet medicine and has published numerous articles and book chapters on various exotic species. He also serves as an adjunct professor at LaGuardia Community College where he teaches avian and exotic pet medicine to prospective veterinary technicians. He is a member of the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, as well as a number of other professional associations.  He currently practices at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine in New York City, where he works closely with volunteers from the NYC House Rabbit Society to care for rabbits from the city shelter.

Dawn Sailer, MS, Chapter Manager of Indiana House Rabbit Society, is a scientist with 20+ years experience developing and implementing analytical and clinical diagnostic test methods for a multinational company.  She regularly shares her pharmaceutical knowledge on behalf of companion rabbits and was a featured speaker for the HRS Master Seminar Series where she gave lectures on ingestible parasites of rabbits, and diagnostic testing and interpretation. Under her leadership, Indiana HRS had placed 750 rabbits in permanent homes by 2013.  Then, in 2013, the chapter managed three enormous rabbit confiscation cases, totaling 650 rabbits.  By intensive local and interstate networking, building relationships, and transporting rabbits to rescue groups across the nation, Sailer and her team of volunteers were able to prevent the euthanasia of all 650 rabbits.

Susan Smith, PhD is Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been owned and managed by house rabbits since childhood, and since 1998 she has helped operate the Wisconsin House Rabbit Society with husband George Flentke. Smith enjoys using her nutritional expertise to improve dietary care and management for house rabbits. She is currently writing a book on rabbit nutrition.

Debby Widolf, an educator and fosterer for House Rabbit Society since 1998, ran a satellite chapter of Colorado HRS from 2000 to 2004.  Widolf was the manager of the Rabbit Department at the renowned Best Friends Animal Society in Utah from 2004 until 2012. In addition to her activities in outreach and advocacy, she was a regular speaker at the Best Friends’ “How to Start a Sanctuary”  workshops regarding rabbits, and a rabbit advocacy speaker at the organization’s pioneering No More Homeless Pets conference.  Widolf did the initial site assessment on the largest-ever rabbit hoarding case in Reno, Nevada (involving 1600 rabbits), and more recently assisted with the rabbit Trap/Neuter/Release project involving over 300 rabbits in Long Beach, California.