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Meet The Staff

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Kim Sturla, Executive Director, co-founded Animal Place in 1989. B.A. in Sociology/Psychology from University of California, Berkeley, Master’s in Social Psychology from CSU, Hayward; teaching credential in Special Education. She has been a central figure in the animal rights movement for more than 35 years, and wrote two precedent-setting state laws protecting students unwilling to take part in animal dissections, and requiring shelters to sterilize adoptable animals. Before co-founding Animal Place, she served as director of the Peninsula Humane Society. Kim is our resident Pig Whisperer, able to communicate with even the wiliest of pigs! She shares her home and life with rescued dogs Marty and Poppyseed. kim@animalplace.org

Kelcie Leach, Development Officer, has been with Animal Place since 2016. B.A. in Business Administration with a focus on Marketing from CSU, Sacramento. Before joining Animal Place, Kelcie worked in veterinary medicine as a veterinary assistant. She enjoys spending her off-time training her rambunctious pup, Milo, cuddling her cat named Pig and spending time with her human family members. kelcie@animalplace.org

Marji Beach, Development Director, has been with Animal Place since 2004. B.S.in Animal Science from the University of California, Davis. For more than a decade, she oversaw the education, social media, rescue and adoption programs, and fundraising efforts. In 2019, she transitioned to Development to focus efforts on expanding, improving, and nurturing all areas of fundraising so that we can save even more lives! You can see her photography of the animals here. She loves Daffodil the blind cow most of all! Marji shares her life with dogs Audrey, Tobi, Sophie; cat Shawn, fishes Sir Fishalot, Count Ginger, Mister Zoom; chickens Ayla, Tigerlily, Elara, Luna; and one amazing 8-yr-old human Izzy – all adopted.  marji@animalplace.org
Estelle Barber, Accountant and Business Director, oversees the processing of donations, bookkeeping, and other vital administrative tasks. B.A in Elementary Education from Appalachian State University; A.S. in Accounting from Wilson Community College. Estelle has been doing non-profit bookkeeping for over 20 years. She enjoys the gratifying work at Animal Place, especially going on hen rescues. She shares five sons, one grandson, and two well-trained goldfish with her partner, Mark. estelle@animalplace.org
Stevie Walsh, Membership Coordinator. B.S. Animal Science from CSU, Chico. Her passion for animals grew after she witnessed the animal farming industry first-hand and decided to go vegan. She enjoys getting to know the animals’ personalities and helping complete rescues. Her hobbies include photography, hiking, scary movies, sports and baking vegan treats! Most of these activities are usually done alongside her best friend, Charlie the lab. stevie@animalplace.org


Kristin Rodriguez, Membership and Administrative Assistant, has been with Animal Place since 2010. She is responsible for updating our database and keeping in touch with our wonderful donors. She not only advocates for animals at her work, but rescues corgis and cares for dozens of chickens, pheasants and other birds at her home. She’s taken in displaced and disabled birds for over 20 years now! In her spare time, she travels, attends anime cons, and spends quality time with her animals. kristin@animalplace.org



Cathy Lee, Programs Director, oversees programs and outreach for Animal Place. Prior to starting at Animal Place, Cathy worked in a variety of roles within education equity and social justice including as a K-12 classroom teacher, public engagement manager at Museum of Us, and the education director at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Cathy shares her home with two kitties, Pepper and Winston, and is looking to expand her animal family with rescued chickens in the near future. She spends her time outside of Animal Place exploring new hiking trails, climbing big rocks and experimenting with new vegan recipes. cathy@animalplace.org
Crystal Kozlak, Campaign Manager for the Food for Thought Campaign, was inspired to go vegan after taking a philosophy course on animal ethics during her undergrad at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Crystal started as an Animal Place intern, and then worked for the Brave the Cage program before joining the Food for Thought program. She is helping build a vegan community where she resides! She also enjoys traveling for vegan food, running half marathons, and spending time with her husband, Clark, and rescued Chihuahua, Akayla. crystal@animalplace.org
Beth Carper, Central Region Food for Thought Coordinator. B.S. in Animal Science from Purdue University and M.A. in Humane Education from Valparaiso University. Beth began their animal advocacy work as the Operations Manager of their local humane society. After seeing a need in the community, Beth founded a rescue for reptiles, amphibians, and other small exotic animals. Beth enjoys gardening, hiking, and spending time with their partner, Juan, rescued dogs, Groot and Summer, and rescued bearded dragons, Petree and Ghost. beth@animalplace.org
Tami Andrew, East Coast Food for Thought Coordinator and Social Media Coordinator. Tami has been a devoted animal activist since going vegan many years ago and has participated in hundreds of campaigns, volunteer opportunities, and has fostered dozens of animals of all species. She has used her Masters in Fine Arts to help a number of nonprofits rebrand their organizations and has done outreach volunteer work for The Humane League, Mobilization for Animals, and Mercy for Animals, among others. She is the Vegan Pledge Program Manager at Peace Advocacy Network where she has organized countless 30-Day Vegan Pledge Programs and tons of outreach events including sanctuary tours, film screenings, and panel conversations. Tami is a craftivist cross-stitcher who spends her spare time watching hundreds of horror movies and then talking to anyone who will listen about how they relate to speciesism and equality. She shares her Philly home with 1 dog, 2 cats, 1 mouse, 3 fish, 2 snails, and 1 human. tami@animalplace.org
Hailey Myers, West Coast Food For Thought Coordinator, has been a lifelong environmentalist and animal welfare activist. She has a B.A. in social sciences from Portland State University and a background working for education and human rights organizations. Hailey went vegetarian as a child, vegan as an adult, and has always dreamed of rescuing farmed animals on a homestead. She has cared for chickens, sheep, rabbits, fish, cats, and other animals. She believes in promoting cruelty-free, fair-trade food and clothing systems. Hailey also loves reading and writing, and volunteers with a literary magazine. She shares her home with her human partner, two rescue cats (Cosima and Sequoia the “talking” cat), a betta, and a jungle of houseplants. hailey@animalplace.org
Chelsea Pinkham, Advocacy & Communications Coordinator, B.A. in Communications and Journalism Studies and Minor in Environmental Science from Sonoma State University. Chelsea has been dedicated to a variety of animal advocacy causes from a very young age. She is a published children’s book author and has worked as an animal welfare and sustainability journalist. Chelsea also coordinates animal rescues and transports, and over the years has placed, transported, rescued or fostered over 1,000 animals. In her spare time, Chelsea loves to craft, hike, camp, travel and explore the outdoors. She shares her home with ever-changing handfuls of foster kittens. chelsea@animalplace.org

Laura Vicknair, Volunteer Coordinator. Laura has been an animal lover her whole life. Laura always had an affinity for primates. Meeting Jane Goodall at a young age inspired her to become the animal advocate she is today. Over her life, Laura has volunteered in animal sheltering as well as in wildlife rehabilitation for 15 years. Her other interests include history, mountain gorillas, art, music, road trips, archaeology, and dreaming of one day visiting Madagascar! Laura shares her home with her two young boys and two fluffy cats, Mr. Boots and Kibical. laura@animalplace.org


Hannah Beins, Director Animal Care. Registered Veterinary Technician license and A.A. in Veterinary Technology. Hannah oversees the care of hundreds of farmed animals in residence at our Grass Valley sanctuary and the Petaluma Rescue & Adoption Center. She joined our staff after completing animal care internships with both an east coast sanctuary and Animal Place. She shares her home with two dogs, Kody and Bodi, two cats, Brian, and Mila, and ten tiny chickens. hannah@animalplace.org



Megan Aston, Manager Animal Care. B.A. in Communications from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Following college, Meg worked in broadcast communications, finance, marketing, and retail management before adopting a pet rabbit in 2011 who inspired her to go vegan and subsequently change her entire career path. In 2016, Meg began working for a local animal shelter before accepting her first animal caregiving job in 2018 at a sanctuary in northeastern Pennsylvania. In 2020, Meg accepted a position with Animal Place and relocated to California with her husband, four cats, two guinea pigs, and leopard gecko.megan@animalplace.org


Conor Beins, Supervisor Animal Care at our Grass Valley location. A.S. in Applied Art and Design and Computer Science from Sierra College in Rocklin, CA. Has been vegan since 2012. He went vegan for animal rights, and recently developed an interest in plant-based nutrition and fitness. He loves working at Animal Place because it allows him to spend time outdoors, be active, and care for so many wonderful animals. conor@animalplace.org
Blake Caraska, Animal Caregiver. Blake helps provide care to the 400 animals at the sanctuary. He first joined Animal Place as an ambitious volunteer before accepting a staff position at our rescue and adoption shelter. His hobbies include hiking, cycling, and cracking open a good book. Blake and his girlfriend share their lives with their two-year old daughter and three cats. blake@animalplace.org
Claysen Powers, Animal Caregiver. Attended college at University of Maine and completed a service year in Americorps NCCC. Claysen’s love of animals and passion for protecting them inspired her to join the Animal Place team as a caregiver. Prior to finding Animal Place, she’d always wanted to work alongside animals in a setting with like-minded animal advocates and rescuers. When she’s not providing essential care for the hundreds of animals who call the sanctuary home, she can be found hiking, traveling to new places, and taking her local shelter dogs out for adventures to give them a break from shelter life! claysen@animalplace.org 

Maya Lawrence, Animal Caregiver. Maya’s love for animal rescue began with volunteering in animal care at her local shelter. When Maya spent her free time caring for rescued animals, she realized she could no longer love animals and continue to eat them. Maya made the decision to become vegan in 2020 and has stuck with it ever since! She now volunteers at our local Grass Valley Animal Shelter. When Maya isn’t caring for animals, she loves doing fixing projects on her house, going on day adventures with her girlfriend, and hiking with her two adorable dogs, Zak and Cody. maya@animalplace.org

Jake Mickelson, Animal Caregiver. Jake has always had a special connection to animals, but discovered his love for farm animals after moving to the foothills from the Bay Area. After finishing school for Phlebotomy, Jake learned that the clinical lab setting didn’t feel like the right fit. He redirected his energy to work that felt more intuitive and rewarding: working with animals, being physical, and getting outside. When he’s not caregiving to the animals at the sanctuary, you can find him loving on the 8 sheep at his property, spoiling his little rescue dog Sophie, adventuring with his partner, Kelsey, or deep in a good book.

Nico Jonsson, Animal Caregiver. Nico grew up on a small island in the Bahamas, volunteering at the local “potcake” shelter (“potcake” is the Bahamian term for dog!) every weekend and knowing she wanted to dedicate her life to animals. After interning at Animal Place in 2017 and going vegan, she left to study at the University of Central Florida. She always knew she wanted to return, and in 2022 she did, as an Animal Caregiver. Now settled in Grass Valley, Nico spends her free time reading, swimming and going on walks with her three cats, Caspurr, Periwinkle and Smudge. nico@animalplace.org




Diane Allevato

Retired attorney; Executive Director of the Humane Society of Huron Valley, MI (3 years) and the Marin Humane Society, CA (27 years). Received JD University of Michigan 1976.  Lives in Novato, CA with partner and 3 border collies

Joined board 1991

Jessica Miller

Internationally known fashion model for more than 20 years. Featured in the likes of Vogue and Bazaar. Jessica uses her notoriety to bring attention to the plight of farm animals.

Joined board 2018

JP Novic

Worked in the field of animal protection since 1985.  Her first job as the Humane Educator for the Palo Alto Humane Society deepened her commitment as an advocate for animals of all species. In 1987 JP went to work for the Peninsula Humane Society as the Volunteer Coordinator. ​In 1992, cofounded the Center for Animal Protection and Education (CAPE).  JP serves as the Executive Director of CAPE and under her leadership, CAPE has saved thousands of animals through its rescue and outreach programs

Joined board, 1993

Kimberley Sturla, Animal Place Cofounder and Executive Director

Cofounded Animal Place 1989; previously the executive director of Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, CA. Before pursuing her passion for helping animals, she was a special education teacher. Active in the legislative arena – wrote two state pieces of legislation, both of which signed into law. One gives pre university students right to opt out of dissection exercises and the other requires animal shelters to sterilize dogs and cats before adopting them. Initiated dozens of local spay/neuter incentive ordinances. BS in Psychology & Sociology from UC-Berkeley, and MS in Social Psychology from Hayward State University.

Joined board 1989

Joyce Tischler

Attorney, Joyce Tischler has devoted her career to advancing the field of animal law. Joyce co-founded the first U.S. nonprofit dedicated to protecting animals using the legal system, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). She served as the ALDF’s executive director for 25 years and then, its general counsel until her retirement from ALDF in the spring of 2019. Today, Joyce is Professor of Practice in Animal Law at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, OR. She teaches Industrial Animal Agriculture Law and Policy and the Fundamentals of Animal Law (survey course). She coauthored Animal Law: New Perspectives on Teaching Traditional Law  is now co-authoring a first-of-its-kind casebook on industrial animal agriculture law.

Joined board 2017

Jessica Blome

Attorney, Jessica is a shareholder with Berkeley-based public interest law firm Greenfire Law, PC. Jessica has dedicated her legal career to environmental and animal protection. She began her career as an Assistant Attorney General in the Missouri Attorney General’s Office Agriculture & Environment Division where she developed and implemented the Canine Cruelty Prevention Unit. During her tenure, the CCPU shut down dozens of puppy mills and rescued thousands of dogs. Jessica then joined the Animal Legal Defense Fund as a senior staff attorney. There, she liberated animals kept in roadside zoos, fought the use of growth-inducing hormones on factory farms, and stopped predator-killing contests throughout the country. She also worked as Deputy Director of the San Francisco Ethics Commission and serves as a member of the Berkeley Open Government and Campaign Finance Commissions. Today, Jessica represents citizen and non-profit groups in litigation against monied interests hoping to exploit animals and the environment for profit.

Joined board 2021