Meet the esteemed group of attorneys behind the PETA Foundation’s Legal and Corporate Affairs Department. This passionate team led by seasoned legal experts operates across multiple divisions of animal law, united by an unwavering commitment to animal rights.
Jeff Kerr, Chief Legal Officer
Chief Legal Officer
As general counsel to PETA and international PETA entities for over 27 years, Jeff Kerr built and leads the world’s largest legal team working for animal rights. Under his leadership, the PETA Foundation team was named Corporate Counsel magazine’s 2017 Best Legal Department, and his high-profile cases have made headlines around the world and sparked a global conversation about the legal rights of animals.
Through a series of recent precedent-setting Endangered Species Act lawsuits, the PETA Foundation’s legal team decimated the big-cat cub-petting industry by ending the separation of cubs from their mothers, prohibiting declawing, and requiring proper care and housing for big cats. In 2011, he led the legal team in the landmark case Tilikum v. SeaWorld, which sought the release—under the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—of five wild-caught orcas enslaved by SeaWorld. It was the first-ever lawsuit seeking constitutional rights for animals. In 2015, he led the groundbreaking case Naruto v. Slater et al., which sought copyright ownership of the famous “monkey selfie” for the macaque who took the photo. This was the first case in legal history asking that an animal be declared the owner of property (the copyright) rather than being considered a piece of property. His team has also succeeded in having several “ag-gag” laws declared unconstitutional.
Jeff’s team helped PETA obtain the first cruelty-to-animals convictions of factory-farm employees for abusing pigs and birds, the first U.S. and international crush-video convictions (including a life sentence), the first British case upholding the right to show eyewitness footage of animal abuse, the first Australian case upholding the right to call for a product boycott against animal-abusive practices, the first state supreme court decision recognizing the right to gather and publicize eyewitness animal-abuse video footage, and the largest seizure of animals in U.S. history.
Jeff also established and serves as general counsel for all PETA entities—in Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland, Asia India, the Netherlands, and the U.K. He has helped defeat politically motivated attacks on PETA’s ability to speak out on behalf of animals, including thwarting three U.S. congressional inquiries—supported by industries that exploit animals—that attempted to revoke PETA’s tax-exempt status and guiding PETA and the PETA Foundation through a 20-month politically motivated IRS audit.
Jeff graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law, which in 2018 recognized his body of public service work with the prestigious Shaping Justice Award for Extraordinary Achievement. He completed his undergraduate studies at George Mason University, where he was a Weber Scholar. He has 35 years of litigation experience with corporate and exempt organizations and has lectured about animal law at law schools across the country. His legal career has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times, Time magazine, InsideCounsel magazine, and Corporate Counsel magazine, among scores of other national and international media outlets. He served on the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia for 10 years (as president for the last two), chairing its policy and legal committees.
Corporate Legal Affairs Division
Corey S. Mishler
Director of Corporate Legal Affairs
Corey S. Mishler manages the Corporate Legal Affairs division of the PETA Foundation’s Legal department, including by supervising the legal staff and providing legal advice on a wide range of corporate, administrative, publication, intellectual property, employment, and animal protection issues, among others, that arise during the work of PETA and other PETA entities.
The Corporate Legal Affairs division most recently helped revise PETA President Ingrid Newkirk’s unique will and directions for the disposition of her remains, successfully shut down a website and social media accounts that were using PETA’s name to mislead the public about their relationship to the organization, and helped PETA comply with legal obligations related to the provision of veterinary services to clinics in Ashland, Virginia, and Puerto Rico. The division also reviews, revises, and drafts hundreds of contracts each year; defends PETA and other PETA entities against frivolous complaints filed on social media platforms like YouTube; advises on the fair use of intellectual property; helps secure bequests, devises, and other planned gifts as intended by members and supporters of PETA and other PETA entities; assists with corporate governance; and provides these organizations with additional legal services in order to help them further their missions to achieve the recognition and protection of all animals’ rights.
While attending law school, Corey earned book awards for achieving the highest grades in the courses Animals and the Law, Ocean and Coastal Law, and International Environmental Law; served as a research assistant to a professor of animal law, torts, and evidence; and secured internships and volunteered at several animal and environmental protection organizations. He graduated in the top 20% of his class with an environmental law certificate and pro bono honors in 2013 and lives with his family in Silver Spring, Maryland—a city with a historic connection to the founding of PETA.
Director of Litigation
As director of litigation, Asher Smith helps oversee the PETA Foundation’s Litigation division, including its strategic impact lawsuits. Representative cases include actions under the Endangered Species Act against roadside zoos, constitutional lawsuits on behalf of both animals and animal advocates facing viewpoint discrimination, and false advertising claims challenging the deceptive marketing of some of the country’s most prominent animal-derived products as “humane.” He has served as lead counsel for precedent-setting victories against (and helped run out of business) multiple exhibitors featured on the Netflix series Tiger King and secured victories in trial and appellate courts against other prominent animal exploiters, such as major research universities.
Cumulatively, these lawsuits have expanded rights for animals under the law, helped virtually eliminate the cub-petting industry, made it more difficult for government actors to use the First Amendment to hinder animal advocacy, and established liability for practices such as declawing and premature separation of mothers and their newborns.
In addition to managing public interest lawsuits on behalf of clients including PETA, other PETA entities, and individuals, Asher and the Litigation division also regularly liaise with federal and state prosecutors, provide animal advocates with pre-litigation support, and help fend off strategic lawsuits seeking to silence animal advocacy.
Asher was recently named a 2023 American Bar Association On the Rise—Top 40 Young Lawyers awardee and has been recognized for going “to previously unmined depths of legal theory.” He is admitted to practice law in New York and is a member of the New York City Bar Animal Law Committee.
He joined the PETA Foundation in 2018 after working for the global law firm Paul, Weiss on matters including multibillion-dollar securities and antitrust litigation, pro bono eviction defense, and litigation in the Deep South and at the Supreme Court for gay rights.
Asher graduated from Yale Law School. He studied modern American history and classics at Emory University.
Associate Director of Litigation
Zeynep Graves is the associate director of litigation at the PETA Foundation, where she litigates on behalf of wild and captive animals and develops legal strategies to advocate for animals who are exploited in commercial industries. Her work has resulted in the transfer of dozens of animals from roadside zoos to sanctuaries and the securing of evidence that helped the U.S. Department of Justice seize 69 big cats from a now-defunct roadside zoo.
Zeynep began her legal career in animal law while articling at Animal Justice. She received her J.D. from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is a member of the State Bar of California.
Senior Litigation Counsel
As a senior litigation counsel in the Litigation division, Aaron Frazier works on a variety of constitutional, statutory, and common law cases against government agencies, roadside zoos, laboratories, agricultural facilities, other businesses or organizations, and individuals in both state and federal trial and appellate courts. He also helps defend PETA entities against lawsuits.
Before joining the PETA Foundation, Aaron worked as a senior associate litigation attorney at the law firm of Harris Beach PLLC. He received his J.D. from Cornell University and holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harvard University.
Aaron lives in Monroe County, New York, with his cats, Sparkle and Spectre.
Senior Litigation Counsel
Michael Waller is senior litigation counsel with the PETA Foundation, where he primarily works on litigation to prevent commercial entities from falsely claiming that their products were humanely and ethically farmed or produced. He also assists the legal team in analyzing the basis and strategy for potential litigation to address animal exploitation and abuse.
Michael joined the PETA Foundation in 2023 with 30 years of civil litigation experience. Immediately prior to joining the PETA Foundation, he spent 17 years as a partner with the global law firm K&L Gates LLP, where he was primarily engaged in handling complex commercial claims involving Superfund and RCRA liability and cost recovery as well as products liability, unfair competition and antitrust, and claims arising from mergers and acquisitions. He has also engaged in insurance coverage litigation arising from environmental contamination claims and headed a team of litigators defending several of the firm’s clients in toxic tort litigation, primarily involving asbestos-related personal injury claims.
Michael is licensed to practice law in New Jersey and New York and is admitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, and all federal district courts in New York.
Tala DiBenedetto serves as litigation counsel with the PETA Foundation, where she works on strategic impact litigation concerning animal rights and animal welfare, including Endangered Species Act cases against roadside zoos and false-advertising cases against companies that engage in humane washing.
Prior to joining the PETA Foundation as a legal fellow, Tala received her J.D. and advanced certificate in environmental law from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, where she was awarded the Bohn Vergari Public Service Award for the Best Environmental Law Student. She has published three papers on the intersection of animal law and environmental law. Tala is admitted to practice law in New York.
As a litigation counsel, Ashley works on both active litigation matters and research to support prospective cases to advance the interests of animals who are routinely abused and exploited.
Ashley received her J.D. from the University of Virginia and studied fine art and anthropology at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the District of Columbia Bar. She previously interned at the PETA Foundation in the Animal Law division before completing a one-year litigation fellowship at the Animal Legal Defense Fund and rejoining the PETA Foundation in 2022 as a litigation fellow.
In her free time, Ashley enjoys relaxing in the sun near any body of water, trying new vegan restaurants, and taking walks with her three canine companions.
Captive Animal Law Enforcement
General Counsel, Captive Animal Law Enforcement
As general counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement (CALE), Brittany Peet leads an interdisciplinary team of attorneys, a veterinarian, captive wildlife experts, and researchers who work on behalf of animals held captive in roadside zoos, traveling shows, and the film and television industries. The CALE team achieves victories for captive wildlife via legal and regulatory actions as well as public advocacy campaigns and legislation.
CALE’s recent successes include a complaint to Ohio authorities that resulted in the surrender of four chimpanzees, two snow macaques, and two spider monkeys from a notorious roadside zoo to true sanctuaries. A CALE complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture also resulted in the agency’s termination of the license of a Florida-based exotic-animal dealer who called himself “the Monkey Whisperer,” which blocks him from legally selling primates for the pet trade for at least one year. The decision stemmed from his guilty pleas to federal charges related to the illegal sale and transport of primates—including his sale of a capuchin monkey to singer Chris Brown, which also followed a CALE complaint to California authorities.
Brittany often represents PETA in the media and has appeared on CNN’s This Is Life With Lisa Ling and Netflix’s Tiger King. She also negotiates and coordinates wild- and exotic-animal rescues for PETA and has overseen the rescues of hundreds of animals, including 80 bears, 78 big cats, and 24 chimpanzees.
Brittany joined the PETA Foundation’s legal department in 2009 and lives in Michigan with her beloved PETA-rescued dog, Leonard.
Director and Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement
As director and counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement, Michelle Sinnott works closely with PETA to advise on issues related to captive animals exploited in circuses, roadside zoos, aquariums, and traveling shows. She handles a variety of legal issues arising from PETA’s work on behalf of captive wildlife, including regulatory and law enforcement efforts, policy work, litigation, and investigations. Her work has prevented shopping mall aquarium attractions from opening new locations, led to criminal wildlife trafficking convictions, and landed numerous roadside zoos in legal trouble with state and federal regulatory authorities.
Before joining the PETA Foundation in 2017, Michelle worked at Trustees for Alaska, a nonprofit environmental law firm, where she focused on environmental litigation. She began her legal career in animal law at Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, first as a paralegal and then as a lawyer after graduating from law school.
Michelle received her J.D. from Vermont Law School, and she holds a B.A. in philosophy from Mercer University. She is a member of the Alaska Bar Association.
Michelle lives in Anchorage, Alaska, with her partner and their two adventurous canine companions, Chewy and Raven.
Senior Counsel and Manager of Regulatory Affairs for Captive Animal Law Enforcement
As senior counsel and manager of regulatory affairs for Captive Animal Law Enforcement (CALE), Molly Johnson advises PETA on a range of issues related to captive wildlife. Her work has resulted in enforcement actions and fines against some of the worst roadside zoos. She also leads CALE’s participation in state and federal rulemaking, advocating for stronger regulatory protections for captive animals.
Prior to joining the PETA Foundation in 2021, Molly held several positions in New York State government, including a clerkship with the state’s highest court. She received her J.D. from Cornell Law School and a B.A. in American literature and culture from the University of California–Los Angeles.
Senior Counsel and Manager of Legislative Affairs for Captive Animal Law Enforcement
As senior counsel and manager of legislative affairs for Captive Animal Law Enforcement (CALE), Jonathan provides legal advice and assistance on issues that arise from PETA’s work on behalf of captive wildlife, including management of CALE’s participation in state and local legislative efforts.
Before joining the PETA Foundation in 2020, Jonathan worked for a large corporation in Minnesota, providing research assistance to legal professionals in the U.S. and the U.K. He began his career as a clerk for a trial court judge in rural Alaska. He is the author of “One Ought Not Have So Delicate a Nose: CAFOs, Agricultural Nuisance, and the Rise of the Right to Farm,” a comment published in Environmental Law. He received his J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School.
Counsel, Captive Animal Law Enforcement
Cydnee Bence is counsel for the PETA Foundation’s Captive Animal Law Enforcement (CALE) division. Her work in captive animal law enforcement has led to federal actions and state fines against roadside zoos.
Before joining CALE, she was a fellow in the PETA Foundation’s Animal Law division, providing advice and assistance on matters including consumer protection and administrative law.
Cydnee was previously a legal fellow at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, focusing on food labeling, biotechnology, and factory farms. While earning her J.D. at Vermont Law and Graduate School, she spent a semester in practice as an intern with the PETA Foundation. She also completed a master of laws degree in food and agriculture and a master’s degree in environmental law and policy at Vermont Law and Graduate School. She has published work through the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School and in the Vermont Law Review on issues related to captive animals, consumer protection, and housing equality.
Cydnee lives in Michigan with her two playful feline companions, Marty and Ruthie.
Counsel, Captive Animal Law Enforcement
As counsel for the PETA Foundation’s Captive Animal Law Enforcement division, Emily Lively advises PETA on a variety of issues related to its work on behalf of captive animals in roadside zoos, aquariums, and traveling shows. She previously worked as a legal fellow in the Animal Law division.
Before joining the PETA Foundation, Emily received her J.D. and an advanced certificate in environmental law from Pace University. During her time at Pace, she worked as a student associate for its Land Use Law Center and its Environmental Litigation Clinic and she served as a judicial extern for the Honorable Kenneth M. Karas of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in biology.
Emily lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with her companion dog, Maggie.
Animal Law Division
Managing General Counsel, Animal Law
As managing general counsel for animal law, Jared Goodman leads a team of attorneys in the department’s Animal Law division, which handles a wide variety of legal issues that arise from PETA’s eyewitness investigations, demonstrations, shareholder resolutions, proposed legislation, and other efforts to help animals, and he supervises the department’s fellowship program for new or recent law school graduates. The Animal Law division also collaborates with and supports the department’s other divisions.
Recently, the Animal Law division successfully persuaded state authorities across the U.S. to reverse their unconstitutional and viewpoint-discriminatory conduct, including the rejection of PETA advertisements in public spaces, restrictions on protest activity, and charges filed against peaceful protesters. As part of PETA’s shareholder resolution campaign, the division has prevailed over animal-abusing corporations’ attempts to exclude the group’s proposals from their proxy materials and facilitated agreements with public companies to make meaningful changes to their practices in order to reduce or eliminate animal suffering. The team has also provided legal support for groundbreaking investigations into factory farming and other industries that have revealed flagrant violations of law and prompted arrests, criminal charges, and convictions.
Since joining the PETA Foundation’s legal department in 2009, Jared has pursued legal initiatives on behalf of marine animals and served as lead counsel in an Endangered Species Act lawsuit that secured the rescue of nine chimpanzees from the Missouri Primate Foundation—a former breeding compound that sold chimpanzees into the entertainment industry and exotic-pet trade.
Jared received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School and studied psychology at the State University of New York–Binghamton.
Counsel, Animal Law
As counsel in the Animal Law division, Mary Maerz works closely with PETA to advise on issues related to investigations, demonstrations, and legislation. She also works on a variety of other matters, including regulatory advocacy and litigation.
Before joining the PETA Foundation, Mary served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable M. Douglas Harpool of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. She received her J.D. from the University of Virginia. She also holds a B.A. in biology and philosophy from Drury University.
Mary lives in Portland, Oregon, with her feline companion, Thomas, and rabbit, Bunicia.
Ashely Monti is a legal fellow in the Animal Law division, where she works closely with other attorneys, providing advice and assistance on a wide range of legal issues that arise from PETA’s work to protect animals.
Before joining the PETA Foundation, Ashely served as a judicial law clerk for the chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. She received her J.D. and master’s in food and agriculture law and policy from Vermont Law School. While in law school, Ashely externed with the Animal Law Litigation Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School and with Animal Outlook. She has published work through the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School and in the Vermont Law Review on issues related to food labeling and drugs given to animals used for food. She also holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and environmental science from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
Ashely lives in Portland, Maine, with her husband and two canine companions, Sami and Jago.
As a legal fellow in the Animal Law division, Nick Papazyan conducts research on legal issues relating to investigations and the state of the law. He also drafts complaints to state authorities and develops potential legislative approaches to protecting animals.
Before joining the PETA Foundation and pursuing animal rights work, Nick was a copyright teaching fellow for Harvard University’s CopyrightX program. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, completing over 1,000 pro bono hours prior to graduating. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California–Santa Barbara, from which he graduated with highest honors and distinction in his major.
Nick lives in Los Angeles with his family and his beloved cat, Jiji.
Regulatory Affairs Division
General Counsel, Regulatory Affairs
Lori Kettler leads a team of attorneys in the department’s Regulatory Affairs division, which focuses on protections for animals used in laboratories and access to public records. She also leads PETA’s initiative to promote greater understanding and empathy for reptiles at public and government agencies and serves as counsel to PETA Science Consortium International e.V., which addresses regulatory testing in the U.K. and the European Union.
Recently, the Regulatory Affairs division’s attorneys have used their decades of collective experience to assist PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department in successfully exposing a decrepit animal testing facility in Colombia and ensuring that all the animals there were removed and taken to safety, securing access to records about lethal taxpayer-funded experiments on sparrows at Louisiana State University, and ending the U.S. military’s mutilation of wild-caught reptiles in training exercises.
The division’s current initiatives include a groundbreaking legal challenge to the National Institutes of Health’s funding of useless and cruel sepsis experiments, petitions to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to provide two species of endangered monkeys commonly exploited by experimenters with protections under the Endangered Species Act, and a unique petition asking a judge to issue a criminal complaint against a federally funded national primate research center for the severe neglect of two monkeys imprisoned at the facility.
Lori received her law degree from Vermont Law School and studied political science at James Madison University. She joined the PETA Foundation’s legal department in 2000. She lives in Burlington, Vermont, where she shares her home with her rescued dog, two rescued cats, and two rescued geckos; serves on the advisory board of a state wildlife advocacy and anti-trapping organization; and is active in local government initiatives to improve the lives of Burlington’s nonhuman residents.
Director and Senior Counsel for Regulatory Affairs
As director and senior counsel for the Regulatory Affairs division, Elisabeth Custalow’s legal advocacy focuses on animals used in experimentation and the criminal abuse of animals. Prior to joining the PETA Foundation, she worked as a prosecutor, handling the gamut of offenses, including cruelty to animals. She received her B.A. from The College of William and Mary and her law degree from the University of Virginia.
Elisabeth lives in Charles City, Virginia, with her partner, a licensed veterinary technician; dog, Kimber, whose snoring is commonly heard during conference calls; cats, Elinor and Marianne; horses, Emma and Breezy; and, at any given time, a foster or fospice dog. In her free time, she is involved in all aspects of dog rescue.
Counsel, Regulatory Affairs
Regina Lazarus is counsel in the Regulatory Affairs division. She works closely with PETA’s Laboratory Investigation Department and on issues related to reptiles.
Before joining the PETA Foundation, Regina spent nearly two decades as a professional liability insurance underwriter. She earned her B.A. in philosophy and sociology and J.D. from Rutgers University and her M.S. in insurance management from Boston University. She is the author of “The Beef With Slaughtering the Slaughterhouse Inspector”—a note published in the Rutgers University Law Review—and is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association.
Regina lives in northern New Jersey with her two canine “attorneys-at-paw,” Buddy and Baby (who are often caught snoozing on the job), and her husband.
“PETA Foundation” is the d/b/a designation for the Foundation to Support Animal Protection. The group is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity and public charity and provides legal and other services to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. (“PETA”) and other entities as a section 509(a)(3) supporting organization. PETA Foundation lawyers frequently represent PETA as well as other entities and individuals. Through its commitment to animal law, the PETA Foundation continuously makes significant strides in protecting and advancing the rights of animals.