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We would like to thank the ASPCA and Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue for their generous support of both the 2013 and 2014 programs!
More Speaker bio's coming soon!
João B. Rodrigues DVM PhD

                               João received his degree in Veterinary Medicine from the                                         University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal in 2007.                                    He spent the next two years doing clinical work in Portugal                                    and Spain, mostly with endangered breeds of donkeys (the                                         Mirandês and the Zamorano-leonés donkeys). 

                        He has been responsible for many workshops focused on  donkeys health and welfare. During this same period he developed his interest, knowledge and skills in veterinary  dentistry. In 2009, He began his PhD program, focusing on research in the field of donkey dentistry in collaboration with the University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro and at Complutense University of Madrid. 

João B. Rodrigues is also a former partner and board member of the Portuguese Society of Veterinary Dentistry, and is classified as an Expert in Veterinary Dentistry and Maxillofacial Surgery by the Complutense University of Madrid.

João B. Rodrigues is a guest trainer in several international projects focused on improving the welfare of working equids in Portugal, Spain, Morocco (American Fondouk) and Mexico . 

As a result of his research work, João has attended some of the most relevant national and international conferences in his research field, being also the author of scientific papers in the field of donkey dentistry


Eric  graduated  from the  University  of  California  School  of 
Veterinary  Medicine  in 1977.  He  worked  as  a  farrier  prior 
to    his  veterinary  training   and  has   experience  in  private 
practice, veterinary academia (faculty University of Tennessee, 
staff   veterinarian   at   Iowa   State   University   and   Purdue 
University), specialty  practice,  and  veterinary  aid  programs. 
He  is  a  Diplomate  of  the  American  College  of   Veterinary 
Surgeons  and  the  American  College  of  Veterinary  Internal 
Medicine (LA). While  a  faculty  member  at  the  University  of 
Tennessee, in 1996, 

Eric started Remote Area Medical Veterinary Services, to provide veterinary care in underserved rural communities in the USA and abroad. These have included Indian Reservations and remote communities in 12 states in the USA. Internationally, he has run or participated in projects in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Egypt, and Sri Lanka.  

Currently, Eric is an associate veterinarian with the International Animal Welfare Training Institute, at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, working directly with students and concentrating on world equine health and welfare problems.  

Amy Dumas
Bureau of Land Management 
Wild Horse and Burro Program 
California State Office

After earning her BS in animal science at Cornell University in 1990, Amy went on to  Yale  University to  earn her  master's  degree in  conservation  biology in 1995.  In 2000, she  went to  work for the BLM as a  Wild  Horse and  Burro  Specialist in central Nevada, bringing with her a BLM mustang she had adopted from a neighbor.  

As a Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, hands-on burro experience seemed a good idea, so in 2003, Amy adopted a 2 year-old gelding from the BLM. Amy and her burro have participated in numerous parades, fairs, shows, expos, and visited schools educating people about the value of the burros. Amy has been the Wild Horse and Burro Program Manager for BLM California, based in Sacramento, since 2008, where she and her burro still do as much outreach as possible.

Ben Hart 
Equine Trainer

Ben is one of the UK's leading equine trainers, with a background in agriculture and a family history working with heavy horses. Ben has worked with horses, mules and donkeys all over the world: from mustangs and racehorses in California, stock horses in Australia, and working equines in Cambodia and Ethiopia. His approach utilizes the science of equine behavior rather than a single training method. This combined with his ability to work with human behavior and his delivery of training is unique, ensuring an outstanding training experience that is enjoyable and life changing.

Karen Rickards FRCVS PhD

Karen Rickards Qualified from Bristol University in 1994. Worked in private practice with a predominantly equine caseload and then did a PhD at The Royal Veterinary College investigating airway inflammation in horses with RAO followed by a postdoctoral position in the same subject area. Taught Pharmacology at Kings College London and then took up my current position as Principal Veterinary Surgeon at the Donkey Sanctuary where I have been for the last 7 years. We provide veterinary care for the 2,500 donkeys at the sanctuary and also support to colleagues caring for donkeys in our European bases. We provide training and education to vets, vet students, equine dental students, donkey owners, farriers and apprentices. We also provide help and advice to vets around the world.

Patricia M. Demers - 
 Lancaster, CA 
Trainer/instructor/ competitor/owner Carpe Diem Farm

Patricia Demers has been recognized by the Carriage Association of America as a level II instructor since 2010 and an evaluator I since 2013 through the Driver Proficiency Program. She earned her judging card from the American Mule Association in 2014. She is proficient with single and multiple hitches, and has driven equids from minis to mules to drafts, and of course, donkeys! She specializes in pleasure, obstacle, driven dressage, and combined driving. She also enjoys starting horses in harness and under saddle, and working with beginning riders and drivers. She has ridden hunters both astride and side saddle.
Leanne Proops PhD

Leanne is a  postdoctoral  fellow  conducting  research in the field of  equine 
cognition. She holds a 1st class honors degree in Experimental  Psychology 
from  Sussex  University and a  Masters  degree  (dist.) in  Animal  Behavior 
from  Exeter  University.  One of her  main interests is in comparative equine 
cognition, publishing research assessing welfare, learning and social behavior 
in donkeys, horses and mules. Her PhD explored  social  cognition in  horses 
and in 2009 she was awarded the Cozzarelli Prize at the National Academy of Science in America for her work looking at individual recognition in horses. In 2012 she moved to Tokyo University to study social behavior and temperament in feral Misaki horses, spending a year following a free-ranging population in Southern Japan. Now back with the research team at Sussex, she is working on a 3-year project investigating individual differences in emotional intelligence and social success in horses. She recently contributed to a project led by the British Equestrian Federation aimed at improving equine end of life welfare and continues to work closely with the Donkey Sanctuary on projects comparing donkey, horse and mule behavior and welfare needs.  

As well as conducting research, Leanne is a lecturer in comparative social cognition and referee for 16 international scientific journals. She is a Chartered Psychologist and member of The Association for the Study of Animal Behavior, Animal Behavior Society, The Comparative Cognition Society, International Society for Applied Ethology and the International Society for Equitation Science. 

Amy McLean PhD

Dr. McLean grew up on a donkey and mule farm in Georgia. She has devoted her professional career to conducting donkey and mule research that centers on improved management and well being of these animals.

She earned her Ph.D. in Equine Science from Michigan State University, where she focused on improving working donkey welfare in Mali, West Africa. Her research on this front has continued throughout her career, taking her to many countries, stemming from the idea that helping draught animals will ultimately help the people who care for them. 

She is currently the equine operations supervisor for the University of California Davis Animal Science program. In her free time serves as a board of director for the American Association of Equine Practitioners Equitarian Initiative. 

Francesca Compostella

"After gaining her veterinary degree, Francesca trained for five years in America, Scotland and England; completing a surgical residency in 2012. She worked as a surgeon and generic equine vet in south east England before joining SPANA as Veterinary Director in 2014 to help provide free veterinary care to working animals and train local vets, students, owners and paraprofessionals. She has since been overseeing all SPANA's veterinary, emergency and community operations internationally. "