A.K. Taylor

Investigator/BOD/President/Founder at Ring Dog Rescue/VAFTF

Amy Katherine Taylor has been working in animal welfare for over 18 years. As President and Founder of Ring Dog Rescue, working as an Animal Control Officer, and continuing her work as the Regional Field Investigator for the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force. Ms. Taylor holds a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Crime Scene Investigation, and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice. She is a trained Animal Control Officer and often instructs at different academies and continuing education seminars. Ms. Taylor is also a guest instructor at both the University of Richmond and William and Mary School of Law. Ms. Taylor has been qualified as an expert in animal fighting in several Virginia courts, the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, and has lead several investigations resulting in animal fighting convictions. Ms. Taylor shares her home with her rescued pit bull type dogs and 3 cats.

Alice Burton

Alley Cat Allies

Alice worked for 14 years for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, 3 of those as a Deputy Animal Control Officer and 11 of those as Chief of Animal Control. In 2014, she received The Virginia Animal Control Association’s Public Service Award, and was twice nominated as Animal Control Officer of the year by the Metropolitan Council of Governments. She also received a recognition of appreciation from the Arlington County Public Schools for her work in humane education. In 2016, Alice joined Alley Cat Allies as the Associate Director of Animal Control and Animal Shelter Engagement. Alice travels the country speaking at conferences, meeting with animal shelters and animal control departments on the benefits that a successful TNR program has on the community. Alice has used her own personal experience of not believing in TNR when her shelter first implemented the program to seeing the positive results. Alice not only has embraced TNR, but shares her experience with others so they, and their community, can also benefit from TNR. A member of the National Animal Care and Control and Virginia Animal Control Associations, Alice sits on the boards of The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies, Caring Hands Animal Support and Education (CHASE), and the National Animal Care and Control Association.

Alice O’Connor

Va Federation Of Humane Societies

Alice is the manager of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies’ “High Five VA” program, a lifesaving transfer initiative that creates a safety net for Virginia’s homeless animals through improving their chance for adoption in a new locale. As part of the Virginia Federation’s ‘Save VA Pets’ initiative, High Five VA is dedicated to decreasing the euthanasia of healthy and treatable animals in Virginia.

Amanda Arrington

Director of Pets for Life Program at The Humane Society of the United States

Amanda Arrington is the Director of the groundbreaking Pets for Life program of The Humane Society of the United States. Under Amanda’s leadership, teams working in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and 30 mentorship markets across the country are serving people and pets in underserved communities, ensuring access to pet care services and information for everyone regardless of geography or socio-economic challenges. Amanda is also the founder of Beyond Fences based in Durham, NC. Her work fuels compassion, fairness and equality for all people, pets and communities.

Amber Freiwald

Project Manager, Research at Maddie's Fund

As Project Manager for the Research Team, Amber manages all things Maddie's® Pet Assistant, our app to support adopters and foster caregivers after a pet goes home. Amber earned degrees in Marketing and Sociology from Tulane University, beginning her career in political grassroots organizing and volunteer management. However, pets in need were calling, so she packed her bags and dove into shelter medicine and management. First introduced to Maddie's Fund through the Summer Scholars program, she authored a journal publication on pet guardian attitudes toward medical interventions, with Dr. Litster at Purdue University. Her time there included an assistantship at Purdue's Veterinary Teaching Hospital and adoptions counseling at Almost Home Humane Society. Amber is extremely proud to use her research, training and management skills to advance the movement to eliminate euthanasia of healthy and treatable pets. She resides in Washington, D.C. with her "foster successes" Ducky and Booger.

Amy Schindler

Chief Operating Officer at Animal Welfare League of Arlington

Amy Schindler is the Chief Operating Officer at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington . She an affiliate member of the IAABC Shelter division, a certified pet dog trainer (CPDT-KA) and an expert in animal behavior. Amy evaluated animals for the Humane Society of the United States cruelty cases, traveling across the United States. She presented twice at HSUS expo. Her work includes helping other shelters by training and mentoring staff, volunteers and pet owners on behavior, training and enrichment practices. Amy's written articles were published for the IAABC Journal and as well as other publications. Previous to joining the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, she was the Operations Manager at the Jacksonville Humane Society overseeing behavior, shelter medical and animal care departments. During this time Amy also managed the animal behavior staff for the municipal shelter in the area.

Angela Rovetto

Region Manager - Mid Atlantic at Best Friends Animal Society

Angela has held many positions and various roles in her 12 years with Best Friends Animals Society, each providing hands on experience which she draws from daily in her current role. As Manager for the Mid Atlantic region, she works with shelters, rescues, animal welfare organizations and community leaders consulting on a myriad of topics including shelter operations & effective programming, coalition building, increasing community engagement and networking. With 6 states in the Mid Atlantic (of which VA is one) she and Regional Director Makena Yarborough work together to help identify needs, solve for solutions & motivate the collaboration necessary to save more lives in the region, towards Best Friends’ goal of reaching a No Kill nation by 2025.

April Harris

Director of Animal Welfare Insights at Adopt-a-Pet.com

April Harris is a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator(CAWA) and serves as Director of Animal Welfare Insights for Adopt-a-Pet.com, the nation’s largest non-profit adoptable pet search engine. Her credits include implementing sustainable social enterprise models, developing at-risk animal population programs and administering no-kill community partnerships. April has been in the animal welfare industry for over 18 years and has worked for both local and national animal welfare organizations including Maricopa County Animal Care & Control, Salt Lake County Animal Services, Best Friends Animal Society and Found Animals Foundation. April lives in Southern Utah and is the proud mother of 3 rescue dogs.

Barbara Hutcherson

Executive Director at Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation

Barbara Hutcherson is the Managing Director of Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation in Falls Church, VA. Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation (LDCRF) has been rescuing and placing animals since 2001, with same day adoptions, 100% spay/neuter prior to adoption, and a commitment to being people-friendly since its inception. To date, LDCRF has placed more than 33,000 dogs and cats and provided sanctuary to more than 50 farm animals. Barbara has been with LDCRF since 2004, as a volunteer, Foster Coordinator, Medical Care Director, Director of Programs, and Managing Director. Her efforts have been concentrated on growth, professionalism and innovation. LDCRF recently purchased a building in Falls Church VA and moved dog and cat care from the Lost Dog Ranch in Faquier County to the new location where a thriving volunteer base offers opportunities for enhanced animal care and enrichment, as well as community engagement. From 2015-2016 Barbara was the Acting Director of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, and prior to that served as the Animal Care Manager and Humane Educator. Before she found and fell in love with animal welfare, Barbara was a high school teacher, with a MEd in Curriculum and Instruction and a BA in Social Studies.

Becky Robinson

President & Founder at Alley Cat Allies

Becky Robinson is President and Founder of Alley Cat Allies, the nation’s leading cat advocacy organization. She stands at the forefront of the movement to protect and improve the lives of all cats. Becky founded Alley Cat Allies in 1990 after discovering a colony of alley cats in Washington, DC. Right then and there, she resolved to protect alley cats. She and the organization popularized Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) in the United States and developed best practices that are still in place. Becky established three spay/neuter clinics in the Washington, DC area that are models for feral cat veterinary care. Her book, The Evolution of the Cat Revolution, documents 25 years of pioneering efforts to revolutionize the way cats are treated in the United States. She also has her own column for the Huffington Post. Becky holds an M.A. in Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She lives with her husband, Ed, and five cats in Arlington, VA, where she cares for a feral cat colony.

Caitlin Daly

Executive Director at Fredericksburg SPCA

I graduated from Longwood University in 2008 with a B..S. in Industrial Psychology and Sociology. Shortly after graduation I began volunteering for a small animal shelter in between working a 9-5 and on weekends. There was something about animal rescue that set my soul on fire, while my career path was something I felt more and more dispassionate about. After trying to make it work for almost two years, I decided to take a chance and took a job as a kennel tech at a nonprofit animal shelter in Greensboro, NC. I quickly climbed the ranks and after less than a year, I became the shelter manager. In 2012, I accepted my first Executive Director position at another small nonprofit located in Elon, NC. There, I increased profits by 333% in two years and helped bring the first law to ban tethering from dream to reality in the small town. The organization went from saving 50 lives per year to over 500 by developing positive relationships with local veterinarians and the municipal shelter, relationships which had been poor or nonexistent prior to my arrival. After a few years, and because I needed a new challenge, I accepted the position of Executive Director at the Fredericksburg SPCA. We have improved lifesaving by over 33%, and our community engagement and awareness has increased by over 200%. We continue to make huge strides towards becoming a more progressive, all-encompassing resource for the people in our community while increasing lifesaving through innovative programs. One such program, Adventure Tails, has gained National recognition for the low barrier approach to getting animals out into day-foster. We have seen over a 50% reduction in length of stay (from 20+ days to 10) and a 19% increase in adoption since the program launched in April 2017. I am very excited to share this program with anyone willing to listen!

Chief Jennifer Toussaint

Chief of Animal Control at Animal Welfare League of Arlington

Jennifer Toussaint is the Chief of Animal Control in Arlington County, Virginia at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Jennifer joined the Animal Control team in early 2012 and assumed the Chief position in 2016. Jennifer has implemented a local ordinance in relation to exotic animal care and ownership. She has also expanded the Animal Control Departments outreach efforts in providing additional support to pet owners to enable high owner pet retention in the community. She specializes in Humane Urban Wildlife Management practices and has been published multiple times on the topic and presented at the 2017 HSUS Expo as well as the National Animal Control Association Conference. Jennifer is the 2017 recipient of the Virginia Animal Control Association Dr. Kent Roberts Animal Control Officer of the Year and received a commendation from the VA General Assembly. She is a graduate of Moravian College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Spanish.

Chris Roy

CEO at Doobert

Chris Roy is a technology guy in his "day" job and used his experience to create Doobert.com which is an online software platform custom-built for animal rescuers. It's like a combination of Match.com specifically for animal shelters and rescues to find new partners, and then a volunteer Uber for getting the animals where they need to go. Chris enjoys helping provide technology solutions to some of the biggest challenges in animal rescue and is always looking for new ways to help animals and the people that care for them. Chris is supported by his amazing wife Daphne, and together they have 5 furkids, 4 cats and 1 dog.

Debra Griggs

President at Virginia Federation of Humane Societies

Debra Griggs is President of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies. She founded Animal Resources of Tidewater, and was the founding Chair of the Animal Welfare Coalition of Hampton Roads. Previously she was President of the Junior League of Norfolk-Virginia Beach, Chair of the Ryan White Care Consortium, Chair of the Women’s Multicultural Coalition and served on the Board of the Hampton Roads REALTORS Association. She was awarded the Converse College Alumni Community Service Award for her volunteer efforts. Debra is a committed advocate for ending discrimination – whether it is based upon gender, race, ethnicity, or those marginalized by circumstance such as homelessness or AIDS. As an animal welfare advocate, she is a leader in the effort to end dog breed discrimination. Debra is the Managing Broker of RE/MAX Central in Norfolk and shares her home with husband, Steve, a retired Engineer and their beloved dogs Cotton, Marley, Max and Snowball.

Finnegan Dowling

Maddie's® Program and Social Media Manager at Mutual Rescue

Finnegan Dowling is the Maddie's® Program and Social Media Manager for Mutual Rescue, a national initiative of Humane Society Silicon Valley that encourages people to engage with their local shelters. A longtime leader in social media, HSSV and Mutual Rescue campaigns have caught the attention of the media and won both Shorty and Communicator Awards and are featured in marketing and animal sheltering seminars around the country. Finn has worked in shelters in Washington State, Colorado, California and Nicaragua. A graduate of The Evergreen State College, her writing has also been published in The Bark, Bay Woof, SFGate and Huffington Post. A key part of her current position involves helping shelters across the country start and market day fostering programs. She is the creator of the Doggy Day Out Toolkit, a free resource of manuals and templates to help even the smallest shelters start programs of their own.

Heidi Meinzer

Manger/Member at Law Office of Heidi Meinzer, PLLC

Heidi has practiced law since 2000, and set up the Law Office of Heidi Meinzer, PLLC in Alexandria, Virginia in 2013 to focus her practice on animal law. She is licensed to practice law in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Washington State. Heidi devotes countless hours to animal welfare and state and local legislative efforts, and serves as a board member with the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies, Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

John Griffin

Senior Director of Urban Wildlife Programs at The Humane Society of the United States

John Griffin has 20+ years of field experience ranging from working on conflict issues with urban raccoons to protecting great apes. As Senior Director of Urban Wildlife Programs for the HSUS, John works with communities across the country to adopt effective and humane solutions to human-wildlife conflicts. John oversees field service and policy programs that resolve conflicts with wildlife and is a frequent speaker on that topic. John has provided trainings and consultation for animal care and control, municipal agencies and state agencies. He has led workshops at national, state and regional conferences, and has been a speaker at academic and international conferences. John has also worked extensively with the professional wildlife rehabilitation community as well as to reform the wildlife control industry. John is published on a number of topics and recently completed a stint as a National Geographic Expedition team member exploring raccoon behavior in urban areas.

Julie Barger

Director of Development at Lynchburg Humane Society

Julie Barger began her career as a high end childrens fashion designer and business owner of Morfs Brand Clothing. After 15 years of designing, and selling her fashion line to such stores as Barney’s, Nordstroms, Garnet Hill, Target, Fred Segal and Kitson and as a licensee for Sesame Street, Star Wars, Marvel and Disney, she decided to volunteer at her local shelter after business partners took over the day to operations of her line. She began fostering kittens and shortly thereafter worked a part time front desk position at the Lynchburg Humane Society. When a new building was ready to be built she was offered the position of Development Director and has been responsible for fundraising, donor relations and special events for 4 years now. She is responsible for raising over 1 million in donations yearly. She has two daughters, three dogs and a cat and has lived in Lynchburg Virginia for 24 years.

Karen Walsh

Director, Animal Relocation Initiative, Shelter Outreach at ASPCA

Karen S Walsh, CAWA, LVMT, CFE is the Director of Animal Relocation for the ASPCA and the former executive director of the McKamey Animal Center in Chattanooga, TN. She graduated from Blue Ridge in Virginia with a degree in veterinary technology and has achieved designations as a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator and a Certified Compassion Fatigue Educator. Karen has held leadership positions in both veterinary and animal welfare organizations and was appointed to serve on the Tennessee state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. Karen lives in Tennessee with her husband, Tom, their four children, and a menagerie of furry and feathered family members on their small, but beautiful farm.

Kate Pullen


Kate Pullen joined the staff of the ASPCA in November of 2005 with the specific job of assisting the Louisiana SPCA recover from the effects of hurricane Katrina. She is now a Senior Director for ASPCA Shelter Outreach, working again with organizations around the country, helping them find opportunities, grow programs, and solve problems. Kate has over 26 years of shelter experience and prior to joining the ASPCA she was the Director of Animal Sheltering Issues for the Humane Society of the United States from 2000-2005. Prior to HSUS, Kate was the director of was the Director of the Humane Society of Baltimore County from 1990 to 1992, the Director of The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, VA, from 1993-2000. Kate is a sought after speaker/advisor and expert on shelter operations, program development, shelter design, program implementation, disaster response, crisis intervention, board operations, and, strategic development. She provides extensive advice on a variety of topics to the animal welfare industry. Kate has a degree in Business Administration and currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Katie Schmuke

Shelter Partnership Lead at Purina

Katie Schmuke is the Shelter Partnership Lead on Purina’s Pet Welfare Team. Her career started at the Central Missouri Humane Society as an Adoption Counselor, which eventually led her to a job at Purina. She currently manages all animal welfare conferences for her team, as well as the Adoption Options workshop series. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband and their aspiring dog models, Lenny and Sullie, who can be found lounging next to her desk at work every day.

Kayleigh Raposa

Adoption Center Manager at Lynchburg Humane Society

Kayleigh has been working at the Lynchburg Humane Society for two and a half years, beginning as an adoption counselor. Her experience with horses and training at an early age lent itself to learning more about the training and behavior side of animal welfare, and it has since become one of her passions. She has spent time in each department and brings her well-rounded view and behavior knowledge to her position as the Adoption Center Manager.

Kelly Clardy

Senior Grants Specialist at Maddie's Fund

As the Senior Grants Specialist at Maddie’s Fund, Kelly is responsible for managing the Maddie’s Fund online grants portal, and in her 4 years at Maddie’s Fund has reviewed thousands of grant applications and proposals. Growing up, her family always rescued animals... from a local shelter, from friends, and even from a pile of rocks behind her father's office building! Kelly has degree in Sociology from Roanoke College. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Troy, and their cats, Buster and Murray.

Kelly Duer

Foster Care Specialist at Maddie’s Fund

Laura Murphy

Development Manager at Lynchburg Humane Society

Laura began work with the Lynchburg Humane Society in 2015 and currently serves as Manager of the Development Department. She prides herself on her customer service skills and devout love for animals. Laura's passion for animals was evident at an early age, as she dressed her cats in doll clothes and bonnets to stroll through the neighborhood with dogs following in tow. Laura shares her home with 2 dogs, 4 cats and a teenage son. Her faithful canine companion, Beau, can usually be found at Laura's side or sleeping under her desk.

Lavenda Denney

Executive Director at SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties

Lavenda is a non profit professional with over 15 years of non-profit management experience. She has degrees from both Western Kentucky University and Shenandoah University. She began working in animal welfare in 2011 when she began to serve as the executive director for the Humane Society of Warren County. Lavenda and her dedicated staff and volunteers worked collaboratively to increase the shelter’s overall live release rate and make the Humane Society of Warren County a no-kill facility and Warren County a no-kill community. Lavenda was asked to serve as the executive director for the SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke in 2017. Since that time she has worked diligently to increase the SPCA's presence in the community and ensure a positive result for homeless animals in Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke. Lavenda resides in Winchester, Virginia with her husband, Thomas. Together they have one daughter, Victoria and two dogs, Manny and Sammy.

Lindsey Huffman

Board Member at Virginia Federation of Humane Societies

Lindsey Huffman is the Director of Lifesaving Programs for the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, Lindsey has been with the CASPCA since April of 2018. In this role Lindsey develops and oversees such shelter programs as Foster, Volunteer, Adoptions, Transfer, Animal Care and Enrichment. Lindsey has been working with Maddie’s Fund Field Trip and Sleepover Foster Apprenticeships by hosting apprentices at the CASPCA, this year the program will facilitate 48 apprentices from around the country through the CASPCA location. Lindsey has been a board member of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies for 2 years and strongly supports the mission of No-Kill Virginia by 2020. Prior to working in Charlottesville, Lindsey served as the Director of Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center in Lyndhurst, VA. Lindsey’s career as an animal welfare professional began in 2013 with the opportunity to become the Assistant Director of SVASC. SVASC opened in 2011 after 3 municipalities separated from the local SPCA. The SPCA held the contract with animal control and functioned as a private shelter for 20 years. In 2011 the Augusta Regional SPCA’s euthanasia rate was 60%. Upon opening, SVASC was predicted to have a euthanasia rate of 85%. Much to the surprise of everyone, in 2012, SVASC had euthanized just 33% of the animals in its care, beating expectations by more than half. In 2014, she became Director of SVASC and was able to share her life saving mission. That year, SVASC saved 95% of the animals that walked through the doors. In 2016 and 2017, SVASC saved more lives than ever, despite the highest intake level in shelter history. During this period SVASC adopted, transferred, or reconnected 97% of the animals in care. Lindsey has learned how to save lives despite limited resources, very tight budgets and very little support from the local governing bodies, but continued to strive for a higher quality of care through sustainable lifesaving programs.

Lisa O’Neill

Executive Director at Angels of Assisi

Lisa O’Neill is the Executive Director at Angels of Assisi, a nonprofit community pet clinic and adoption center. Under her leadership, the agency’s mission of decreasing pet overpopulation and adopting homeless pets has expanded from one of helping animals to also embracing the people who care for them, including programs for victims of domestic violence, hospice patients, and accessible veterinary care for underserved neighborhoods. In addition to these services, Angels of Assisi has performed over 100,000 spay/neuter surgeries, offers wellness and sick animal medical care, and has become the top adoption agency in the Roanoke Valley. Prior to joining the Angels of Assisi team, Lisa was a registered nurse, certified in nephrology to better care for dialysis and transplant patients, implementing programs to increase quality of life for both patients and their caregivers. She has been awarded the Loving Care Award from the National Kidney Association, The Renal Rehabilitation Award from Medicare’s Dialysis Initiatives, the President’s Award from the Virginia Animal Control Association and with her team won First in Division in the national ASPCA Rachael Ray 100K Adoption Challenge. Angels of Assisi is a partner of the Humane Society of the United States, with Lisa holding the role of District Leader, the ASPCA, and Best Friends. Her favorite accolade, however, is the reputation that Angels of Assisi has for being “the hardest working charity in town”. Lisa and her family live at and manage Harmony Farm Sanctuary, a division of Angels of Assisi designed to provide safe refuge to farm animals and offer a place for law enforcement to house these animals in need. Her kindergarten teacher wrote on her report card that she was the peace keeper of the class, and able to get people to work together for a common goal, a trait that has strengthened over the years to benefit the animals, and people, in her community.

Lori Hensley

Director Of Operations at Beyond Fences

Lori Hensley holds a degree in Mathematics and a masters in School Counseling both of which she puts to good use as Director of Operations of Beyond Fences. For eleven years, Lori has worked with Amanda Arrington, Founder of Beyond Fences, to bring attention to how poverty and structural inequity create obstacles to accessing affordable veterinary and pet wellness services. She is the 2015 recipient of the APSCA's Henry Bergh Award and the 2016 recipient of the Indy Week’s Citizen Award. Lori lives in Durham, NC with her husband Robert and their three dogs.

Makena Yarbrough

Regional Director - Mid-Atlantic Region at Best Friends Animal Society

Makena Yarbrough is the Mid-Atlantic regional director for Best Friends Animal Society. She is working with coalitions and partners in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia to establish lifesaving programs and policies to help them reach no-kill by 2025. In her home state of Virginia, she is a board member for the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies and has been working toward a no-kill Virginia for many years. Before joining Best Friends, Makena was the executive director of the Lynchburg Humane Society, the largest no-kill organization in the state of Virginia, and was recognized by Maddie’s Fund as a recipient of the 2018 Maddie Hero Award. When she joined Lynchburg Humane Society in July 2009 as its first executive director, the organization’s save rate was 49 percent. She quickly worked with the organization’s board to develop and implement a long-range plan to take the community to no-kill. Under her leadership, the organization tripled the size of the board of directors; developed a more financially equitable relationship with the city of Lynchburg; began managing the regional spay/neuter clinic; created a citywide effort to provide free spay/neuter for community cats; and substantially increased community funding, awareness and involvement in the cause. The result was an increase in the save rate to 94 percent. Makena began her animal welfare career in 2000 with the Richmond SPCA, first as the director of education and then as the director of operations. Before assuming her position at the Lynchburg Humane Society, Makena was the associate director for the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA.

Marnie Russ

Co-founder at National Kitten Coalition

Matthew Brown

Director of Lifesaving Operations at Angels of Assisi

Matthew is the Director of Lifesaving Operations at Angels of Assisi. He started at the organization as a volunteer and was quickly added to staff as the volunteer coordinator. He got is BS at Roanoke College in Computer Information Systems and after some time in the nonprofit field got his Masters in Nonprofit Management, Graduate Fundraising Certificate and became a Certified Nonprofit Professional from the University of Central Florida. Matthew uses his education and experience to strategically grow the organization and its programs to sustainably help the people and pets of Southwest Virginia.

Matthew Gray-Keeling

Virginia State Director at The Humane Society of the United States

Matthew Gray-Keeling is the Virginia State Director for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Matthew has led The HSUS to significant legislative victories in Virginia including passage of bills prohibiting the sale of puppy mill dogs in Virginia pet stores; prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats on roadsides, in parking lots and in flea markets; and restricting the use of animals in product testing and research. He has also led The HSUS to pass more than a dozen local ordinances protecting animals in Virginia communities, including bans on exotic pets and restrictions on the chaining of dogs. The HSUS-backed ordinance passed by the Richmond City Council in 2015, to prohibit the use of the bull-hook on elephants, was one of many nationwide that contributed to the retirement of the elephants owned by Ringling Brothers Circus. Before joining HSUS in late 2014, Matthew served for six years as Executive Director of Virginia Public Safety Foundation (VPSF). Matthew is a Richmond native. In 2015, he was appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to a four-year term on the Board of Visitors of James Madison University, his alma mater. He previously served on the board of directors of Richmond Triangle Players, a performing arts theater focusing on equality, identity, affection and family across sexual orientation and gender spectrums. He lives in Richmond with his husband, Rob, and children, Max and Mary Elizabeth.

Michelle Welch

Senior Assistant Attorney General at Virginia Attorney General's Office

Michelle 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. In 2018, Ms. Welch gave the keynote address on Keynote Address “Prosecuting Animal Crimes and the Link between Animal Violence and Human Violence: Success of Va’s Animal Law Unit” at University of Barcelona’s Investigation and Criminal Profiling Conference: “Animal cruelty: Relevance in violent crimes and forensic evaluation.” Live Feed via Skype; Barcelona, Spain In 2015, Ms. Welch was asked by the Greek Police and the Pan-Hellenic Animal Welfare Federation to accompany the LAPD Animal Abuse Unit to Greece, to train the Greek Police force on the link between animal and human violence and how to investigate animal cruelty crimes. Ms. Welch also met with the Greek state public prosecutors regarding the challenges of prosecuting these cases. Ms. Welch returned to Greece in September 2017 to train the Greek police further on animal crime and to conduct prosecutor training regarding family violence and pet abuse. In 2016 Ms. Welch spoke before members of the United Kingdom Parliament, at the request of the League Against Cruel Sports. She was the first person to address street level dogfighting in Parliament in over 100 years. She lectured on dogfighting and lessons we have learned in the United States regarding the crime of dogfighting. She also spoke to their judicial advocates regarding sentencing options in the U.K. Criminal System. Ms. Welch serves as the President of the Virginia Animal Fighting Taskforce. She frequently works with animal organizations, such as the Animal Welfare Institute, HSUS, ALDF and ASPCA. She is a senior faculty member for the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA). She is the Chair of the Animal Law Curriculum Advisory Committee for the APA. She is adjunct faculty for Animal Law at the University of Richmond Law School and William & Mary Law School. In 2015, HSUS gave her Office, the US Attorney's Office, USDA, and ABC the Law Enforcement Award for bringing to justice one of the largest cockfighting rings in KY, which had ties to Virginia. Michelle and this dynamic team of Agents and Prosecutors worked for two years on this investigation. In 2014, she was named Prosecutor of the Year by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. In 2013, she was named one of the Top 10 Animal Defenders in the Nation by Animal Legal Defense Fund. She was presented with the Albert Schweitzer Medal for her work on behalf of the animals in 2012 by the Animal Welfare Institute. She has also been awarded Virginia Animal Control Association’s and the Virginia Federation of Humane Society’s President's Award in 2010. She has also received Humane Society of United State’s Law Enforcement Award in 2008.

Nicole Juchem

Foundation Manager at Animal Farm Foundation

Nicole Juchem,  Foundation Manager, began her career in animal welfare 2013 when she started working for Animal Farm Foundation. She has a background in business and over a decade of customer service experience. Nicole oversees most Foundation matters but says the best part of her job is getting to work with the amazing folks in animal welfare as they redefine sheltering. Thanks to her excellent work, many shelters have dropped breed labels, and view all dogs as individuals.

Nicole Mirabelli

Project Architect at Bacon Group, Inc. Architecture

Nicole is an architect with a wide variety of design and project management experience. A keen interest in animal rights and welfare led her to join the Bacon Group team where she develops design solutions appropriate for the pet care industry. She is a Project Architect responsible for managing projects from inception through construction with credentials that include a Bachelor of Architecture from New Jersey Institute of Technology and registrations in both Pennsylvania and Florida. She is Level 2 Fear FreeSM Certified and trained in recognizing and reducing the fear, anxiety, and stress that animals often exhibit in veterinary environments. Additionally, she is accredited in LEED sustainable design, the WELL Building Standard, and Evidence-Based Design for healthcare facilities. These specialties connect how the built environment impacts the planet as well as the health and well-being of those living on it. At the center of Nicole’s life are her senior/special-needs dogs.

Rob Leinberger

Animal Control Supervisor at Richmond Animal Care & Control

Rob Leinberger has an amazing girlfriend, two children, a dog, a cockatiel, a bearded dragon, and a red-footed tortoise. He’s an Eagle Scout and worked as a veterinary assistant during high school. In December 1991, he became an Animal Control Officer for Chesterfield County. Rob joined Richmond Animal Care & Control in January 2016 as the Animal Control Supervisor. He teaches an animal control basic course for new animal control officers in the region. Rob has an Associate’s Degree in Police Science and a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management. In 2011, he completed a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management at the University of Richmond. In October 2009, he was elected to the board of directors for the Virginia Animal Control Association and currently serves as its Past President. In September 2012, Rob joined the board of directors for the National Animal Care & Control Association, has been the NACA President and currently serves as Past President.

Sgt. Erin Brogan

Sergeant at Shenandoah County Sheriff's Department, VAFTF, VFHS Board Member

Sgt. Brogan has been in Law Enforcement since 2007. She currently works for the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office where she is in charge of Animal Control, Civil Process, Auxiliary and the Chaplain Program. She takes great pride in saving animals lives and educating the community on animal welfare.

Sue Bell

Executive Director at Homeward Trails

Sue is a VFHS Board Member, Founder and Executive Director of Homeward Trails Animal Rescue and a Board member of VA’s only political action committee, Humane Dominion. Sue has overseen the transfer and transport of more than 20,000 animals from lower resourced areas around the country (and internationally) to Homeward Trails since its founding in 2002.

Susanne Kogut

President and Executive Director at Petco Foundation

Susanne Kogut is the President of the Petco Foundation. Since 1999, the Petco Foundation has invested more than $230 million in lifesaving animal welfare organizations and partners with Petco and more than 4,000 animal welfare partners across the country to increase pet adoptions, helping find more than 5.5 million pets their new loving families. Prior to joining the Petco Foundation, she was the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA Executive Director, where she transformed the open-admission SPCA into a model organization recognized nationally for its lifesaving efforts. Before embarking on her animal welfare career, Susanne held several positions at Capital One Financial Corporation, including associate general counsel, director of corporate finance and director of community reinvestment. Prior to that, she was a corporate finance & securities attorney in Washington, D.C. She received her B.A. in Finance in 1986 and J.D. in 1990 from the University of Houston. Susanne shares her home her with six dogs.

Teresa Villatoro

Cat Behavior Counselor at Animal Welfare League of Arlington

Teresa Villatorro has been involved in cat behavior for several years. Not only has Teresa has studied through IAABC, she has attending many workshops, seminars and information sessions. She uses easy, reward based methods to encourage happy, healthy behavior in cats. Teresa has taught cat behavior and training classes for cats of all ages. Her Kitten Kindergarten class helps kittens receive important social experiences at an early age. Teresa's focus is to teach staff, volunteers and the community how to use enrichment and training to reduce feline stress. She has used her knowledge to teach pet owners and prevent them from giving up on their cats when behavior challenges occur.