About this year’s speakers

We are excited to announce an engaging list of speakers to educate, inspire and exchange ideas at this year’s conference. Learn more about these very special featured guests below.

Kristen Auerbach

Kristen Auerbach is the deputy chief animal services officer at the Austin Animal Center in Austin, Texas. The Austin Animal Center is a national leader in no-kill animal sheltering, saving more than 94 percent of the 18,000 animals that came through its doors last year. Since 2011, Austin has been the largest no-kill city in America.

Kristen previously served as the assistant director at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Fairfax, Virginia, where she helped to overturn pit bull adoption restrictions, double adoptions and cut euthanasia in half, bringing Fairfax County to no-kill. During her tenure, she implemented dog play groups, a comprehensive in-shelter enrichment program for cats and dogs, and lifesaving foster programs.

Kristen presents and writes regularly on a variety of subjects, including breed labeling, reduction of shelter intake, innovative foster care and social media for animal welfare leadership. Her efforts have been featured in numerous national publications and websites, such as Animal Sheltering magazine, the Huffington Post, BarkPost, the Dodo and Buzzfeed, and on TV networks, including CNN, Fox and ABC.

Allie Bender

Allie Bender is the lead dog trainer at Best Friends Animal Society. She has been working with rescue groups and shelters since 2006 in various capacities, including founding a student-run organization to aid local shelters with fundraising, supplying volunteers and providing education to the public about animal shelter issues.

Allie graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Iowa State University. During her education, she spearheaded a research study exploring the effects of enrichment on stereotypical behavior in shelter dogs.

In her position at Best Friends, Allie is now able to combine her two great loves, homeless animals and animal behavior, to help dogs find and stay in their forever homes. Allie has been training dogs professionally since 2012. She is a certified professional dog trainer–knowledge assessed (CPDT-KA) and an Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) evaluator, and is certified by TAGteach at the primary level.

Arlyn Bradshaw

Arlyn Bradshaw serves as the executive director of Best Friends Animal Society–Utah, overseeing the lifesaving programs that are turning Utah into a no-kill state. Together with the No-Kill Utah (NKUT) initiative and its coalition of more than 50 animal welfare organizations, Best Friends–Utah runs its own pet adoption center, kitten nursery, and two spay/neuter clinics.

In addition to Arlyn’s work with Best Friends, he is also an elected member of the Salt Lake County Council. Among his top priorities as an elected official is ensuring that Salt Lake County Animal Services — the largest animal services agency in the state — maintains its status as a no-kill shelter.

Arlyn graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in Public Administration. Prior to Best Friends, he worked at the University of Utah as the assistant dean of students. Originally from rural Idaho, Arlyn has been active in Utah politics and the University of Utah community for more than a decade. He lives in Salt Lake City with his partner, Neil Webster. They have three rescue pit bulls, Bella, Atticus and Sweet Pea, and a dachshund named Fritz.

Kristi Brooks

Kristi Brooks is the director of operations for Cat Adoption Team (CAT), the Northwest’s largest adoption-guaranteed, cat-focused shelter. CAT finds homes for approximately 2,800 cats each year, including more than 800 “graduates” of the kitten foster program. Kristi started fostering in 2002, taking over coordination of the kitten foster program in 2004 and developing it into a nationally recognized model. Kristi has traveled to shelters across the country to help them implement kitten foster programs based on CAT’s model, resulting in dramatic increases in save rates in these shelters.

Kristi is an active member of the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland’s leadership team and lifesaving committee, working closely with county shelter partners to increase the feline save rate in the greater Portland metro area from 46 percent in 2006 to 93 percent in 2015. Kristi lives just outside of Portland with her husband, daughter and adopted cat, Kate.

Sue Citro

Sue Citro, Best Friends’ chief digital officer, is responsible for leveraging the organization’s digital/mobile efforts and helping the organization to work in new ways by setting up an enterprise-wide digital strategy.

Before joining Best Friends, Sue led new digital expansions for the Nature Conservancy in Asia and Latin America. She also grew the organization’s U.S. digital revenue practice into a steady and reliable funding source.

She started her career working at Peace Corps headquarters, followed by time at a direct-mail agency and four years testing and piloting email strategies to drive e-commerce sales for Barnes & Noble’s magazine subsidiary. Later, she led the digital consulting division at a company since acquired by Blackbaud.

Sue holds a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University and published a thesis that examines the Internet’s changing role and impact on public service advertising. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Jeremy, and their rescue dog, Brody the Rottweiler.

Dana Collins

still to come

Tim Crum

Tim Crum is a nationally recognized expert on fundraising, board governance and shelter operations in the animal sheltering industry. He is often called upon to speak at national and regional conferences. As founder and CEO of Animal Shelter Fundraising, Tim has consulted with 200 animal welfare groups across the country and has raised in excess of $200 million for those groups. In 2013, Tim co-founded Animal Shelter Services to help animal shelters and rescue groups with operational issues ranging from shelter evaluations to board development to interim management. He has visited more than 300 animal shelters in 49 states and seven countries.

As lead presenter for Humane College, Tim travels extensively around the country giving fundraising workshops, presentations and motivational speeches to hundreds of animal welfare professionals each year. His fundraising knowledge, coupled with his creativity, enthusiasm and quick wit, make him popular with audiences.

Tim is the author of three books: the highly praised An Animal Shelter's Guide to Fundraising, An Animal Shelter's Guide to Board Governance, and his most recent book, An Animal Shelter's Guide to Capital Campaigns.

Denise Deisler

Denise Deisler joined the Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS) in September 2011. She immediately built bridges and developed productive partnerships; increased revenue while reducing expenses; recruited an energetic, talented and enthusiastic board; and implemented new initiatives that contributed significantly to the community’s no-kill goal.

New programs like a kitten nursery and a renewed focus on transfers from the city’s shelter resulted in an additional 1,000 lives saved in her first year alone. Fall 2015 marks the second year in a row that Jacksonville has achieved a city-wide live release rate of more than 90 percent, making it the largest community in the U.S. to do so.

In addition, the campaign to replace the JHS shelter, which burned to the ground in 2007, has passed the halfway mark under Denise’s direction, raising in excess of $7 million. JHS is on track to be operating in the new shelter by April 2017, the 10th anniversary of the devastating fire.

Denise has extensive public speaking experience and enjoys training on a wide variety of topics, including building successful partnerships, community engagement, board and staff development, and no-kill programs. She currently serves as president of the Florida Association of Animal Welfare Organizations. She was selected by Best Friends Animal Society to be one of 20 experts to participate in a think tank of professionals to help shape and advance the national no-kill agenda.

Before coming to Jacksonville, she was the executive director of the Humane Society of Manatee County. Denise orchestrated a public-private partnership that ended trap and kill for feral cats, and she led lobbying efforts that resulted in the county becoming the first municipality in the state of Florida to formally adopt a no-kill plan.

In addition, as the chief operating officer of the Richmond SPCA, Denise led efforts that transformed the city’s approach to animal homelessness while conducting a capital campaign that raised $14.2 million for the construction of a new humane care and education center.

Elizabeth Doyle

Elizabeth Doyle is the senior creative copywriter for Best Friends Animal Society and head of their copywriting department. She and her team write all of Best Friends’ fundraising, marketing and stewardship materials, and more. She’s been with Best Friends for 14 years.

Originally an historical romance novelist from Austin, Texas, Elizabeth has had seven books published in three languages, and consequently knows more about pirate ships than most pirates do. She was a part of Austin Pets Alive when it first formed in the 1990s, and ran the No-Kill Handbill daily for several years.

Jackson Galaxy

Best known as the host and executive director of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell, Jackson Galaxy has over two decades of experience in the cat behavior world. The Cat Daddy is also a New York Times best-selling author, founder of the Jackson Galaxy Foundation (JacksonGalaxyFoundation.org) and, in his longest role, the president of Spirit Essences, the first and only line of holistic remedies for animals formulated by a holistic veterinarian and animal behaviorist.

Jackson began his career in the trenches of an animal shelter, spending nine years on staff at Boulder Valley Humane Society. During that time, he met Dr. Jean Hofve, a respected holistic veterinarian, and together they refined her line of holistic remedies for animals. Spirit Essences was begun in 1995 and used as part of a holistic approach to health and behavior in the shelter as well as in Jackson’s private cat consultation business. Sixteen years later, after Jackson had moved to Los Angeles to continue running both businesses, longtime customers and clients watched as the company’s co-founder — who bottled remedies, answered phones and packed their orders — became an internationally known TV host and star.

Animal Planet premiered My Cat From Hell in 2011. An immediate hit, it has followed the Cat Daddy for six top-rated seasons as he has made house calls to pet guardians and their cats. Jackson’s presence offers clients a deeper understanding of why cats act out, with insights and exercises from his unique “Cat Mojo” philosophy.

Jackson’s first book, Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean, was a memoir published in 2012. His second book, co-authored with cat style expert Kate Benjamin, was Catification: Designing a Happy & Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!). Upon its release in 2014, it reached number one on the New York Times animal best-seller list. Jackson and Kate struck best-seller gold again with Catify to Satisfy: Simple Solutions for Creating a Cat-Friendly Home, published in fall 2015, inspiring and teaching cat guardians how to beautify their homes and address common cat behavior problems at the same time.

In the pet products world, a line of innovative cat items, from toys to carriers (co-designed by Jackson), is available through Petmate Pet Products. Called the Jackson Galaxy Collection, the line has received the Industry Recognition Award from Pet Business magazine and the Editor’s Choice Award from Cat Fancy, honors that ranked it among 2014’s best products for cats.

Jackson serves on the board of directors for FixNation, and sits on the board of advisors for Neighborhood Cats, Treehouse Humane, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Today, Jackson is intensifying his work for animals through the Jackson Galaxy Foundation, the mission of which is to better the lives of at-risk animals by transforming the places where they live and helping the people who care for them. Featured on 20/20, Today, the Ellen DeGeneres Show, the Tonight Show and EXTRA, and in the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post and more, Jackson Galaxy's ability to connect with even the most troubled felines — not to mention the stressed-out humans living in their wake — is awe-inspiring.

Phiphi Gavalas

Phiphi Gavalas, a marketing manager at Best Friends Animal Society, oversees marketing for national programs, including events, initiatives, corporate partnerships, development and spay/neuter awareness. She previously served as the communications manager for Best Friends–Los Angeles, leading marketing and communications for the No-Kill Los Angeles (NKLA) initiative and the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Mission Hills.

Before joining Best Friends, she was an account supervisor at a public relations and marketing agency, where she served clients from a variety of industries, from health care to retail to food and beverage. Phiphi holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from California State University, Long Beach, as well as a master’s degree in communication management from the University of Southern California. She resides in San Jose, California, with her husband Nik, daughter Ava, and their dog Archie.

Scott Giacoppo

Scott Giacoppo has been involved in animal protection since 1989, when he became an animal caregiver in Minneapolis. He soon returned to his native home in Boston, Massachusetts, where he began his career with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For the next 17 years, Scott worked for the MSPCA in a variety of positions, including his work with the humane law enforcement department, the media relations department and the advocacy team.

Since 2007, he has been serving as the chief community animal welfare officer for the Washington Humane Society in Washington, D.C. He oversees the organization’s community-based programs, including animal control field services, humane law enforcement and the community cats program, which conducts free trap/neuter/return (TNR) services for community cats in the District of Columbia.

Karen Green

Karen Green is the executive director of the Cat Adoption Team (CAT), the largest feline-only shelter in the Pacific Northwest. Karen started her career in animal welfare at Best Friends Animal Society. During 10 years at Best Friends, Karen’s roles included managing the Animal Help office and serving as assistant director of the national No More Homeless Pets program. In 2006, Karen relocated to Portland, Oregon, where she worked for seven years as the senior director of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs.

Having worked with hundreds of animal welfare advocates and organizations, Karen witnessed how often unhealthy organizational cultures, ineffective communication and destructive conflict interfered with efforts to save animals. Determined to bring skills and knowledge to this challenge, Karen completed a degree in organizational communication and a Certificate in Conflict Resolution and Mediation in 2009.

In late 2012, Karen became the executive director of Cat Adoption Team. CAT finds homes for nearly 3,000 cats and kittens each year and provides 1,500 spay/neuter surgeries for cats with low-income owners. CAT is a founding partner of the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland (ASAP), which has doubled the live release rate of cats in the Portland metro area to over 91 percent.

Arin Greenwood

still to come

Lisa Gunter

Lisa Gunter, M.A., is a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University in the department of psychology and conducts her research under the mentorship of Clive Wynne in the Canine Science Collaboratory. Before starting her graduate studies, Lisa worked for nearly a decade with dogs, both in animal shelters and with pet dogs and their owners.

Lisa's research attempts to understand better the influence of breed labels on perceptions of dogs, what breeds and breed mixes are in animal shelters, stress and its impact on the welfare of kenneled dogs, and post-adoption interventions focused on owner retention. She has presented her research at numerous conferences, including conferences presented by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the Interdisciplinary Forum for Applied Animal Behavior, the Veterinary Behavior Symposium and the International Society of Anthrozoology.

Tawny Hammond

Tawny Hammond, the chief of animal services for the City of Austin, Texas, has spent the last 27 years working in the public service arena, creating and implementing programs and services for people and their animals. For five years, Austin Animal Services has been a leader for municipal shelters around the country, saving more than 90 percent of the more than 18,000 animals that come through the doors each year. This past year, Austin reached a new milestone, achieving live outcomes for nearly 95 percent of those animals. Austin is the largest no-kill city in the nation.

Chief Hammond has a proven track record of success, serving for more than 25 years in municipal government in Fairfax County, Virginia, and bringing the Fairfax County Animal Shelter to no-kill in less than three years.

Dr. Linda Harper

Linda Harper, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, workshop leader and international speaker. As the founder of Blessed Bonds, a foster-based organization, she understands the unique challenges of following one's heart to help animals. Linda facilitates the monthly pet loss support group for the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association and leads the Giving Heart Retreat with Faith Maloney at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

She is the author of “The Power of Joy in Giving to Animals,” “Eat: A Guide to Discovering Your Natural Relationship with Food” and “Give to Your Heart's Content ... Without Giving Yourself Away.” In addition to customized workshops and presentations, Linda (harperhelper.com) offers individual consults (through Skype and phone) to help animal lovers manage the emotions and stress that come with giving to animals.

Dr. Kate Hurley

Dr. Kate Hurley is the director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). Kate began her career as an animal control officer in 1989. After graduation from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1999, she worked as a shelter veterinarian in California and Wisconsin.

In 2001, she returned to UC Davis to become the first person in the world to undertake a residency in shelter medicine. Following completion of the residency, Kate became the director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program. Three of her proudest achievements are co-authoring The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, co-editing the textbook Infectious Disease Management in Animal Shelters, and co-creating the Million Cat Challenge.

She loves all things shelter-related, but her particular interests include the welfare of confined dogs and cats, humane and effective strategies to manage community cats, infectious disease, and unusually short dogs. She loves shelter work because it has the potential to improve the lives of so many animals and the people who work so hard to care for them.

Dr. Ellen Jefferson

Dr. Ellen Jefferson graduated from veterinary school in 1997 and started a career in private practice. In 1999, in response to an 85 percent death rate at the city shelter, she started EmanciPET, a low-cost and free spay/neuter clinic, in an effort to decrease the number of homeless animals. In 2008, still not satisfied with how fast the city of Austin, Texas, was moving toward no-kill status, she stepped in as executive director of Austin Pets Alive. Austin Pets Alive became the driving force behind bringing the entire city of Austin to a greater than 90 percent save rate, becoming the largest no-kill city in the U.S.

In 2012, Ellen linked up with San Antonio Pets Alive to implement the no-kill programs that have proven successful in Austin, increasing the live release rate in San Antonio from 30 percent to 82 percent in three years.

Married to a horse veterinarian, Ellen and her husband have two dogs (one a distemper survivor), two cats and a bird, as well as many foster animals.

Pam Johnson-Bennett

Pam Johnson-Bennett is the host of the Animal Planet UK show “Psycho Kitty.” She is a certified cat behavior consultant and author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior, including Think Like a Cat, the book that changed the way we view cat training. Her eighth book, CatWise, will be released in the fall of 2016. With a career that spans over 30 years, she is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting.

Pam is a former vice president of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and is the founder and former chair of the IAABC Cat Division. She was on the American Humane Association’s Advisory Board on Animal Behavior and Training and the AHA’s forum on cat health and welfare. She is also on Tree House Humane Society’s Advisory Board. Pam was the cat behavior columnist for Cats magazine, Yahoo, Catster, Cat Channel, iVillage and many others. She has received many awards, including the Winn Feline Foundation Media Award and the IAABC Cat Division Award.

When she’s not on the road, Pam does a limited number of private consultations through her company in Nashville, Cat Behavior Associates.

Nikki Kelley

Nikki Kelley is the data and operations supervisor for Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets Network. In that capacity, she supervises the data and grant processes for the Network, which includes facilitating the data reporting process for the 1,300-plus Network partner organizations and using their data to analyze lifesaving programs.

She has a background in math and analysis, and after adopting her first dog in 2008, she decided to leave a consulting career to focus on finding ways to quantify and analyze animal sheltering in the U.S. Nikki lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and four rescued pets: dogs Charlie and Daphne, and cats Olive and Robot.

Bryan Kortis

Bryan Kortis serves as national programs director for Neighborhood Cats, a feral cat nonprofit he co-founded in 1999. Prior to his current position, he ran PetSmart Charities’ trap/neuter/return (TNR) grant program and oversaw successful community-wide projects designed to dramatically reduce cat overpopulation.

Bryan has authored and produced many of the leading educational materials on free-roaming cats, including Community TNR: Tactics and Tools and The Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook, and co-designed a line of feral cat equipment, including the first mass-manufactured drop trap. He also led the creation of New York City’s community TNR program and is a frequenter presenter on community cat issues and targeted spay/neuter strategies.

Shelly Kotter

As the national campaign specialist for Best Friends Animal Society’s cat initiatives, Shelly Kotter advises communities across the country on humane methods of dealing with cat overpopulation.

Focus on Felines partners with grassroots organizations and municipalities around the country to help achieve a time when there are No More Homeless Pets.  With 72 percent of the cats that enter shelters being killed, the campaign aims to keep feral cats out of the shelter system by implementing trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs, relocating at-risk “community” cats, and establishing microchip programs.

Shelly has worked at Best Friends since 1998 and has played a pivotal role in defining their unique stance on free-roaming cats generally known as “ferals.” Best Friends refers to these cats as “community cats,” because no one description fits all free-roaming cats and because the solution for their plight rests with individual communities.

In her capacity as national campaign specialist, Shelly guides a number of local model programs across the country. The programs include:

Southern Utah Four Directions Community Cat Program, which maintains colonies of more than 3,000 cats across Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.

Feral Freedom – a pioneering partnership between public and private animal shelters, Best Friends, and animal control in the city of Jacksonville, Florida to stop the killing of feral cats

Fix Nation – very first full-time spay-neuter clinic in Los Angeles dedicated primarily to serving feral cat caregivers and implementing TNR county-wide.

For Shelly, the most rewarding thing about her job is helping people make a difference in their own neighborhoods and communities and teaching them to take the right steps. Among her notable successes, Shelly helped the tiny community of Randolph, Iowa, to take leadership in solving their situation of “runaway stray cat population.”  Word spread about Shelly, and she’s since been contacted by numerous rural communities for advice. After the Iowa floods of 2008, Shelly was asked to conduct a TNR program in Oakville, which was completely destroyed, leaving hundreds of barn cats behind.

Chris Licata

still to come

Faith Maloney

still to come

Cherie Mascis

Cherie Mascis works for Best Friends Animal Society as the Dogtown manager. She has been working with dogs, horses, parrots and other exotic animals for more than 36 years. Cherie has been a vet tech and curator of birds at Marine World/Africa USA, and the curator of animal programs at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, California. She has also provided behavior consultations through veterinarians and for private clients’ dogs, horses and parrots using relationship-based training.

Cherie is now realizing her dream of working at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and helping all the dogs in Dogtown get exemplary care, enrichment and training. She is also a certified professional dog trainer–knowledge assessed (CPDT-KA).

Sandy Nelson

After working for 12 years in the private sector, Sandy Nelson decided to follow her passion to make a difference and made the leap to animal welfare. For two years, she was the marketing and communications coordinator for Salt Lake County Animal Services (SLCoAS), Utah's largest no-kill municipal shelter. At SLCoAS, Sandy truly learned about giving animals a voice and engaging communities to make a difference. As an added bonus, she found her love of cats and, in particular, big-cheeked toms.

In February 2015, Sandy brought her knowledge and experience to Best Friends Animal Society. Sandy is currently the NKUT (No-Kill Utah) manager for Best Friends, and in this role oversees the NKUT Coalition, shelter outreach, events and outreach, and the community cats program.

A Utah native, Sandy attended Utah State University, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology. In addition to her love of animals, she is an outdoors enthusiast who loves everything from snowboarding in the winter to camping in the summer. She shares her home with her partner, Ben, and their two beagles, Buster and Lola.

Lawrence Nicolas

Lawrence Nicolas was raised in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. He attended the University of Colorado, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication. Lawrence began working in the animal welfare field immediately following college, working at the Dumb Friends League in Denver, Colorado. There, he worked in the adoptions and pet intake departments.

Lawrence relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2012, and brought his knowledge and experience to Best Friends Animal Society. Lawrence is currently the adoptions manager for Best Friends–Utah, and in this role oversees the pet adoption center located in Sugar House, as well as the Best Friends Kitten Nursery. In addition to his love of animals, he is an avid sports fan and enjoys sports of all kinds, especially football. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Tiffany, and their three dogs and three cats.

José Ocaño

Tucson native José Ocaño started working for Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) as a shelter tech in 2006, when he was only 18 years old. After advancing to become the clinic’s lead technician, José was appointed to be the county facility’s first-ever rescue coordinator. In that role, he grew the shelter’s rescue program from five groups to the 50-plus groups that it still partners with today.

After leaving the center for two years to work for the SPCA of Central Florida as their volunteer manager, José returned to PACC as its first-ever volunteer coordinator. By hosting community walks, inviting the public to open houses and creating a culture of appreciation and fun, José grew the shelter’s volunteer force from about 100 people to 800.

After revitalizing PACC’s volunteer program, José was promoted to oversee the shelter and its medical clinic. In this role, he helped to launch PACC’s Community Cats Project, overhaul the shelter’s medical operations, and push the open-admission shelter’s live release rate from around 70 percent to the nearly 90 percent it is today. José was recently named executive director of operations, and he is co-directing the entire organization.

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