Board of Directors and Staff
The Board of Directors and shelter staff of the Santa Cruz SPCA are an extraordinary team of well-qualified leaders who are commited to excellent animal care and welfare.
Moira Gagen has served on the Board since May 2013. She has volunteered at the SCSPCA for the past ten years and at the county shelter for eight years before that. A dedicated animal welfare advocate, Moira has two dogs and a cat of her own as well as the occasional foster. Moira works in Corporate Training, specializing in Train-the-Trainer and Train-the-Designer programs and has consulted all over Silicon Valley. She has taught at both UC Santa Cruz and Stanford and is currently working for Apple Computer. In what little time is left over, Moira is an avid mystery reader, amateur thespian, and Scrabble nut.
Terrie Sima joined the Board in August 2014. Her relationship with the SCSPCA began in 2008 when her family adopted the first of their three dogs from the organization. Having grown up with a Chihuahua, she has a special fondness for small dogs with big personalities. A gadget geek at heart, Terrie advises early-stage digital Sports and Fitness companies. Her consumer electronics product management career includes work on iconic products for Apple and Nike. In addition to family and pups, her passions include food, travel, sports, conversation, the Ohio State Buckeyes, and opportunities to be involved in her community.
Nina Mar Burnette
Nina believes that people who love and respect animals will be better stewards of the planet, and be kinder human beings in general. Given the opportunity as a child, she always chose to cat-sit or dog-sit versus babysit. Nina joined the board of directors in April 2017, and brings an extensive financial and tax background. She earned her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her LL.M., Taxation from New York University. Nina recently retired from a career with Apple, Inc. as Senior Director, International Tax & Senior Tax Counsel. In addition to their daughters, and many animal companions throughout the years, Nina and her husband have raised three golden retrievers.
Sheri Billings has served on the Board since February 2011. She is a CPA and owner/principal of the Summit Accountancy Group, Inc., in Soquel, specializing in income taxes and business valuations. A fancier of all things feline, Sheri shares her home with two rescue cats, Buddy and Bentley. Her hobbies include fly fishing.
(Past Board President)
Deb Walt joined the Board in October 2013 and served as Board President from 2016 through 2017. An active shelter volunteer for 14 years, Deb has served in a variety of leadership and hands-on roles at several regional shelters, including Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) and Pets in Need. While at HSSV, Deb was four-time co-chair of The Fur Ball — the annual black-tie fundraising gala — and also served as dog socializer, mentor, writer, event volunteer, and member of numerous task forces and committees. Deb brings 25-plus years of experience in marketing and communications to the SPCA. She has managed comprehensive programs for many major national consumer brands, as well as many biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Her background includes PR agencies in New York and Silicon Valley, and she also directed the marketing communications team at Stanford University Hospital. Deb has two senior dogs and two senior cats, plus a fuzzy foster dog. In addition to her passion for animals, Deb’s enthusiasms include theatre, ballet, skiing, and haunting bookstores.
David Kunis joined the Board in December 2016, and has been an active volunteer of the SCSPCA for more than nine years. He enjoys working with dogs in the greatest need of socialization, training, and behavioral work. He also provides animal transport whenever and wherever needed and continues to act as lead volunteer for numerous community events. David managed the Education Program for new adopters for 8 years, and also generated the connection to the Pet Food Express food donation program; he travels regularly to their warehouse in Oakland to pick up food for the SCSPCA. Before coming to Santa Cruz, David volunteered at several Bay Area rescues, including Pets in Need, Pound Puppy Rescue, Furry Friends Rescue, and the Palo Alto Animal Shelter. He also fostered for the Milo Foundation. David has worked at Stanford for the past 37 years as a Research Lab Manager, and has published more than 80 articles in research journals. He continues to study the peaceful martial art of Aikido (he has attained the rank of 5th dan), and has taught it at Stanford University, as well. He lives with a rescued poodle mix named Gracie and a Main Coon cat named Lily Longtail. David loves animals, and they seem to love him.
Hedy Nochimson joined the Board in April 2016. A lifelong animal lover, she became a SCSPCA volunteer in 2012, in the spirit of giving back and in gratitude for all the wonderful animal companions that had shared her life. With a special fondness for felines, Hedy has been very involved in the welfare of SCSPCA cats. Not being able to resist the other residents of the shelter, she has also fostered and adopted a little Maltese/Poodle now known as George. After working for 20 years as a software engineer in the high-tech industry, Hedy retired and began a second career as a chef, opening her own business and becoming an active member of the growing food scene in Santa Cruz. Besides cultivating her passion for food and family, Hedy enjoys travel, home design, and sports activities.
Ren believes that our perfect companions have no fewer than four feet. He will tell you that he is mostly a caretaker of his house where the real residents are his four Chihuahuas. Ren brings 20-plus years of general management, marketing, and product development experience at companies including Invisalign and GE. He currently serves as managing director of Silicon Valley Capital, where he leads the firm’s diversification into the health and wellness sectors. Ren’s hobbies include reading and global travel. He has been an SCSPCA board member since August 2016.
Interim Executive Director
Abbi joined the Santa Cruz SPCA in 2017, fulfilling a lifelong dream to work in animal sheltering, thereby directly addressing some of the most urgent issues affecting companion animals.
After ten years working in the business sector, and having volunteered for numerous animal shelters since 2001, Abbi transitioned her career to nonprofit work and animal welfare. She joined the board of directors of Save Our Shores, the Santa Cruz-based environmental nonprofit, and also attended animal shelter management workshops and seminars to gain experience in nonprofit operations and development.
Abbi worked at the University of California, Santa Cruz in a program that provides scientific research experience to underserved youth in a university setting. This strategic role focused on program development, donor relations, and operations. Her previous work years were spent in the cord blood banking industry focusing on sales, marketing, and operations.
Abbi has a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of York, England. She lives with her two rescued Rottweiler mixes: seven-year-old Roscoe (who is full of beans), and an old and wise Maya, who is approximately eleven.
Mandi has been a part of the SCSPCA team since 2009. With 17 years of experience working in the animal care industry, she brings an extensive knowledge base related to animal care, medicine, behavior, and training. Along with shelter management, Mandi coordinates many of the organization’s marketing campaigns, social media presence, community engagement, and programming efforts. During her time with the SCSPCA, she has also taken an active role in animal welfare legislation, attending the Humane Society of the United States’ Lobby Day in 2012, and testifying at a Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting to help pass SB 1221, a bill banning the use of hounds for bear and bobcat hunting.
Born and raised in Santa Cruz, Mandi has lived a life that revolves around animals. She took pride in caring for her childhood dogs, cats, horses, goats, chickens, and rabbits, and currently enjoys riding her horse Biggs and walking her dog Sage. Mandi has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism with an emphasis in PR from California State University at Northridge.
Brenna has lived in Santa Cruz and worked in animal care, placement, and education at local shelters for more than 20 years. She joined SCSPCA in May of 2006 as the humane educator because she believes education is the most effective way to make a difference for animals and promote a humanely progressive society. Brenna enjoys teaching children and adults compassion and respect for all living things. Her humane education programs teach that even the smallest actions can have big effects, and that responsible choices can improve the lives of animals – both domestic and wild –as well as the people of our community. During the school year, Brenna spends much of her time in classrooms and other education settings, presenting fun, informative, and interactive material to both adolescents and adults. She also directs the SCSPCA Summer and Winter Kids’ Camp and a series of youth volunteer programs.
Brenna lives with an SCSPCA-adopted pug mix named Poe and a rescued blue and gold macaw named Loki. Brenna has a B.A. in marine biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Humane Education Assistant
Sydney joined the SCSPCA Humane Education team in April 2018. Her important work involves assisting the humane educator with classroom presentations, directing summer and winter camps, and coordinating various youth volunteer programs.
Sydney graduated from California State University, Monterey Bay in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. As a lifelong lover of animals with a passion for education, she greatly enjoys the chance to teach people of all ages about animals and their needs. In her free time, you can find her vaulting on horses, hanging out at the beach, watching documentaries, or cuddling with her own cat, Wally.
Savannah came on board with SCSPCA in May of 2018. Her position as the Administrative Assistant provides office support to multiple facets of the organization. From clerical work to coordinating events and corresponding with our incredible volunteers, Savannah stays busy!
Savannah graduated from California State University, Santa Cruz in 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies. Her lifelong love affair with animals has guided her to the incredible world of animal rescue after spending a number of years in the service industry. Her fondest memories are of volunteering at her hometown animal shelter, maintaining her own dog-walking business while living New Zealand, and caring for the plethora of pets she’s had throughout her life.
Currently, she is wrapped around her mixed-breed pup Ryker’s paw and they love to go on adventures to the beach, dog parks, and along various walking trails!
Lynn has managed the SCSPCA’s accounting needs since 2011. A CPA by profession, she works primarily with local non-profits and enjoys her time at the shelter, where she can pair her accounting skills with her love for animals, on any given day gaining a “lap assistant” or a “keyboard helper.” She enjoys playing soccer, reading, and doing jigsaw puzzles.
Adoption & Client Service Supervisor
Tina began her work with the SCSPCA as a dedicated volunteer in August of 2013. From walking dogs to fostering litters of kittens, Tina did it all! In 2015, she became a valued adoption and client service associate. Like many of the staff, she wears multiple hats, also managing the foster care program and assisting with volunteer management and special events. She enjoys continuing her education in dog and cat behavior, animal health, and training, and her soft spot for senior animals has led her to remain a foster mom. In her spare time, Tina enjoys gardening, cooking, and spending time with her menagerie of cats and dogs.
Adoption & Client Service Associate
Erlana came on board with the SCSPCA adoption and client service staff in 2017. After working at a Fortune 500 company for nearly 15 years, specializing in human resources, logistics, and operations management, she decided to change her career motto and no longer “work to live” but instead “live to work.” That’s when Erlana found her calling within animal welfare. After six years with Humane Society of Silicon Valley, she relocated to the Bay Area and joined us! Erlana is the friendly face who helps create the special bonds between the people who come through our doors and the animals we serve. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her partner and their pets and playing percussions/drums.
Adoption & Client Service Associate
Sarah K. Michael
Sarah arrived at the Santa Cruz SPCA after relocating from New York City in the summer of 2014. A lifelong animal advocate and confirmed “Cat Person,” Sarah facilitates adoptions and client relations at the shelter. In addition, she assists with donor communications and PR for the organization, utilizing her love of creative writing and editing. While not at the SCSPCA, Sarah teaches chair yoga classes as well as sings, plays mandolin, and performs theatre throughout Santa Cruz.
Mall Adoption Center Supervisor
Shawn officially joined the SCSPCA team in 2012, but she was a valued volunteer even before that. On any given day, you’ll find her at our Capitola Mall Adoption Center and Gift Shop where she serves as supervisor of adoptions, customer service, sales, inventory, and everything else pertaining to that location. Shawn recently graduated from Animal Behavior College for obedience training and is now a certified dog trainer. She assists in our monthly “Ask the Dog Trainer” class and looks forward to developing a more comprehensive SCSPCA training program for the public. When she’s not at work or training dogs, Shawn enjoys hiking and going to the beach with her two border collies.
Animal Care Specialist
Ana has been an important part of the SCSPCA’s animal care team since 2012. She works incredibly hard to ensure the health and well-being of each animal that comes through our doors, and she carefully maintains a high level of care throughout their stay. Ana also assists with volunteer orientation and training as well as the management of in-kind donations. When she’s not working hard for the animals, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, and watching movies.
Animal Care Specialist
Animal Care Specialist
Patricia is the longest-standing staff member at the SCSPCA, having joined the organization in 2005. Thanks to her hard work, our little shelter is cleaned top to bottom every single morning and evening, using best-practice sanitizing protocols and a whole lot of elbow grease. She interacts with every animal with kindness and care as she sanitizes the areas around them in order to prevent disease and create a comfortable and fresh home-like environment. While she’s not keeping things in order at the shelter, Patricia is running her own private cleaning service, entertaining friends and family, and traveling.
Luisa joined the SCSPCA facilities team in 2015. With a natural desire to clean and organize, Luisa dives into her sanitation duties with vigor. She enjoys creating an environment conducive to the health and happiness of all the shelter guests, and she meticulously delivers just that. In her free time, Luisa enjoys socializing with friends, crocheting, and baking.
The Santa Cruz SPCA is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the welfare of animals. We receive no government funding, and depend solely on financial support from our friends. Our organization is not affiliated with any other SPCA or Humane Society.
Tax ID: 94-6171565
© 2017 Santa Cruz SPCA