The SPA guidelines are being drafted by dog behavior and sheltering experts.  The volunteer contributors listed below have been working collaboratively to bring best-in-class, humane, and ethical playgroup guidelines to the sheltering community.

Karalyn Aronow, MS, MS

Karalyn has a diverse background in the fields of animal behavior and welfare. She began by training horses for use in law enforcement and eventually shifted to studying zoo animal welfare in graduate school.  Karalyn holds two Master of Science degrees.  One of her Master's degrees is in Ecology and Evolution with a thesis focused on snake venom evolution; the other is in Animal Behavior from UC Davis with an emphasis on applied animal welfare. She is now working at the East Bay SPCA as the Vice President of Operations and is passionate about companion animal welfare.  She is excited to be working with a team of talented and dedicated behavior professionals at the East Bay SPCA to improve the experience of animals in shelters.

Allie Bender, CDBC, CPDT-KA, SBA

Allie Bender is the owner and lead behavior consultant for Pet Harmony Animal Behavior & Training in Illinois. Allie is a national speaker, published writer, and an animal welfare advocate. She has been working with rescue groups and shelters since 2006 in various capacities, including founding a student-run animal welfare organization. Allie started dog training professionally in 2012 and by 2015 became the lead dog behavior consultant at Best Friends Animal Society, the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the nation. Here she had the opportunity to work with dogs and cats with serious behavior challenges as well as speak at national conferences, write for the Best Friends magazine, and make TV and commercial appearances. Allie has a BS in Animal Science from Iowa State University and is certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and Council for Certification of Professional Dog Trainers. 

Lisa Gunter, PhD, MA, CPDT-KA

Lisa Gunter is a Maddie's Research Fellow at Arizona State University in the Department of Psychology and conducts her research in the Canine Science Collaboratory with Clive Wynne. Before beginning her graduate studies, she worked for nearly a decade with dogs in animal shelters. The goal of Lisa's research is to better the lives of shelter dogs. To this aim, she has investigated the perceptional influence of breed labels, what breeds and breed mixes are present in animal shelters, post-adoption interventions focused on owner retention, temporary fostering of dogs awaiting adoption, and identifying behavioral indicators of welfare for kenneled dogs.

Allison Hartlage, CTC, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA, CNWI

Originally from Kentucky, Allison graduated from the University of Georgia in 2003 and shortly after relocated to Oregon. She began volunteering with Oregon Humane Society and in 2008 attended the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers, where she received her certification as a Canine Trainer and Behavior Counselor (CTC), graduating with honors. She then returned to Portland and spent three years working with companion animals at a private daycare and training business before relocating to Boulder in 2011 where she is the Manager of Animal Training and Behavior at Humane Society of the Boulder Valley.  

Kelly Lee, PhD, CTC

Kelly Lee is an honors graduate of The Academy for Dog Trainers, where she earned her Certificate in Training and Counseling (CTC). She holds a BS in Zoology and a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  Kelly founded Dogkind to help loving dog families in the Davis, CA area reach their goals with their dogs humanely and effectively.  She also worked for the Yolo County SPCA as the Dog Rescue and Behavior Coordinator at Yolo County Animal Services.

Fiona Macintosh, KPA-CTP

Fiona is a graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal trainers.  She volunteers at the East Bay SPCA where she supports adopters of shelter animals and the public via the behavior help line, trains volunteers, works with dogs in the behavior modification program, and runs playgroups.  Previously, Fiona worked at Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) as an adoption counselor. Prior to her life in the animal rescue field, Fiona worked in finance and operations for several international top 100 companies.

Marissa Martino, CTC, CPDT-KA

Marissa Martino has worked for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Boulder, CO as their behavior & training coordinator, the East Bay SPCA, as the Director of Behavior and Training, and the Behavior Manager at Dumb Friends League in Denver.  She has developed and implemented a behavior modification programs for shelter dogs with various special needs: such as fear, separation anxiety, resource guarding and dog-dog aggression.   Marissa has also presented at several shelter-focused conferences, including the HSUS conference and the Animal Care Conference.  As part of her role at Dumb Friends League, Marissa provides technical assistance to other shelters across the country.  Marissa is also a key board member for the Shelter Playgroup Alliance.

Emily Strong, CPBT-KA

Emily Strong is the owner and lead behavior consultant for From Beaks to Barks in Salt Lake City, Utah. Emily is a national speaker, published writer, and has an international client base. Emily was a board member of Wings of Love Bird Haven, co-founded and operated Austin Parrot Society, and became the volunteer medical coordinator as well as a medical and behavioral special-needs foster home for Austin Pets Alive!  She is a certified behavior consultant who worked at Best Friends Animal Society as a Behavior Consultant in Dogtown. In this role, she contributed to the complete overhaul and revitalization of their training protocols, trained staff, and co-wrote all behavior-related articles for Best Friends’ various media outlets to ensure that the organization put out the most accurate, ethical, and effective information possible.  


Dana is the owner and head consultant at Rovercome Dog Training & Behavior Solutions. She has spent more than 14 years working with a variety of domestic and exotic animals in the nation's leading rescues, shelters and sanctuaries across the country. Dana has extensive experience evaluating and rehabilitating dogs of varying breeds, sizes, and dispositions. She teaches humane behavior modification and low-stress handling techniques to animal professionals, with a focus on shelters. Dana believes that force-free approaches to training and behavior are the foundation of healthy relationships with our dogs, but other humans, too.

Ally Verba CPDT-KA, Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer

Ally Verba is the owner of Asheville Dog Training and President of Woof Meow Rescue, a foster based non profit in North Carolina. She has spread her knowledge and love of animal behavior through her involvement with multiple open and limited admission shelters including her role as Behavior Supervisor at Asheville Humane Society, on the Behavior Team at Contra Costa Animal Shelter, as an instructor at East Bay SPCA, and in her current role as Shelter Welfare Research Assistant with Virginia Tech's Applied Animal Behavior & Welfare Lab. 

© 2020 by Shelter Playgroup Alliance. Proudly created with