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Mara Velez, Ivy and Nala-3.jpg
Mara Velez, Executive Director, MA, CPDT-KA

Mara Velez is the Executive Director of the Shelter Playgroup Alliance and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.  Prior to co-founding the Shelter Playgroup Alliance, Mara was a behavior and training consultant for several years at Contra Costa Animal Services (CCASD), an open-admission county shelter.  At CCASD she collaboratively designed, developed, and implemented behavior program structures, including a robust volunteer training program, the behavior evaluation, and  the canine enrichment and playgroup guidelines.


In addition to working with canines, Mara enjoys training  other species because it expands her training and observation skills. She has worked with cats, rabbits, wolves, foxes, guinea pigs, coyotes, buffalo, donkeys, goats, alpacas, chickens, parrots, corvids and other birds, and a fish.

Mara holds both a bachelors and masters degree in psychology and completed all of the course work for a doctorate in education.  She also completed University of the Pacific Animal Shelter Management Program and the Summer Shelter Institute. Mara has also completed KPA, LLA, and several other animal behavior and training-related programs. Mara continually develops her skills and knowledge of canines by attending seminars and reading science-based canine literature.  To date, she has completed over 3,000 hours of continuing education.

Kiem Sie, Operations Director,

For more than a decade, Kiem has been working across two sectors: animal welfare and higher education. Her commitment to assisting open-admissions shelters started when she was an active volunteer at Berkeley Animal Care Services (BACS). While at BACS, she trained incoming volunteers and provided adoption counseling.

Kiem also served as a board member with Friends of Berkeley Animal Care Services, where she helped raise funds for educational and enrichment programs, adoptions, medical care, equipment, and other shelter necessities. She has also been a part of local rescues helping in various capacities, from coaching potential fosters, adoption counseling, fostering, training, and community support at pet health and wellness events around the Bay Area.

Kiem joined the Behavior and Training unit at the Contra Costa Animal Services (CCAS) where she conducted behavior evaluations, implemented behavior modification plans, and trained dogs using positive reinforcement from 2016 until the start of the pandemic.

Yona Rappaport, Social Media Manager,

Yona Rappaport, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA, CSB-D, got her start working with dogs at Metro Dog Daycare and Boarding. She excelled as a playgroup handler, off-leash group walker, trainer-in-training, staff trainer, client liaison, and ultimately became the facilities manager before transitioning to contract work as a behavior professional at Contra Costa Animal Services, then to Pasadena Humane Society where she currently works. There, she discovered her love of working in a shelter setting. Having the chance to focus on improving her ability to read body language and mechanical skills through various programs and attaining two certifications, she has had the pleasure of handling and working with thousands of dogs over the past ten years. One of her favorite activities is teaching volunteer classes and volunteers with Shelter Playgroup Alliance to continue coaching volunteers and shelter staff while still focusing on furthering her education. Yona is the owner and operator of Science at Play Dog Training, Behavior and Gear. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge of effective, ethical training with clients and their dogs. Along with selling typical dog leashes, she designs and tests specialty equipment for use in a number of settings such as shelter specific leashes designed to reduce stress on dogs and increase safety for handlers in a kennel setting. Yona is on the SPA in-person handling workshop team, the grading team, the CORE and BEAR content teams, and manages the SPA social media presence. Yona shares her home with her partner Michael, two birds Chicle and Dilla; and some other small mammals. Yona’s hobbies include crafting and sewing.

Instruction and Content Development Team

Dot Baisly is executive director for the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Dot is a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA), a certified dog behavior consultant (CDBC), certified cat behavior consultant (CCBC), and certified shelter behavior specialist (CSBS). She also holds a master’s degree in Animal Behavior from Tufts University.  She has been working in animal welfare and behavior for over 20 years, both in animal welfare and rescue organizations in New York and New England, and with private clients as a consultant, evaluating dogs, and educating staff and volunteers. Dot is part of the SPA CORE and CARS education teams and is the designated cat content lady.

Selena Brown, MA, CPDT-CBCC, Fear Free Certified Trainer. She is currently working on an MS in Animal Behavior and Welfare at Virginia Tech. Over the years, she has spent time as a shelter volunteer, lead kennel technician, behavior foster, private trainer, and shelter behavior professional. Before diving into animal welfare full-time, Selena taught German and English to learners of all ages and received her MA in Germanic Languages and Literatures from the University of Pennsylvania. Selena is part of the CORE and BEAR education and grading teams, and the in-person workshop team, and is passionate about bringing quality behavior information to the sheltering world. She lives in eastern Tennessee with her husband, Austin, two goofy dogs, Xena and Nyx, and two rambunctious cats, Juno and Archer. Selena enjoys playing recreational sports and drinking coffee.

Alli Holte, CPDT-KA, CSB-D, is the Behavior and Training coordinator at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA). She works with dogs and cats in need of behavioral intervention to help them build skills to thrive in an adoptive home. Alli also created the Alexandria Animal Academy, a low-cost educational program for dog guardians in the community that combines group class instruction with private consultation to target and modify problem behaviors  Before moving into the shelter world, Alli spent a decade in public policy, serving three administrations and focusing primarily on K-12 public education.  Alli is part of the CORE and BEAR education and grading teams, and the in-person workshop team. Alli lives in Alexandria VA with Andy and their current dog, Gus, who is the most perfect, wiggly boy. She loves to cook and lives for new seasons of Drag Race.

Beverley McKee is the Senior Manager, Public Support Services at Toronto Humane Society. In her role she oversees effective operation of the organization’s Public Support Services including Public Training Services; Pet Parent Support Network (PPSN); Retail Initiatives; Urgent Care Program and Food Bank Programs. She is a Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant through the IAABC and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. She is also a Fear Free Shelter Graduate, a Living and Learning With Animals Graduate under Dr. Susan Friedman, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton University along with a certificate in Organizational Management from the Association for the Advancement of Animal Welfare. Bev has published articles on dog behavior in industry publications serving both the animal behavior community and the veterinary medicine community and has presented on various animal behavior topics at international conferences. Bev has extensive program management, project management, business development and operations experience through leadership roles in both the entertainment industry and in animal welfare. Bev is the former chief operating officer for the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, an organization for which she also served as board secretary for 3 years, and volunteers with both the IAABC and with the Shelter Playgroup Alliance as part of the BEAR education team. Bev shares her home with two Australian Cattle Dogs, Luke (adopted from Toronto Humane Society) and Promise.They train and compete regularly in dog sports events and have achieved numerous sporting dog titles.

Brandy Nicoll, RVT, graduated from Western Career College and received her AS degree in Veterinary Sciences. She has been an RVT for eighteen years and worked primarily at the Medical Center for Birds. Brandy has lectured at NAVC, WWVC, and AAV as well as assisted with lab coordination at AAV for eleven years. She has also continued her education in behavior and training with specific interests in working with dogs and birds. Brandy’s continuing education has included courses in Karen Pryor Academy and Dr. Susan Friedman’s LLA course. Brandy has also volunteered at her local shelter. Brandy continues her learning path with Pet Harmony’s Enhance course and currently enjoys working with clients on training and behavior management for both birds and dogs. Outside of the typical books, movies, music and video games, Brandy enjoys continuing her education in the behavior field. She also has interests in other species of animals such as reptiles, spiders and amphibians. As a mom she also enjoys expanding her knowledge in parenting skills. Brandy is on the CORE, CARS, and BEAR grading team and the in-person handling workshop team.

Alyssa Vincent, CPDT-KA, is the owner of Blueprints Dog Training LLC. Alyssa is the Humane Education Program Manager at Napa Humane Society. Alyssa has worked with dogs since 2009. Alyssa worked in a large, social, dog boarding facility for 7 years, working her way through each position and stopping as the Operations Manager. After an internship working with trainers at a local municipal shelter and obtaining her CPDT in 2016, Alyssa jumped from the world of boarding into the world of animal sheltering. Alyssa and Yona spear-headed the development of a special team of handlers whose goals were to implement enrichment programs, track behavior change, train volunteers, perform behavior evaluations and begin a foster and field trip program.This program came on the heels of Mara and Shane’s work at the shelter and allowed for great progress. Alyssa has stepped away from sheltering and into the private sector, for a little less chaos. Alyssa is on the in-person handling workshop team. Alyssa shares her home with 3 dogs: Kylo, Cardi and Stella and 2 Leopard Geckos: Cruella and Ursula. Alyssa’s hobbies change like the wind, though she’s currently into home projects. 

Bailey Kuhn, MS, currently volunteers with Indianapolis Animal Care Services (IACS) where she assists with hands-on care for dogs and cats, creates educational content for staff, volunteers, and fosters, and co-facilitates a scholarship program that provides behavior support for fosters and adopters. She is pursuing further behavior education through the Pet Harmony PetPro and Enhanced programs. Bailey is on the SPA CORE grading team. Bailey holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University. She shares her life with her partner, Eric, and their dog, Macklin. Bailey enjoys growing vegetables and exploring the best ice cream spots around Indianapolis. 

Connie Chen, CPDT-KA, SBA, first got involved in animal sheltering when she began volunteering at her local humane society, and soon thereafter adopted her current (and first!) dog. She spent just under a year volunteering in a variety of programs, including rabbit husbandry and enrichment, special events, and training new dog handling volunteers, before joining Pasadena Humane as an Adoptions Counselor. In this role she developed a passion and desire to learn more about animal behavior and training and has spent the last five years working as a Behavior Technician. Connie is on the SPA in-person handling workshop and grading teams and is loving every minute of it. She shares her life with her dog Doudou (“bean” in Mandarin) and cats Moose and Fig. When not being a homebody, you are likely to find Connie at a restaurant with friends or catching a live performance. 

Mikayla Moore is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA-CTP) and Shelter Behavior Affiliate (SBA) through IAABC.  She currently works for Pasadena Humane as a behavioral health technician, where she assesses risk, implements behavior modification plans, and tries to pet as many kittens as possible. Mikayla is also Fear Free Shelter certified, a Living and Learning with Animals graduate, First Aid and CPR certified, and dabbles in dog sports. Mikayla got her professional start in animal behavior and welfare at a positive reinforcement based dog daycare in Southern California in 2014. However it was her first shelter dog that made her realize that the complexities of behavior were more interesting than dog sports. Since then she’s been seeking out continuing education to develop mechanical skills (clickers, leashes, oh my) as well as behavioral knowledge to enhance the lives of animals and their human caretakers. MIkayla is on the SPA in-person handling workshop and grading teams and is the primary content writer for the SPA newsletter. In a vague attempt to keep a work-life balance, Mikayla reads over 100 books a year and chauffeurs her Vizsla to dog sport lessons.

Board of Directors

Lisa Colvin, MA, MS

Lisa Colvin is the board secretary for the Shelter Playgroup Alliance and is the Senior Product Manager, Computational Programming at Pandora. Lisa has extensive experience in managing large, complex projects and has a background in computational linguistics, data science, and ontology engineering. Lisa brings her project management and critical analysis to the board. Lisa shares her home in Oakland with her three cats.

Andee Connors, BA

Andee Connors is a board member-at-large for the Shelter Playgroup Alliance and is the Manager of Catalog and Creator Services as well as the head of Metal and Punk Programming at Pandora SXM. Andee studied at UC San Diego, focusing on art and literature before leaving to pursue a career in music. He’s been a touring and recording musician ever since (30 years and counting) and currently plays in three bands. He’s been a music writer, a promoter, ran a record label, is a photographer and is the previous owner of Aquarius Records in San Francisco. Andee has a love of all animals, but cats in particular. While he plans to start his own animal rescue, he currently shares his apartment in San Francisco with three cats -- TONY HARRISON, LUGBURZ, and TUNGSTEN.

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