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About Us

About Us

Woods Humane Society is a nonprofit organization which receives no tax funds, but is supported by donations, grants, bequests, fundraising events and fees for services. Woods is independent of San Luis Obispo County Animal Services, but works in close cooperation with them and other animal groups in the county for the welfare of all animals.

Woods now cares for over 3,000 cats and dogs each year at our facilities in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero until they can be united with loving forever families.  We accept surrendered pets from our local community members if they are no longer able to care for them, and transfer animals in from over crowded shelters both locally and from other areas of California. Woods is committed to finding loving homes for all healthy and treatable pets, no matter how long it takes.  With our behavior and veterinary resources, we are able to go the extra mile for animals in need.

As part of our commitment to work towards ending pet overpopulation, not only is every animal at Woods spayed or neutered, we also provide low-cost spay and neuter services for San Luis Obispo County Animal Services, many other local rescue organizations, and for owned animals in our county.  Our medical team has performed nearly 40,000 spay/neuter surgeries in the Woods-Cashin Surgery Center since its opening in 2007.  The Humane Education Program offers a wide range of activities for tots to teens and provides insight and enrichment for the next generation of animal advocates.  Our Behavior and Training Department provides expert care for dogs in our adoption program as well as dog obedience training classes for the public, designed to keep pets in their homes and out of shelters.  Financial support from donors and the dedication of our staff and hundreds of volunteers ensure the success of our work.

Our Mission

Our mission is to serve, protect and shelter homeless companion animals; to place animals into humane environments; to promote responsible pet ownership, provide humane education, and reduce animal overpopulation; and to celebrate the human-animal bond.

Meet Our Board of Directors

Woods Humane Society Board President 2021 Kandy K. Noel

Kandy Noel

Board PRESIDENT
Kandy Noel has been in the wealth management business for over 40 years and is currently transitioning into retirement and consulting work for Mechanics Bank. She is the current Board President of Woods Humane Society as well as the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) in Atascadero. Her connection to both nonprofits comes from her love of animals and humans who are struggling with homelessness. She is on the quest for a dog to add to her family and in her spare time, Kandy loves to travel with her husband, hike, garden and sit on the porch reading with her cat.
Woods Humane Society Board Vice President 2021 Jo Campbell

Dr. Jo Campbell

Vice president
Dr. Jo Campbell has worked in higher education for 40 years. She currently serves as the associate vice president for Student Affairs and executive director of University Housing at Cal Poly, joining the institution in 2016. After living in the Midwest for over 30 years, she is enjoying San Luis Obispo’s temperate climate and proximity to the ocean. She has done many years of volunteer work with humane societies in the Midwest with cats and kittens and joined the Woods Board in 2018. She loves traveling with her wife and taking lots of pictures of landscapes and wildlife.
Woods Humane Society Board Treasurer 2021 Terry Miron

Terry Miron

TREASURER
Terry Miron was employed in the accounting and bookkeeping field for 30 years and her last position before retirement was as accounting manager for all the Kennedy Club Fitness locations. She was a volunteer and Board member with North County Humane Society since 1994 and when the organization merged with Woods Humane Society in January 2017, she joined the Woods Board. She has volunteered with Girl Scouts of the California Central Coast, serving as a council Board member, audit committee chair and finance committee member. Terry is a team member of the Central Coast Dragon Boat Association and her passions are animal welfare, issues affecting girls and women, and physical fitness.
Woods Humane Society Board Secretary 2021 Marcia Torgerson

Marcia Torgerson

SECRETARY
Marcia Torgerson has lived in Atascadero since 1979. She was involved with Action for Animals Rights in the early 1980’s which later became the North County Humane Society and now is Woods Humane Society North County. She served the City of Atascadero as the elected city clerk for 20 years and she also worked in the city manager’s office for 18 years, retiring as the deputy city manager in 2015. Marcia feels strongly about the education of community members regarding the importance of spay/neuter and she is passionate about assisting homeless animals in finding a happy and safe home.
Woods Humane Society Board Member At Large 2021 Robert “Grigger” Jones

Robert M. "Grigger" Jones

Member at large
Grigger is a retired attorney, having practiced law in Atascadero for 32 years. A graduate of the Defense Language Institute (German) UCSB and McGeorge School of Law, Grigger and his wife Alice, a retired Marriage and Family Therapist, have lived in Atascadero since 1978, and have had numerous dogs and cats. Grigger has served on and chaired numerous non-profits, including Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, water Boards and water agencies, Loaves and Fishes, Women Shelter, and Cuesta College Foundation. Grigger has served the City of Atascadero as City Attorney, City Clerk and Planning Commissioner. Grigger currently chairs the Citizens Sales Tax Oversight Committee for Atascadero’s Tax Measure F-14 (roads) and D-20 (public safety and Infrastructure), is a founder of the North County Economic Foundation, Leadership North County, and serves as a Mentor for SCORE, San Luis Obispo Chapter (Nationally Platinum rated for the past three years).
Woods Humane Society Board Past President 2021Mike Terry

Mike Terry

Past BOARD President
Mike Terry is a retired attorney who has worked in San Luis Obispo County for over 30 years. Over that time, he represented many of the local municipalities and school districts. He has lived in South County towns and San Luis Obispo since 1989 and has had dogs and cats for almost his entire life. In addition to his love of all animals, he greatly appreciates all that our beautiful area has to offer. Mike has volunteered as a “Sole Man” at the Wine Women & Shoes event for RISE, and participated, with his wife, in several Women’s Marches.
Woods Humane Society Board Member 2021 Bruno Giberti

Bruno Giberti

Board Member
Bruno Giberti is an architect and architectural historian who has worked at Cal Poly since 1994. He shares a pack with husband Kent and two rescued dachshund mixes, Olive and Bosie.
Woods Humane Society Board Member 2021 Autumn Clark

Autumn Clark

BOARD Member
Assistant Vice President and
Business Relationship Manager at Chase Bank

Meet Our Leadership Team

Neil Trent

CEO
Neil's passion for animal welfare began over 30 years ago as an animal control inspector the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in the United Kingdom. Since then, he has worked on behalf of animals in countries around the world for organizations such as the WSPA, where he was the Regional Director, and as Executive Director of the Humane Society International, the international arm of the HSUS. Additionally, Neil has served as executive director for organizations in California, Colorado, and Virginia.
Karina Exell New Photo

Karina Exell

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
While Karina's love for animals started with horses, it quickly grew to include cats and dogs when she learned they could actually live in the house with her! Karina's first career, following her education at Tarleton State University for Equine Management and Production, was in the equestrian industry for event management production companies, helping to run events such as the USA Olympic Showjumping Team Selection Trials and the FEI Jumping World Cup. Karina's attention became focused on how she could contribute to a greater good when she learned of the conditions that pets in shelters face. Her career has developed through different roles across shelter operations at a variety of shelters - large, small, urban and rural. She expanded her knowledge of medical care for pets by managing veterinary hospitals, which was critical for effectively overseeing spay/neuter clinics and shelter medicine programs when she returned to working in shelters.

Karina was most recently Director of Operations at a rural shelter in northern New Mexico. Under her leadership, the shelter expanded spay/neuter services, completing 6,055 in 2019 and on target to provide 6,500 in 2022, while also increasing adoptions, saving more lives and providing services directly to pet owners with a community support program.
Emily Square

Emily L'Heureux

Director of development
As Director of Development, Emily actively connects with Woods' supporters, helping them in any way she can. With Woods being privately funded, we rely solely on the generosity of the community and taking excellent care of these generous people is something Emily considers a privilege.

Woods Humane Society is an organization that does LIFE SAVING and TRANSFORMING work every day and it is for this reason that Woods matters so much to Emily. Seeing animals, that were once scared in the shelter, flourishing in their safe and happy homes is a huge source of motivation.

Along with being an advocate of adoption, Emily is a lifelong volunteer, currently serving as a Board Member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (San Luis Obispo chapter) a founding Board Member of Junior League of the Central Coast and a member of the South County YMCA Advisory Committee. She has always had a house full of rescued animals and her current group includes four year-old shepherd-mix Ranger and kitten Nirmal, both adopted from Woods.
Dr. Hefner Bio

Dr. Amanda Hefner, DVM

Interim DIRECTOR OF veterinary services
Dr. Amanda Hefner is a California native and completed her Animal Science degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She then earned her DVM at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine with an emphasis in equine medicine and completed a one-year internship following graduation. She then continued north to work at a small animal and equine private practice in Chico, CA, where she fell in love with caring for companion animals. She and her family decided to relocate back to the Central Coast, which has held her heart since her undergraduate days.

Dr. Hefner served as an animal care volunteer at Woods Humane Society during her college career and adopted the first dog in her adult life from WHS in 2012. Pebbles, an adorable and slightly neurotic border collie, turned out to be her best girl and one of the best decisions she ever made. WHS has always held a special place in her heart, and she was thrilled to join the WHS medical team in 2021.

Outside of the clinic, she enjoys reading, gardening, and horseback riding, as well as spending time with her husband and their crew of dogs, cats, and horses.

Robin Coleman

community engagement  MANAGER

After many years in property management Robin was ready for a change and she found it when she moved to the Central Coast. After a few months spent getting settled, she wandered into Woods Humane Society, “just looking,” and immediately fell in love with a dog named Dexter and that is when both their lives were changed forever. Robin believes in the importance of the human-animal bond and loves to celebrate how special our companion animals are to us.

During that process Robin also fell in love with Woods, and was thrilled to start her career at Woods as Customer Service Supervisor where she got to combine her love of animals and love of working with people. She has also fulfilled the role of Volunteer Coordinator and Adoption Program Manager over the years at Woods.

Now as Community Engagement Manager, Robin is responsible for developing relationships through targeted outreach and increasing public awareness of Woods Humane Society’s various programs, services and initiatives. Robin often refers to Woods as her “Happy Place.”

When she's not at work, you can find Robin spending time at the beach, cuddling with Dexter, going on walks, trying new restaurants and just enjoying the beauty that the Central Coast landscape offers.

Jamie Relth

communications manager

Jamie joined the Woods Humane Society team in February 2015 as the Humane Education Coordinator soon after losing her beloved, Woods-adopted dog to cancer.  She was thrilled to pay forward the love and life-lessons her dog gave to her by teaching the next generation about how to be kind to these shelter animals that make our lives so much richer.

Now, as Communications Manager, Jamie creates cohesive, compelling messaging across all media channels to effectively engage and educate the public in support of the Woods mission. 

As a writer with a background in journalism, marketing and public relations, Jamie is honored and grateful to help tell the inspiring, heartwarming stories made possible by Woods Humane Society and to spread the word about the importance of adoption and animal welfare.

She is a proud Woods foster-failure and spends much of her free time working on clicker training with her cat and practicing agility or hiking with her dog.

In her free time, Jamie enjoys running, swimming, hiking, climbing, cycling and other outdoor activities.

Braeleigh Doble

CUSTOMER SERVICE MANAGER
Braeleigh’s love for animals started at a very young age and when, in 2013, she had the opportunity to work at Woods she gladly accepted a position as an Animal Care Giver. She loved that she was able to create a bond with all of the cats and dogs while they waited for adoption and then the joy of seeing them go to wonderful homes.

It wasn’t long before one of those animals found her wonderful new home with Braeleigh, her husband and two cats. Mira, a German Pincher made their lives complete and has left many paw prints on their hearts!

In 2016 Braeleigh became a member of our Customer Service Team where she continued to provide unconditional love and care for the animals at Woods as she assisted members of the public. Her passion for animals, her warmth and facility for meeting the needs of people, and her ability to foster calm at our bustling front desk made her a natural choice for promotion to Customer Service Supervisor. She now leads an amazing team that strive to ensure customer satisfaction as they work to set up each adopted cat and dog for success in their new family.

Braeleigh says, “Working at Woods Humane Society has been so rewarding and I truly love being a part of the Woods family. I am so blessed to be able to come to work and meet so many loving cats and dogs. Every day I get to celebrate the human-animal bond and I get to see people adopt a new family member. It’s really a beautiful thing that tugs at my heart.”

Chantalle Little

Animal care MANAGER

Halfway through volunteer orientation Chantalle knew Woods was the place for her. She began as an Animal Caregiver in 2012 and has since spent time working in Woods’ Medical, Customer Service, and Animal Care and Intake departments. 

Chantalle worked to increase adoptions at Woods while reducing overpopulation and overcrowding in neighboring shelters through Woods Humane Society’s Animal Transport Programs. By building and managing our  Foster Program Chantalle put her own experience bottle feeding tiny kittens to use as she recruits, trains and supports the dedicated caregivers who foster dozens and dozens of abandoned kittens each spring and summer as well as managing the foster care for adult animals.

When the opportunity arose, Chantalle was the natural choice to become the Animal Care Manager, leading the animal care team in the daily cleaning, care and adoptions of all the animals in our program. 

Chantalle was an animal volunteer and advocate for numerous agencies while growing up in Orange County, CA. She moved to the central coast in September of 2009 to pursue a degree in Animal Science, graduated from Cal Poly, and like many others has made San Luis Obispo County her home.

When not working to help both people and animals at Woods, Chantalle is out kayaking, hiking or exploring the county with her dogs, Polly Pocket and Chino or relaxing with her cat, Diesel

Rachelle Hiser

adoption program manager, north county

Even as a young girl Rachelle could be found volunteering her time to help animals; she helped out at rescues for Collies and Tonkinese show cats.  Eventually both organizations, recognizing her incredible commitment, brought her on as a paid staff member.

In 2007, Rachelle again signed up to volunteer, this time at North County Humane Society.  She spent 8 hours a day, 5 days a week doing anything and everything that needed to be done to keep the facility clean and the cats happy.  It wasn’t long before she was asked to join the staff, taking on each new responsibility with dependability and dedication.

In January of 2107 when the long-time shelter manager retired, Rachelle was the natural choice to step into the leadership role.  She now heads a team that provides loving, professional care to the hundreds of cats and kittens who find their way to Woods – North County.  She also takes care of the people who come to the shelter, spending all the time needed to learn about each new adopter so that they can find the perfect cat or kitten to take home.

In her free time she can be found caring for her dog Taz and her cat Biscuit, a kitten she helped to foster.  She likes to spend time at the beach or taking hikes with Taz at her side – sometimes on long hikes around the county, sometimes just around Atascadero Lake.  She enjoys snowboarding, sky diving and spending time with friends.  Most of all she is a loving mother to her children who are also her best friends.

Michelle Rizzi, CPDT-KA, CAP-2

BEHAVIOR AND TRAINING manager

Michelle Rizzi, CPDT-KA, CAP-2 has been a professional dog trainer since 2001. Michelle is a nationally Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT) and an active member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. 

Michelle began working with shelter dogs at the SPCA in L.A in 2001. The following year she moved to Salt Lake City where she was the first trainer to introduce Positive Reinforcement Training. She taught a variety of classes at the Humane Society of Utah for the next seven years specializing in behavior modification for fearful and/or aggressive dogs.

“I get to work with dogs all day, come home to my own dogs in the evening, and I’m still eager to greet every dog I pass by on the street; I know I am in the right place!”

With a strong background in training shelter dogs, Michelle is happy to be working at Woods Humane Society where she can continue to have a positive impact on improving and enriching the lives of pet dogs.

Catherine Armstrong

volunteer & event coordinator
It didn’t take very long for Catherine to realize that the missing piece of her college experience was giving back to the local community in the very best way: by loving on the dogs and cats at Woods who were patiently waiting for forever families! An avid animal lover, Catherine grew up in the Bay Area volunteering in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation and then moved to the Central Coast in 2011 to pursue a degree in another one of her passions – music. During her time at Cal Poly, she was fortunate enough to receive “fur therapy” from the adoptable Woods dogs amidst finals week, and immediately signed up for the next orientation.

Catherine officially joined the Woods team as an employee in the summer of 2015 as the Critter Camp Counselor. She then worked in both the Customer Service and Animal Care departments before assuming the role of Volunteer Coordinator.  Catherine comes to work eager to lead a team of like-minded and dedicated volunteers who help ­­ make Woods’ mission a reality.

On her days off Catherine can be found strolling down the beach, reading a good book, or enjoying the company of friends and family. 
Janell

Janell Matthies

Veterinary Services supervisor

Janell Matthies joined the Woods team in April 2021. Janell first became actively involved in animal welfare as a volunteer over 30 years ago. She has worked professionally in emergency animal rescue with various national organizations for the last 13 years, primarily working on large scale cruelty cases and disaster response. She is currently in the process of earning her RVT license. She is a recent transplant from Northern California and is enjoying living the Central Coast life in Morro Bay with her BFF Sammy, a 17-year-old poodle mix.

Eric Stockam, CPDT-KA

BEHAVIOR AND TRAINING Coordinator

Eric Stockam moved to the Central Coast 6 years ago after growing up in El Dorado Hills, California.  Eric began working with dogs over 7 years ago and got his start at the El Dorado County Animal Shelter where he both volunteered as well as fostered dogs and cats.

Eric began working for Woods Humane Society as an Animal Caregiver and quickly applied his interest in canine behavior, fulfilling the requirements to become a nationally certified dog trainer (CPDT-KA) in late 2016, with the mentorship of our Behavior & Training Manager, Michelle Rizzi. Prior to working as a full-time dog trainer Eric’s employment has included veterinary assistant, grooming assistant, pet sitter, and animal caregiver.

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