Shafonda Davis – Executive Director
Shafonda has been in animal welfare for over 20 years. She formerly served on the Board of the North Carolina Animal Federation, currently serves on the DEI Leadership Committee for The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, and is very active in the animal welfare community. Shafonda is a proud Durham native who was educated locally with the desire to one day work in animal welfare. This dream became a reality for her in 1998 when she took a position with the APS of Durham. Having worked many positions in the organization Shafonda took the helm of APS in 2008. Shafonda hopes that the work she is doing in animal welfare will improve the lives of animals in our community for many years to come.
Leah Santelli – Director of Lifesaving Programs
Leah started at the Animal Protection Society of Durham in 2005 and has been with the organization for the last 16 years. She has held many positions within the shelter including Adoption Counselor, Front Desk Lead, Veterinary Technician and Assistant Shelter Manager. She currently works as the Shelter Operations Manager, overseeing the daily functions of the shelter as well as central programs including Adoptions, Redemptions, Community Spaying & Neutering, Microchipping, Safety Net and Outreach.
Kay Bishop, DVM – Medical Director
Dr. Bishop has been the veterinarian for APS since 2012. She originally worked with APS as a Rescue Placement Partner and occasional consulting private practice veterinarian prior to her employment with the organization. Dr. Bishop is responsible for oversight of all medical services at APS, which includes preventive and wellness care, care of sick and injured animals, and infectious disease control. Prior to coming to APS, she worked in private practice for 12 years, and she has experience working in animal rescue for the past 20 years. Dr. Bishop holds a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from NCSU in 1995, and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999.
Kevin ‘Skipp’ Morgan – Director of Facilities and Animal Husbandry
Skipp came to APS 19 years ago, making a career transition after 12 years of professional truck driving led him to desire a career where he could make a difference in his community. He started as a Kennel Technician and worked his way up to Kennel Manager. In his current position, Skipp supervises all of the animal technicians who provide daily care and safe housing for the animals. He also serves as facility manager for the entire shelter.
Darlene Fiscus – Director of Development & Marketing
Darlene has served as Director of Development & Marketing at APS since August 2016, managing donor relations, community outreach, events, marketing, and communications efforts. Darlene holds a Master’s of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington, and has served the community through nonprofit organizations in various capacities for more than 20 years – much of it in the area of social services. As a reformed social worker with a great love for animals, Darlene is thrilled to have the good fortune to have served in animal welfare as a development professional since 2014. Darlene is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. When not working, Darlene spends most of her time gardening, with her husband cooking, eating, reading, and exploring the farmer’s market, and with her three dogs of the herding variety playing frisbee, swimming and hiking.
Larissa Chantell – Rescue & Volunteer Manager
Larissa joined our team in 2016 as an Adoption Counselor where she learned all of the details associated with the workings of the shelter, the complexity of working with pet owners in need, and the importance of providing community resources to keep pets in their homes. She also became very familiar with the various rescue organizations that also serve animals in need and how to expand that program. In 2019, Larissa was promoted to her current position. Larissa’s experience as an Adoption Counselor provided her the opportunity to get to know our current volunteers and they her. Now at APS she manages our 1,000+ active volunteers and facilitates our rescue placement program by networking with various organizations across the state and Eastern US to ensure we provide the most appropriate venue possible to help our animals find new homes.
Julie Handy, CPDT-KA, MS – Behavior Manager
Julie has worked at animal shelters for 11 years, and has worked at Animal Protection Society of Durham for 8 years, since 2013. She is very passionate about animals and animal sheltering. She earned her Masters degree in Human Canine Life Sciences and is also a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with several years of training experience. She currently manages all aspects of the behavior department at APS and has expanded our animal enrichment efforts and community support to adopters. Her work has directly translated to improving the mental and physical health of the shelter animals and providing assistance to adopters on challenges they experience with their pets, enabling more pets to remain in their homes rather than being surrendered because of solvable issues.
Amanda Freeman – Foster Manager / Medical Coordinator
Amanda has been always drawn to the power of the human animal bond. She has worked with APS since 2009, starting as a animal care technician before moving to customer service and eventually her current role. She manages over 600 fosters, helping to ensure all our animals have homes. Amanda loves the being able to be a part of reuniting pets and finding just the right families for the animals in our care. She lives in Vance County with her 4 dogs.
Kat Benson – Events & Communications Manager
Kat has always been drawn to the cause of animal welfare and is excited to be a new part of the team at APS. Kat is the founder of SoDu Parents Posse, a 7,000 member strong online community for families in Durham. She was named “The Connector” in Durham Magazine’s Women’s issue for her work with parents in the Bull City. Kat is the leader in our annual Walk for the Animals, Tails at Twilight Gala, and community events throughout the year. She lives in South Durham with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.
Meet the Animal Protection Society of Durham
Board of Directors!
Mary Purcell, Board Chair
Mary Purcell retired from 38 years of public education teaching in 2012 and her life went to the dogs – the dogs of the APS of Durham! She serves on the behavior team, has assisted with behavior evaluations and play groups, been a foster, but most of all just loves walking the adoptable dogs. She is rescued every day by Tripawd Zeke (adopted from Rottweiler Hearts Rescue) and new puppy Xena (adopted from Peak Lab Rescue) and loves being connected to these APS placement partners. She joined the board in in 2018 and currently serves as board chair. She especially loves the APS Walk for the Animals and plans to raise money in the spring of 2021 in loving memory of Rue (adopted from APS in 2012) who frequently represented the shelter at education and outreach events.
Sara Abrons, Vice Chair
Sara, a 2018 addition to the APS Board, enjoys volunteering as a dog walker, as a member of the Behavior Team and to help represent APS at events (when they’re happening). She cares deeply about APS’s mission to build lifelong bonds between animals and people. Also a member of Rotary, Sara likes to volunteer as much as possible because it helps combat her existential anxiety. When not wondering about whether 42 is, in fact, the answer to the ultimate question of life, Sara is a marketer and writer, as well as the co-founder of a consulting company that helps e-commerce companies figure out their logistics. She lives with her boyfriend, Jacob, a mischievous German Shepard mix named Eve and a large, fluffy cat named Taco. They’re in search of an additional roommate, preferably another large, fluffy dog who is too lazy to chase after cats. A Carolina grad, Sara struggles daily to balance her love of Durham with her utter disdain for Duke.
Kari Linfors, Treasurer
Kari began volunteering at APS in 2002, and has been on the APS board since 2004. She is a Durham native who is part-owner and as well as office manager of the locally owned and operated CPA firm, Nelson & Company, PA., and she has used her background in finance to help the APS with sponsorship, and by offering her expert volunteer services as our treasurer for over 15 years. Kari’s passion is helping animals any way she can, and she has saved many lives through foster and adoption. Most notably, she fostered then adopted Hugo, a big beautiful Pittie, who was the face of APS for many years. She is currently parent to APS alumni Gigi and Abby, and also a kitten foster parent – she even redid a room in her house to make the kittens more comfortable. Kari is a true friend to the animals.
Sarah Smith-Brady, Secretary
Sarah Smith-Brady – Sarah joined the APS of Durham board of directors in December 2018 after having volunteered as a dog care volunteer, education events volunteer, and dog play group volunteer for 3 years. When not hanging out with her husband Wil and dogs Arya (APS alum) and Thor, Sarah is an Operations Manager for Research Square Company. She is especially passionate about community education initiatives around animal welfare best practices and the importance of spaying and neutering pets. She has lived in Durham since 2012, is a member of the Durham Community Concert Band, and enjoys walking, running, and biking around Durham.
Allison joined the Board of APS of Durham in January 2020, after volunteering with the shelter’s Tails at Twilight Gala Committee for two years. Allison believes that all animals deserve a loving home and proper care, and is dedicated to supporting the Durham community in this effort. She moved to Durham from the Midwest in 2015 and has embraced the local scene and culture. Allison is an immigration attorney by profession with a busy practice based in Raleigh. She is a foodie and a wanderlust, and an animal lover at heart, with a senior rescue pup, Mishka (pictured), and her two horses, Breyer and Conundrum. Allison and her husband just welcomed their first child last month.
Dr. Geoffrey Feld
Geoff joined the APS board in 2019, having served as a dog handler volunteer since he moved to Durham in 2014. A patron of the Great Outdoors, Geoff loves taking his APS Alumnus Tongo (pit bull) on adventures along the trail and around the neighborhood. He holds a Ph.D. (dogtorate?) in Biophysical Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and he recently started a new venture working from home as the Marketing Content Manager for a growing international biotech company. Geoff is passionate about animal welfare and hopes to use his business development experience to forge partnerships among the APS and local life science industry leaders. Pictured are Geoff and Tongo, Cascade Falls Trail, near Blacksburg, VA (Photo credit: Dr. Colleen Kellenberger).
Meredith is a very new member of the APS board, joining in December 2020 after having recently joined the APS Finance Committee. Meredith is a CPA in Durham and has called Durham home for 11 years. Meredith also volunteers with STAR (Special Theatre Arts of Raleigh) and VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance). Meredith is a proud owner to two cats, Squiggy and Robb. With Squiggy and Robb both being adoptees from the Wake County SPCA and Independent Animal Rescue, respectively, Meredith realizes the significance of local animal shelters and wants to use her talents to further the mission of the APS.
Nathan has been a volunteer at APS since 2008 and joined the board in February 2016. He works in the baseball industry and his wife, Alyson, is a photographer whose photos are used frequently by the APS, including for Pet of the Week and Face of the APS. Nathan grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with various animals as the son of an equine veterinarian. He has been a full-time resident of North Carolina since graduating from Elon University in 2007 and the Rode household currently has three dogs (Reggie, Pollux and Kona), two turtles (Shelby and Rockstar), a rabbit (Penny), and hedgehog (Maddie).
Natalia joined the APS of Durham as a board member in January 2021, after volunteering on the Development Committee for a year. As a Donor Engagement Officer with Triangle Community Foundation, Natalia brings with her a background in fundraising and non-profit programming. After moving to Durham in 2015 from DC, Natalia fell in love with how dog-friendly the Bull City was and adopted two of her own: Pop and Brutus. When not playing or snuggling with her pups, Natalia participates in a book club, loves trying all the great food that Durham has to offer, and visiting her native New York.
Chris Speh began his career jumping out of perfectly good airplanes over Okinawa, Japan with US Army Special Forces, where he later served as its Brigade-level Controller. After separation, he joined US Dept of State as a Foreign Service Officer and then Deloitte & Touche as a consultant. He then helped build 2 companies to successful exits in RTP over the course of 15 years, the 2nd as co-founder/CEO. He holds an MBA from Kenan-Flagler and taught Corporate Finance courses at NC State and through Campbell and Wesleyan University extension programs. He was a Certified SCORE Mentor for many years in Maine and currently consults through ESC of the Triangle where he enjoys helping non-profit clients learn finance-related business best practices. Chris also is a consummate traveler, having worked in or visited more than 40 countries over the years. Pictured here with our favorite puppy dog, Angus.
Susan Teer is a Durham native and she has been an APS Board member and volunteer for many years. She was an integral part of contracting the shelter management with the APS and the county in 1990. Since then she has volunteered in various capacities with the organization and she is currently concentrating on fund raising with the development staff. Her favorite job has always been working directly with the animals and seeing them go into loving homes. Her friends and neighbors and even complete strangers will tell you she can be quite persuasive when trying to arrange an adoption. She is proud of the 50 year history and the accomplishments the APS celebrates this year. Susan is pleased the organization has been able to provide help to citizens trying to care for their animals during the economic downturn this past year. Helping to keep animals in their homes and out of the shelter has been a gift to the community and the animals. Susan says it is a pleasure to work toward the common goal of creating a bond between animals and people with the dedicated APS staff and volunteers. She hopes to see a low cost spay neuter clinic in the organization’s future to reduce the number of unwanted animals in Durham.