Our Mission & History
Since 2009, C.A.R.E.4Paws has worked to reduce pet overpopulation, keep animals out of shelters and improve quality of life for pets and pet owners in need in Santa Barbara County.
We provide a range of critical pet wellness services to community members in our county's most underserved areas to ensure animals don’t suffer or end up in a shelter due to lack of resources and access to proper pet care. Our services include free spay/neuter surgeries and affordable veterinary care in our mobile clinic; provision of pet food and supplies through our Companion Pet Assistance program; assistance for pet owners affected by domestic violence; Paws Up For Pets youth education that promotes compassion and accountability for animals; and pet emergency training for first responders.
We collaborate with all local animal shelters, rescue groups and pet service providers and dozens of human welfare agencies.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have stayed true to our mission to prevent pet homelessness and suffering. We distribute four tons of pet food weekly to pet owners countywide. We're also providing a record-number of spays/neuters and medical services.
By working together, we ensure that pets stay happy, healthy and with their families for life!
Isabelle Gullo, Cofounder and Executive Director
Isabelle cofounded C.A.R.E.4Paws in 2009. She was a longtime shelter volunteer who recognized the desperate need for programs that reduce pet overpopulation and intervene before animals suffer and/or end up homeless. Isabelle, a Swedish native and journalist by trade, is proud of the rapid progress C.A.R.E.4Paws has made in just 10 years and feels grateful to work in a field she’s so passionate about. She also loves running, beachtime, lake life and salsa dancing, and treasures time with her many rescue pets and 10-year-old son, Julian, who’s a dedicated animal advocate and C.A.R.E.4Paws volunteer.
Carlos Abitia, Cofounder and Community Medicine & Spay/Neuter Outreach Manager
Since 2009, Carlos has helped build C.A.R.E.4Paws' Community Outreach and Spay/Neuter Programs from the ground up. A bilingual, trained veterinarian from Mexico, Carlos has many years of experience working with families in underserved communities with the goal to create awareness around compassionate pet care and connect pet owners to the resources they need. He heads our mobile clinic operations and Pet Wellness Clinics.
Wendy Domanski, Community Programs Coordinator
Wendy moved from Chicago to Santa Barbara in 2017 with her husband Kyle, and their two dogs Bear and Wink. A lifelong animal lover, Wendy knew she wanted to follow her passion for photography and animals so in 2015 she quit her career in sales to become a professional pet photographer and started WinkFace Photography. In her spare time, Wendy volunteers at Santa Barbara Animal Services and helps take photos of the dogs at the shelter. When she doesn’t have a camera in her hand you will mostly find her and her husband exploring Santa Barbara’s amazing beaches, wineries and restaurants.
Esme Medina, Clinic Services Coordinator
Esme has worked in the animal wellness industry since 2007 and with Santa Barbara County Animal Services since 2010. With her bilingual and organizational skills and compassionate personality, she has helped make a big impact within Santa Barbara County’s Hispanic community, especially, by providing critical information and sharing resources that help clients provide the best possible care for their pets. Esme will continue to build great relationships in our community in her part-time position for C.A.R.E.4Paws. She looks forward to helping and growing with our organization.
Tom Thompson, DVM, Mobile Clinic Veterinarian
Dr. Tom Thompson, or "Dr. T." is a graduate of UC Davis Veterinary College. Two years after he graduated, Dr. Thompson took over Alamar Animal Hospital in Santa Barbara and later opened Adobe Animal Hospital, which he owned until 2005. Since then, Dr. Thompson has worked at several different vet clinics, including Your Pals, while also performing high-volume spays/neuters for shelters and the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society. He became C.A.R.E.4Paws' Mobile Clinic veterinarian in 2016 and has assisted thousands of clients since with spays/neuters and medical treatment.
Brianne Kinnison, Administrative Assistant
Since 2014, Brianne has coordinated appointments for C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Spay/Neuter and Veterinary Intervention Programs. She helps thousands of pet owners in need every year through her part-time job with C.A.R.E.4Paws and her full-time job at Buellton Veterinary Clinic. In her free time, Brianne, who's a huge Disneyland fan, loves spending time with her husband and their rescue dog.
Board of Directors
Christopher Harris, President
Chris Harris is an audit partner with Damitz, Brooks, Nightingale, Turner & Morrisset with more than 20 years of experience in public accounting, with emphasis on nonprofits. A graduate of Claremont McKenna College, Chris moved to Santa Barbara in 2012 after more than 12 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Los Angeles. He became involved with C.A.R.E.4Paws as a coach during "Fast Pitch Santa Barbara" and joined the board as treasurer in 2014. He also serves as treasurer for the Santa Barbara Symphony and Alpha Resource Center, Vice President for the Santa Barbara Athletic Association, and a member of Claremont McKenna College’s Athletic Advisory Board.
Kathryn Courain, Treasurer
A partner at Avalan Wealth Management, Kathryn has more than two decades of experience assisting high-net-worth clients with their total wealth management needs, including perpetual trust planning, private foundation and charitable planning, commercial financing and tax planning. Kathryn grew up in Santa Barbara County and was an avid equestrian for more than 30 years. She has a passion for supporting animal welfare charities, especially C.A.R.E.4Paws with its focus on providing proactive, progressive and educational solutions to the problems facing pets and their owners.
Dan Keep, Secretary
Dan grew up in Fresno and received a Bachelors Degree in Business Management from Fresno State more years ago than he would like to admit. He and his wife, Darcy, who has worked at Cottage Hospital for nearly twenty years, moved to Santa Barbara in 1998. Dan has been a Warehouse Manager, Merchandise Manager, owned two small businesses and is currently working toward publishing Goleta Neighbors Magazine, a new magazine for Goleta area residents. Dan joined the fundraising committee at C.A.R.E.4Paws in 2016 and the Board of Directors in 2017.
Sharon Kantanen, Director
Sharon comes to us from Chicago, where she worked in the human resource industry for 22 years. She volunteers for Montecito MERRAG and Santa Barbara CERT and SCART (So. Calif Animal Rescue Team). For many years, she volunteered in animal rescue, wildlife rehabilitation and Trap, Spay/Neuter, Release programs (TNR). Her life has been shared with countless best friends, including baby deer, ducks, pigeons, squirrels, turtles, snakes, mice, and more. She now lives in Santa Barbara with her beloved blind cats.
Day Yeager, Director
Day has lived in Santa Barbara and now Solvang for a combined 44 years, is a UCSB alumnus, and since retiring in 2008 as a financial analyst for satellite programs, she began doing what really matters to her: fostering, adoption assistance, and fundraising for local homeless and medical needs animals and animal welfare groups. She became a Buddhist in 1981 and hopes to bring the Buddhist values of deep respect and active compassion to her behind-the-scenes efforts to help animals. Her husband, Andrew, and their entire four-footed family are in on the effort, too, and have welcomed many “visitors” over the years, some of whom have never left. Joining the Board of C.A.R.E.4Paws was a natural next step in the drive to keep animals in their homes and out of shelters.
Nancy Curtis, Director
Growing up in Santa Barbara, Nancy’s compassion for animals began at a young age. Always having animals as a child, Nancy shares her home with four rescue male cats, all of whom she adores. She joined the C.A.R.E.4Paws board in 2018 and is most honored to be a part of the "Team." She looks forward to helping C.A.R.E.4Paws as we continue to create awareness about animal welfare and the programs available to pet owners in need in our community--all with the goal to improve the lives of our furry friends. In the early mornings, you will find her swimming and in her free time, you will find her in her garden.
Thomas Fisher, Director
Thomas Fisher, CFA, CFP SVP, Senior Portfolio Manager at Montecito Bank & Trust, has deep roots in the banking industry and a passion for exceptional service. Santa Barbara-raised, with multiple degrees and credentials within the finance industry, Tom is a highly distinguished portfolio manager with a focused and knowledgeable approach to providing his clients with objective investment advice and unparalleled results. Tom has 30+ years of investment management experience, including overseeing assets for individuals, families, private foundations and other charitable organizations. Tom also has a big heart for animal welfare, a passion that brought him to C.A.R.E.4Paws. Tom also volunteers with the Financial Planning Association (FPA), providing pro-bono financial planning to wounded military veterans and their families.
Cindy Whelan, Director
Cindy Whelan grew up in Fairfax Virginia, outside of Washington DC, and moved to Santa Barbara in 2003 to marry her husband, Nick. Cindy has worked in the telecommunications industry for many years in a variety of sales and marketing roles. She grew up with cats, but discovered the joy of dogs when she met Lucky, Nick’s golden retriever. Cindy joined a golden retriever rescue in 2014, where she found Rusty, who became a beloved family member. Through rescue, her eyes were opened to the plight of dogs that were surrendered or abandoned and she become committed to helping animals in need. Cindy has volunteered with Santa Barbara Animal Services since 2019, and joined the C.A.R.E.4Paws team in early 2020.
Cam Gittler, Director
Cam Gittler is a local realtor with Gittler Group, and has been a realtor and property developer for 20 years. She moved to Santa Barbara with her husband and two young daughters to attend UCSB, and later Pepperdine University, where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology respectively. She worked for years at Transition House serving Santa Barbara’s homeless population. She is a member of the Junior League of Santa Barbara where as past president she now serves on their Past President Council. She and her husband care for her husband’s 102-year-old father, along with their two very busy dogs.
Advisory Board Members
Dr. Scott Smith of Animal Medical Clinic, our Spay & Neuter Program Medical Director (right), with Dr. Davielle Harshman.
Andrea Bratt, Certified Professional Dog Trainer
Andrea Bratt is a professional dog trainer specializing in clicker training, a type of positive reinforcement training. She teaches private lessons and group classes in the Santa Barbara area, including a class for newly adopted dogs through K-9 PALS. Andrea has been involved in animal rescue for several years and has been a volunteer for BUNS, DAWG, K-9 PALS, Second Chance Cocker, Second Chance Cats and Best Friends. She enjoys teaching shelter animals skills that can make them more adoptable as well as more comfortable in a shelter environment.
Ruth Corbo, BS, DVM, CVCP, CVA
Since 1997, "Dr. Ruth” Corbo has practiced small animal medicine and surgery on the Central Coast, primarily in Santa Maria, with an emphasis on holistic medicine. She also serves her community with participation in spay and neuter programs, including Spay Days for C.A.R.E.4Paws, and offers house-call services via Dr. Ruth's Vet2Pet Mobile Holistic Veterinary Services. Dr. Corbo is certified by the International Association of Veterinary Chiropractitioners and a graduate of the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine. In fact, she is one of only 71 Chi Institute Certified Veterinary Acupuncturists in California and only one of two within 100 miles of Santa Maria. She is happily married with three "fantastic children ranging in age from 5 to 22" and, as she calls it, an “abundant menagerie of nonhuman companions.”
Brenda Forsythe, DVM
Dr. Brenda Forsythe, owner and chief veterinarian of Orcutt Veterinary Hospital in Santa Maria, has been practicing full-time medicine and surgery since her graduation from UC Davis in 1998. Dr. Forsythe also holds a second doctorate in Animal Science with a special interest in behavior and is an Animal Behavior Society Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB). She serves on the California Veterinary Medical Association's Board of Governors, the California Veterinary Medical Association's Animal Welfare Committee, and serves as President of the Mid Coast Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Forsythe also serves as President of the Central Valley Coalition for Animals, an organization dedicated to ending dog and cat overpopulation.
Connie Ganter, DVM
Dr. Connie Ganter, a 1991 graduate of U.C. Davis, owns Village Veterinary Clinic in Vandenberg Village (Lompoc) with her husband, Dr. Verne Thacker, DVM. The couple has been practicing veterinary medicine in Lompoc together since 1999. Dr. Ganter enjoys her career and works as a vet in her community. Her clinic supports C.A.R.E.4Paws by providing low-cost spays/neuters and offers discounts on veterinary services for those who seek help from our nonprofit. Dr. Ganter says she is happy to be a resource for C.A.R.E.4Paws, as she has dedicated her life to improving the lives of companion animals. Dr. Ganter and Dr. Thacker have three children, who all plan to become veterinarians. Over the years, the family has rescued and raised many dogs and cats along with a few cows and horses.
Greg Haskell, DVM
The owner of Adobe Pet Hospital, Dr. Greg Haskell, received his degree in veterinary medicine from the University of California at Davis in 1981. The fifth-generation Californian has been practicing in Santa Barbara County ever since, specializing in small and exotic pets.
Eve Kuesis, DVM
Dr. Eve Kuesis, who practices at La Cumbre Animal Hospital, grew up in Los Angeles in a big family of six kids with lots of dogs, cats and horses. From an early age, she wanted to be a veterinarian. She received her BS from UC Berkeley and went on to get her veterinary degree from UC Davis in 1993. With her husband, a local equine veterinarian, Kuesis lived and worked in both Chicago and Scottsdale before returning to Southern California. The mother of two, Kuesis owns two dogs, two cats, three horses and many fish. In her spare time, she loves to ride her horse and swim on a masters swim team.
Lee E. Heller
Lee Heller, Ph.D., J.D., has been rescuing animals since she brought home her first stray dog at the age of eight. She worked briefly at the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society in 1980-81, then became active in animal rescue work in Santa Barbara in 1997. She has volunteered with DAWG, K-9 PALS, ASAP, Catalyst for Cats, ResQCats, and Santa Barbara Animal Rescue, in a variety of capacities. She was also the Santa Barbara County Volunteer Coordinator for both the California Healthy Pets Act and Prop 2, The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. Lee is particularly interested in expanding outreach to and provision of spay-neuter services to low income pet owners.
Kim Lowell retired to Santa Barbara from New York City in 2002 after more than three decades in advertising broadcast production. She has been a volunteer at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter since 2002. In 2007, she and her husband, Dwight, founded Chrissie's Fund, a small foundation that supports spay/neuter programs, promotes adoptions and partners with organizations on specific efforts to eliminate the suffering of dogs. Chrissie's Fund contributes annually to C.A.R.E.4Paws' Wags n' Whiskers Festival and spay/neuter efforts, including Bright Beginnings: a Pit Bull Puppy Ambassador Program.
Chris grew up in Santa Barbara and attended local schools, including SBCC and UCSB. He has more than 20 years of experience within finance and banking, and works for Northern Trust. He serves in various capacities in the Santa Barbara community: with the Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Santa Barbara High School's Dons Net Café, Partners in Education, and the UCSB Alumni Association. He's also the proud owner of sweet Buddy, whom he recently adopted from the Santa Barbara County dog shelter.
Julia Parker, Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network
As the Director of Animal Affairs for Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network and a former Santa Barbara Zoo employee for 25 years, Julia Parker has worked with an impressive range of animals. At the zoo, the species under her care included the African lion, Bengal tiger, puma, white-handed gibbon, lesser panda and giant anteater. She worked with Asian elephants and Baringo giraffes and raised many species by hand. Parker spent 10 years as an animal care supervisor and later went on to work with the Island Fox Recovery program in the Channel Islands National Park. Working for the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, she oversees the rehabilitation of injured wildlife, including songbirds, small mammals and seabirds. She is also on the Education Outreach Committee for the Wildlife Care Network and gives presentations to school and community groups.
Christine Sellers, DVM
The owner of Cat & Bird Clinic, Dr. Christine Sellers, completed her undergraduate degrees in Zoology and Nutrition as well as her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis in 1991. As there was no emphasis on avian medicine at U.C. Davis in 1991, Dr. Sellers designed her own Pet Bird Medical track. The Santa Barbara-native has been actively involved in avian medicine since 1983 and has owned and operated the Cat & Bird Clinic since 1992. Additionally, she serves on the board of directors for the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network.
Jean Silva, Founder of BUNS
Jean Silva, together with husband Philip Seymour, was one of the original volunteers when Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (BUNS) was formed in 1992. In addition to volunteering at the shelter, Jean serves on the board of BUNS and has at various times acted as volunteer coordinator, medical coordinator and education coordinator. She teaches Basic Bunny and Guinea Pig; a free animal-care class offered to adopters and the public. In addition, Jean and BUNS volunteer Andrea Bratt have taught clicker training for the House Rabbit Society in Richmond and San Diego as well as Best Friends in Utah, Nevada and Michigan. The two have been published in the House Rabbit Society Journal and featured in Sheltering and Especies magazines. Jean has also served on the board of DAWG. She retired as the Administrative Deputy Director of the Santa Barbara County Probation Department in 2009.
Scott Smith, DVM
Serving as C.A.R.E.4Paws' Medical Director, Dr. Scott Smith graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1989. He moved to Carpinteria with his wife Susan and their two children shortly thereafter and purchased the Animal Medical Clinic in 1991. While well versed in all aspects of small animal medicine, Dr. Smith has a special interest in surgery, with a growing interest in dentistry. For the past 20 years, the California native—a talented jazz saxophonist who studied music in Germany—has lent his surgical skills to a wide variety of organizations, performing low-cost spay and neuters for the Humane Society, Santa Barbara County, PAWS, ASAP, Catalyst for Cats, and various other rescue groups.