Chair and Founder, Michigan Pet Alliance
Deborah Schutt is a retired urban planner who spent half of her career with Oakland County and half owning her own consulting firm. Always an animal lover, she did not adopt a companion animal until she felt she could devote adequate time to the furry companion when she started her consulting firm. Even then, she fostered more than 80 dogs and one kitten until fate brought Cutty into her life. The deep joy and love provided by Cutty gave Debbie the unmitigated desire to give back to Cutty’s kind. Cassie (photo) now fills Debbie’s life with joy and love. Debbie founded Michigan Pet Alliance and leads its working board of directors and strategic planning.
Vice-chair, Michigan Pet Alliance
President and CEO, Humane Society of Huron Valley
Tanya Hilgendorf has led Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) for 17 years. With a Bachelor of Arts in political science from University of Michigan-Dearborn, a Master of Science in social work administration and public policy from Wayne State University and having served as executive director of Ozone House, Tanya’s passion centers on protecting the vulnerable (human and non-human) and transformational leadership that helps failing nonprofit organizations achieve mission success. With an incredible team, HSHV has become a thriving, dynamic, multi-service, animal welfare organization with 120 employees, 2,000+ volunteers and a save rate over 96%, helping roughly 25,000 animals a year. HSHV has earned the 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for 11 consecutive years, putting HSHV among the top 3% of all charities nationwide for fiscal responsibility and transparency. In recent years, HSHV has adopted out more animals than any other single shelter in Michigan.
Treasurer, Michigan Pet Alliance
President and Founder, All About Animals Rescue
By profession, Amber Sitko is a cloud solution architect and has been with Microsoft for more than 20 years. Amber earned her MBA from Wayne State University. By passion, Amber founded All About Animals Rescue in 2005. The organization is now the largest spay/neuter and wellness care provider in Michigan. The operational budget has grown from $80,000 annually to over $5 million, impacting more than 75,000 cats and dogs each year. Amber established collaborative relationships with local communities, governments and rescues in the interest of furthering animal welfare and created a comprehensive community cats TNR program that is the first of its kind in Michigan.
Secretary, Michigan Pet Alliance
Jeanne Towar’s journalism career began as a teen, writing a weekly column for her local paper. She went on to become the first woman to publish a daily newspaper in Michigan – Royal Oak’s Daily Tribune. Over a career spanning 65 years, Jeanne was vice president of Crain Communications, publisher of Detroit Monthly magazine, marketing director of Crain’s Detroit Business, publisher of The Birmingham Eccentric and vice president/editor of HomeTown Communications. She wrote a weekly column for The Tribune and Oakland Press until retiring in 2015. Jeanne’s love for rescuing dachshunds led her to become an animal welfare advocate and, from 2006-2020, secretary of Michigan Pet Fund Alliance.
Richard Angelo, Jr., Esq.
Legislative Attorney, Best Friends Animal Society
Richard Angelo is a legislative attorney for Best Friends. His primary focus is to promote state and local legislation that will humanely and directly reduce the killing of cats and dogs in shelters across the country. Richard has spoken on community cat issues, dangerous dog laws and breed discrimination at numerous national, regional and local events across the country. He has been a member of the animal law section of the State Bar of Michigan since 2001 and has served as a council member of that section since 2009. He is also a member of the American Bar Association’s TIPS Animal Law Committee, the international law section of the animal law committee and the National Animal Care and Control Association. Richard resides in Genesee County with his wife, three dogs and two cats.
Shelter Director, Humane Society of Macomb
Ken Kempkens has 39 years of experience in various management and sales positions in the graphic arts industry, during which time he met and developed a great relationship with Mr. George Fox at the Humane Society of Macomb. Ken was asked to join the board of directors when Mr. Fox passed away and eventually was elected to fill his seat on the board. In 2014, Ken was elected as board president. In his second year as president, Ken assumed a more hands-on approach to the day-to-day operations of the shelter. Ken oversaw the introduction of many new and exciting programs and worked directly with the shelter director to make some positive changes. He helped to move the Humane Society of Macomb from a high-kill shelter to its current situation as a no-kill shelter. Ken has been married to his wife Josie for 43 years. They have two sons and three grandchildren. They have adopted numerous shelter animals and now live in Macomb County with their lab/pit mix Roxie. She rules the house.
Executive Director, Charlevoix Area Humane Society
Robert H. (Scott) MacKenzie has been the executive director of the Charlevoix Area Humane Society since 2013. Scott is also a private business owner, civic entrepreneur and professional auctioneer specializing in fundraising events. He is the past executive director of the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce.
Namiko Ota-Noveskey, MS, CAWA
Program Supervisor, Kent County Animal Shelter
Namiko Ota-Noveskey has been working in the field of animal welfare since 2006. With a Master of Science in applied psychology with additional graduate courses in behavior analysis, Namiko has consulted on many animal behavior cases. She genuinely cares about animals and their people and uses her educational foundation to help people keep their animals in their homes. Namiko continues to focus on lifesaving efforts and to improve the quality of life for shelter animals. She has a soft spot for rottweilers and dobermans.
Executive Director and Founder, Paws for Life Rescue
Born with a passion to help homeless pets, Courtney Protz-Sanders founded nonprofit Paws for Life Rescue in 2007. An invited speaker at several state and national animal welfare conferences, she has 23 years of experience in animal welfare, starting out at an open-admission, high-volume shelter in a county with breed-specific discrimination laws (BSL/BDL). Courtney has served on numerous shelter improvement committees and has helped lead initiatives to end BSL in Michigan, to overturn BSL in local municipalities, and to enact animal welfare ordinances, regulations and policies throughout the state. Courtney has volunteered as a member of the National Disaster Animal Response Team since 2005. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in communication in 1999 and a Master of Science in public relations in 2002. Courtney is a copy editor and communications specialist, working in the automotive industry for 20+ years. Her household consists of rescued dogs and cats. In her free time, Courtney enjoys kayaking, camping, hiking and reading.
Michelle Spranger, CMP
Education and Training Committee Chair, Michigan Pet Alliance
Michelle Spranger is a certified meeting professional and multimedia project manager with 25+ years of experience in producing business meetings, press conferences, special events, experiential marketing, corporate videos and original television programming. In 2011, Michelle began volunteering at her local animal shelter by videotaping adoptable cats and dogs to post on social media. She came home with two foster puppies on her first day at the shelter. In her free time, Michelle and her husband enjoy exploring the country with their dogs in their RV.
President and CEO, Capital Area Humane Society
Julia Willson is entering her 24th year at Capital Area Humane Society in Lansing where she has served as president and CEO since 2009. Prior to her current role, she was director of operations, education programs manager, and licensed veterinary nurse for clinical services. Julia graduated from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Nursing Program and Huntington University with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She has spent her entire career in the animal welfare sector. Julia’s focus is on visionary, strategic and impactful leadership. She has navigated Capital Area Humane Society through extensive growth over the past decade, which includes creation of a high-quality low-cost spay/neuter clinic and a major capital campaign and building renovation. Julia’s passion is serving the people and animals of the greater Lansing region and in being a voice for homeless animals.