BOARD OF DIRECTORS - BIOGRAPHIES.
Tamara Hedges, President
Tamara has been an administrator for the University of California for nearly three decades, beginning at UC San Francisco in 1992, before transferring to the UC Riverside Palm Desert Center in 2005, where she was part of the University’s launch team. There she served as the financial and administrative officer, then became the Chief Operating Officer, before being promoted to her current position of Executive Director in 2013. Tamara has created and supported countless academic and community engagement programs at UCR Palm Desert, covering a wide range of subjects including climate change, conservation, food insecurity, social justice, health care, nonprofit management, fine arts, film, literature, Native American studies and mindfulness, to name a few.
Tamara and her husband Tony Thelemaque live in Palm Springs, where their rescue cats and dogs graciously allow the couple to share their home.
Carl Johnson, Vice President
Previously a cat-only pet owner, Carl’s life was immediately enhanced by also welcoming dogs into his family after his retirement in 2006. Carl began volunteering with the Big Brother organization in 2008 mentoring children one on one and then also in an after-school program tutoring students. He began volunteering at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter in 2011. Looking for an opportunity to put his business acumen and leadership to work, he joined the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal board of directors in 2012 where he quickly found this to be his life passion. He was active in employing policies and procedures in the new No Kill shelter and worked with others to install a new animal database enabling real-time information gathering and effective presentation for management review and reporting. Currently, he serves as Vice President on the board.
Most recently, Carl has put his personal passion of enriching and enhancing the lives of the shelters dogs in preparation for adoption into action. He worked to enhance the Canine Enrichment Program by developing and strengthening the shelter’s infrastructure with program enhancement and effective training of staff and volunteers. Carl has always shared his life with multiple animals and feels honored to have been the recipient of love, hope, and companionship from them. It is with this honorable exchange that he helps shelter animals to prepare for their next adventure, safely, securely, and without fear.
Keith Zabel, Vice President
In 2014, Keith combined his passion for midcentury modern and the animal shelter to launch the first of four Meiselman Homes Tours in conjunction with Modernism Week, which collectively have raised over $100,000 for FPSAS. These home tours continue today under the branding of Give Me Shelter.
When the shelter reaches full feline capacity, Keith and his husband, Randy Shemaitis, have driven upwards of 65 cats and kittens non-stop to Seattle or Portland for adoption at no-kill shelter partners.
In 2018, Keith helped launch the FPSAS’ WorkingCATS program, for community cats from TNR or hoarding when they are not able to be safely returned to their original location. This program leverages the shelter’s outside CATIO as a temporary respite, until a safe yard, barn, farm, stable, or facility are found for them to be placed permanently.
Keith is Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, and he co-chairs both the Development Committee and the TNR Steering Committee. Keith is currently employed by TripActions in Palo Alto, and resides full time in Palm Springs with his husband and their cats.
Lauren LeBaron, Treasurer
Lauren is an avid supporter of organizations that seek to promote the greater welfare of animals. Lauren is a supporter of various organizations, including Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Best Friends Animal Society, ASPCA, SPCLA, SPCA International, World Wildlife Fund and Cheetah Rescue. Lauren volunteered at Los Angeles City Animal Shelter for approximately ten years as a dog walker at the North Central facility and has been a volunteer at Palm Springs Animal Shelter as a big dog walker for the past several years. Lauren has been on photo safari in both Kenya and South Africa, as well as travelling to Churchill Canada to view polar bears. Lauren also spent one week in China’s Chengdu Panda Center where he fed and cleaned up after panda bears.
Lauren was also an early contributor to the building of the beautiful Palm Springs Animal Shelter and has a donor plaque on the wall.
Lauren is very enthusiastic about dogs and will talk to anyone about them. He can often be seen talking to and sharing favorite photos of any of his past rescue dogs with complete strangers. Lauren & his partner adopted their latest rescue, Shelby, from the Palm Springs Animal Shelter in June of 2019.
Tim Watts, Secretary
Tim proudly serves as the treasurer for the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter and is a life-long animal lover. There has never been a time in his life where he didn’t have a pet. A graduate of the California State University, Fullerton (B.A., 1987) and the University of La Verne (MBA, 2005), he is a southern California native. He and his husband live in Palm Springs.
During her term on the City Council she held many positions on various local and regional government committees and took a leadership role on battling homelessness, paving the way for legal medical cannabis facilities and transportation infrastructure in the Riverside County. By far her most rewarding position was joining the Board of Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter in 2006. She has been a consistent member of the Board holding positions as Board Member, Treasurer and City Liaison. She is currently serves on several committees including the Finance Committee, Development Committee and, committees related to governance and contracts.
She was instrumental in spearheading the fundraising, creation and building of the new Palm Springs Animal Shelter which opened in 2011 and today stands as a beacon of hope for unhoused animals and a model for other jurisdictions on progressive no-kill philosophy sheltering practices. Since moving full time to Palm Springs in 1999 Ginny has had the privilege to co-mother rescues with her life partner of 32 years, Pam Genevrino , including three senior Shar Pei’s, a senior Wheaton Terrier, a fish named Frank and the two beloved current furry family members, Madison (a Palm Springs Shelter Alumni) and Chloe.
Jana earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in both English and Theatre from Texas A&M- Kingsville. She continued on to receive a teaching certificate in Education and earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Cal State-Fullerton. While in graduate school, Jana joined the US Marine Corps training, graduating as a Second Lieutenant. She went on to serve twenty-two years as an active duty and reserve officer. She retired as a medaled Lieutenant Colonel receiving the Navy Commendation Medal for outstanding performance of duty while stationed in Hawaii. Jana has worked in a variety of subject matter expert, sales, and supervisory positions as well as the sole proprietor of a small business.
Jana volunteers as the TNR program manager for FPSAS. In this position, she developed and implemented a protocol aligned with nationwide best practices that ensures excellent care and safety for each cat, from initial intake, pre- surgery care, surgery, post – surgery care, return to field. Jana believes that her service on the board takes her volunteerism to a higher level, helping further the compassionate and progressive committed care of the animals entrusted to the organization.
Dr. Douglas Kunz
Dr. Kunz graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree and obtained a Master’s of Science degree in animal nutrition from Brigham Young University. His veterinary education was obtained from Colorado State University where he graduated in May of 1977.
Dr. Kunz has practiced small animal medicine and surgery in Palm Springs for the past 42 years. He currently practices at VCA Desert Animal Hospital in Palm Springs where he also serves as medical director. Dr. Kunz has served on the California Veterinary State Board Exam Review Committee and the Medical Advisory Board for PetDrX, Inc. He is a contributing author of the Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. He was a founder of Animal Emergency Clinic of the Desert and served as president of the board of directors for over 20 years until its sale to XLNT Veterinary Care, Inc. in January of 2007.
As a founding President of the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter from 1996 to 2015, Dr. Kunz maintains his dedication to the shelter by continuing to serve on the board of directors of Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter today and acts as a trusted advisor to the shelter’s medical team.
Dr. Kunz and his wife of 50 years, Colleen Ross live in Palm Springs. They are the parents of five children and have 19 grandchildren.
Bill is active in the Palm Springs Community Emergency Response Team and the Riverside County Emergency Management Department Communications Group. Hobbies include exploring backroads in his beloved Land Rover Defender, maintaining a vintage Studebaker Avanti, and hiking on local desert trails. For seven years he and his dog “Porter” regularly visited local institutions as a Therapy Dog Team. His home always includes a few rescued shelter dogs.
Retirement has given Bill the wonderful opportunity to help pets, both as a volunteer and member of the Board of Directors of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. He particularly enjoys facilitating small dog playgroups several times a week.
Louis then went on to explore his family’s business, the wholesale distribution of fine wines and spirits. This radical change of direction led Louis to a 25 year career, culminating in the position of CEO of the company. During this period, Louis resided in nearby Washington, DC, and there, became involved in the creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, both as a benefactor and as a volunteer working with survivor testimonies and outreach. His work there continues today.
Pursuing another lifelong interest, Louis became involved with the Washington Animal Rescue League. His experiences with the organization were formative in furthering his passion for animal advocacy, and ignited his interest in promoting the no-kill philosophy.
Louis and his husband Kyle retired to Palm Springs in 2007. Louis began volunteering with FPSAS as dog handler, and then an adoption counselor, before joining the board of directors in 2016.
After 5 years, Roger left the private sector for good and founded the first legal aid program for people disabled by HIV and AIDS in southern California. For the next 12 years, Roger worked as an Executive Director for several nonprofits, focusing on low income people with AIDS, women and children with HIV, and the environment. Roger left California to attend the Harvard Kennedy School, graduating with a Master’s in Public Administration. After graduation, Roger clerked at the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, where he was assigned to assist the judges overseeing the war crimes trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
Moving to the desert to join family, Roger continued working in service to those without a voice, and became a Public Defender. He is currently a felony trial attorney, handling cases ranging from simple car theft to murder.
In 2017, Roger’s beloved German shepherd, Anton, died. It was too soon for him to get another, so a friend suggested he volunteer at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. Roger signed up and became a dog handler, eventually segueing up to level 3, and then to the Board. One summer, Roger began working with “Wally” a stray puppy brought into the shelter. It eventually became easier to walk Wally at home, so Roger adopted him. Wally joined Roger and his partner, Ken, and their first rescue, Cash in Palm Springs. All are now inseparable.