Leadership and Program Managers

Executive Director, Heather Gehrke
Heather graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a Bachelor of Business Administration, majoring in Finance and Real Estate.  She has also taken non-profit management courses through UW-Milwaukee. Most of Heather’s career has been in the non-profit sector.  It is Elmbrook Humane Society (EBHS) who moved Heather to become involved in animal welfare.  After adopting Teki from EBHS in 2000 during the first ever “Scratch and Dent Sale” of 2000, she was moved by the great work our team at the time carried out each and every day and became a volunteer.  She spent time with our dogs, volunteered at Wag Walk (now Wagfest), and served on our Board of Directors before moving to Onalaska, WI.  Heather was the Executive Director of Coulee Region Humane Society from 2004-2012.  She took a short break from animal welfare and joined the EBHS team once again in April 2013. When Heather thinks about the work we do every single day to positively impact the lives of animals and humans, she can’t imagine anything more rewarding!  Heather is very lucky to have parents who involved pets in her life since childhood!  She has currently been adopted by a 7 year old Siberian Husky who is deaf and super smart, knowing sign language and working to become a pet therapy dog. She also has an 8 year old DMH feline who found his way into her life first as a foster as the result of being a burn victim and then permanently as a result of adoption. Heather enjoys traveling – returning from time to time to a few of her favorite spots as well as exploring new places. When not traveling, working, or volunteering, she enjoys sticking close to her home spending time with her dog and cat, family and friends, and relaxing in her backyard. Choosing a quote is tough as there are many quotes Heather finds inspiring; one of her favorites is, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou


Development Director, Anita Alfaro

Anita attended UW-Whitewater with a BA in Communications and a minor in Recreation. Before working at EBHS, Anita’s family fostered cats and kittens through another organization for four years.  Anita has worked in development and event planning in the non-profit sector for over seventeen years and she loves it!  Anita’s family has three cats (Nacho, Sweetie and Callie), two cockatiels (NeNe and CoCo), and five goldfish that have all been won at area church festivals by Anita’s son. In her free time, Anita loves spending time with her family and friends, crafting, reading, shopping, being active at her son’s school, and watching Brewers games.  She and her husband also enjoy watching their son swim, playing video games with him, and watching him play percussion in his Middle School band. Two of Anita’s favorite sayings are “You Rock” and “Always Smile”!







Shelter Operations Manager/Humane Officer, Natalie Hoskins

Natalie is a graduate of Winona State University. She majored in Mass Communications. In addition, Natalie attended East West Healing Arts Institute to become certified in Massage Therapy. Natalie has been a member of the Elmbrook staff since 2009, and through her time here she has been an essential part of our team in several capacities. She got her start as an Animal Caregiver and got her certification as a Humane Officer. Natalie was promoted to Shelter Operations Assistant Manager, moved to Customer Relations Manager, and as of this April, became our Shelter Operations Manager. Natalie has five pets of her own; Gump is a two year old French bulldog/Pitbull mix from EBHS, Oswin is a three year old foster Frenchie, Lt. Dan is a one year old Siamese mix from EBHS, Stormageddon is an eight month old Siamese mix, and Nightwing is handsome three year old brown Tabby from EBHS. Natalie enjoys most outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, kayaking, and paddle boarding. The only outdoor activities you won’t catch Natalie trying are hunting or fishing since she is a vegan. In addition to enjoying the outdoors, Natalie loves watching her son’s sporting events. When it comes to a favorite quote, Natalie does not have one!





Customer Relations Manager, Victoria Shevey

Victoria attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh achieving a Bachelor of Science and Human Services Leadership degree. Victoria completed an internship at the Oshkosh Area Humane Society in the volunteer department. She has one dog named Raisinet, who was adopted from EBHS. In her spare time, Victoria enjoys being outdoors, traveling, taking pictures, and spending time with her dog and family. Victoria admires the quote, “Our prime purpose in life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” -Dalai Lama








Dog Training and Behavior Coordinator, Carol Sumbry

Carol_2017-10-09Carol attended Parkland College and the University of Illinois. Her field of study was Management/Personnel psychology. She joined the team at EBHS in 2007. Carol now loves the study of dog behavior and is an Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (one of only four in the state of Wisconsin certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with almost 2 decades of experience. She does Behavior Assessments, Treatment Plans and Behavior/Training Protocols for dogs who exhibit problems or behaviors due to lack of early socialization, temperament, training or other issues such as aggression, anxiety or fear. She also teaches classes and does private consultations to help clients raise a great dog.

Carol also fosters dogs and has fostered hundreds of dogs over the years, most with behavior issues. She has two foster “failures” from EBHS.  Leine and Timber were puppy mill dogs rescued by EBHS. When she isn’t working Carol loves to paddleboard, walk/run, do therapy work with her dogs, do yoga, and spend quality time with her dog and human family.  Carol’s favorite quote is “Be the change you want to see in the world”. –Ghandi





Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator, Becky Tetzlaff


Becky graduated from American InterContinental University in the winter of 2013 with a degree in Business Administration with a focus on Management. She joined the EBHS team in March of 2014. Becky has always had compassion for animals and discovered this was her passion shortly after graduating High School. With that, she has volunteered for the San Clement/Dana Point Animal Shelter and was an active foster parent and Cat Foster Coordinator for the Okinawan-American Animal Rescue Society while living overseas with her husband. She has also fostered several litters of kittens for EBHS. She has three rescued feline furbabies at home; Maverick, Freckles and Nacho. In her free time, you will find Becky enjoying her family and friends. She loves bird watching, being outdoors, and quiet nights at home with her husband and daughter.  A quote that is meaningful to Becky is ”There isn’t enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which one will live there”. – Author Unknown






Humane Educator, Jennifer Thomas

Jennifer graduated from Alverno College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. She taught in area elementary schools for several years before having children. Jennifer’s passion for people, education, and animals makes this a great position for her. Jennifer has a golden retriever puppy named Charlie and a cat named Jack. Jennifer enjoys spending time with family. Jennifer’s favorite quote is a Chinese proverb, “Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.”









Executive Assistant, Dawn Noska

Dawn graduated from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a degree in Accounting. She joined the EBHS team in September of 2005. Dawn’s family had a menagerie of pets growing up, from mice and ducks to the obligatory dog and cat.  Dawn and her children have fostered many cats and dogs for EBHS.  What a fun experience, especially with teenaged children! Dawn currently has a golden retriever named Lacy who came into her life when an EBHS adopter could no longer care for her.  Lacy is seven years old now! Dawn also has a cat named Bob who showed up on her back porch one winter day a few years ago with both his ear tips frozen off. Dawn loves to travel. She wants to experience everything in life. In Susan Sontag’s words, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”. Dawn’s favorite quote is The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” -Matthew 7:12.








Animal Care and Adoption Counselors


Emily Carl

Emily graduated from Lawrence University in 2011 with degrees in Psychology, English, and Film Studies. She joined our team in July of 2014.  Studying Animal-Assisted Therapy made Emily realize that she wanted to work with animals. Her senior capstone examined how reading education assistance dogs could help children with Down Syndrome learn to read, combining her passion for helping those with developmental disabilities as well as therapy dogs. Since then, she has worked with animals through dog sitting and working at PetSmart before starting at EBHS. She has also taken her love for animals to Best Paw Forward, where she works part-time as a training assistant. Emily has two cats, Otto and Loki. When she isn’t at work, Emily enjoys watching movies, going to concerts, writing, reading, and doing pretty much anything on the water! Emily’s favorite quote is, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”- Albus Dumbledore







Mikenna Gapinski


Mikenna graduated from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point in the winter of 2016 with degrees in Biology, Chemistry, and Spanish. Before becoming a member of the Elmbrook team in August of 2017, she interned at the Wildlife in Need Center in the animal care department. She also spent a summer at the Minnesota Zoo working as a zookeeping intern for tropical and Minnesota native mammals. Mikenna has always had a love for animals and began caring for them at a young age by pet sitting, dog walking, and volunteering at local shelters. She currently doesn’t have any pets, but plans to adopt in the near future. When she’s not at work, she likes to spend her free time exploring outdoors. She enjoys doing almost anything outdoors, but especially likes to run, hike, and camp. She also loves traveling, spending time with family, reading, and doing puzzles.  Mikenna’s favorite quote is, “Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” – Malcolm Forbes







Elaina Hintze

Elaina graduated from Milwaukee Career College with a degree in veterinary assisting. At the end of her program she was given the opportunity to intern at EBHS, which is where she decided she wanted to pursue a career in shelter medicine. Elaina is new to the field and is looking forward to gaining experience in animal welfare. She is also extremely interested in hematology and feline behavior. Elaina currently owns four cats: Fred, George, Lilly, and Vladimir. Outside of work, Elaina likes to spend her time hiking or sitting around a bonfire. She also enjoys making lattes and reading. Her favorite quote is, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” – Albus Dumbledore







Jessica Horvath

Jessica graduated from Milwaukee Career College in 2016 with a Veterinary Assistant Certificate. Jessica spent one year volunteering with shelter cats at EBHS as a Cat Socializer. Jessica has one dog named Lacy. Jessica enjoys running, hiking, practicing yoga, reading, writing, painting, and drawing in her free time. Jessica’s favorite quote is, “This, too, shall pass”.










Kaeli Petersen


Kaeli graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a BA in Communications in non-profit organizations. With a passion for animals since she was young, she chose to pursue a career in animal welfare. Before coming to EBHS, Kaeli had the opportunity to complete internships with the Brew City Bully Club and the Wisconsin Humane Society. Kaeli has two rescue dogs of her own named Lainey and Levi who are her whole world. When she isn’t at work, she loves spending time with loved ones and enjoying the outdoors by camping, hiking, and traveling. Kaeli hopes that one day she can say she has visited every National park in the United States. One of her favorite quotes is: “Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than you are to your comfort zone”.






Matthew Rich

Matt graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Psychology. Prior to his time at EBHS, Matt spent 32 years at the San Diego Zoo as a Senior Zoo Keeper.  After his time at the San Diego Zoo, he spent a year and a half at Yellowstone Bear World in Rexburg, Idaho as the Exhibit Manager.  Lastly, he spent three years at the Pocatello Zoo as their Lead Keeper.  His area of special interest is building environmental enrichment. Outside of EBHS, Matt has three pets- Elmer the cat, Bonnie the cockatiel, and Little Bird the parakeet. Matt’s wife is the director of animal care and health at the Milwaukee County Zoo. His favorite quote is by Ghandi, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated”







Mitchell Ruiz

Mitch graduated from Carroll University in 2013 with a degree in Biology and Psychology. He worked with lab rats, snakes, fish, and frogs throughout college and spent two years working at the Wildlife in Need Center prior to joining the staff team at EBHS. Mitch currently does not have any pets. In his free time, he can be found reading, birding, competing in archery, playing tabletop and video games, and dabbling in wood carving. Mitch’s favorite quote is a Mandalorian proverb, Aliit Ori’shya tal’din, “family is more than bloodline.”








Jacqueline Sommers Smith

Jackie - option 2

Jacqueline graduated from Alverno College with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business and Management. Prior to her time at EBHS, she spent over twenty years working in the private sector and nearly nine years working for the State of Wisconsin.  While working, she volunteered as a cat socializer at the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS). Upon her retirement from the State, she started volunteering as a cat socializer at EBHS as her primary area of interest was working with cats.  After volunteering for about a year, Jacqueline accepted a part-time position as a Customer Relations Associate. Her main duties were working with the public via in person, telephone, and email and database work related to animal record keeping and adoption documentation. She has recently joined the Animal Care staff as an Animal Caregiver where her main focus will be on adoption counseling and related duties. Jacqueline has been a pet lover all her life and currently has one adult rescue cat at home.  When she is not working or volunteering at EBHS, Jacqueline enjoys spending time with family and friends, yoga, reading, music, travel, cooking, and sewing. Jackie’s favorite quote is, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” -Henry James






Andrea Wirtz

Andrea graduated from Northern Michigan University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Zoology. She joined our team in March of 2016. Her involvement with a Michigan nature center is where she discovered her passion for education and gained previous animal care experience. Andrea doesn’t currently have any pets but does hope to adopt in the future. When she isn’t at work, Andrea enjoys hiking, camping, traveling, and spending time with her family. She loves to read, so you may also find her curled up with a favorite book. Her favorite quote is by Aldo Leopold, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.”








Shay Woodley

Shay attended Milwaukee Career College earning her Veterinary Assistant degree. She has taken additional coursework at Waukesha County Technical College and is currently attending UW-Waukesha, pursuing another passion of hers – to provide education to underprivileged children with special needs. Shay joined the EBHS team in September 2014 as an Animal Caregiver and currently continues to fulfill this important role as well as our Surgery Assistant. Shay enjoys her work as she is able to care for animals who temporarily do not have a home. Additionally, she enjoys providing individualized care for each animal she works with as well as tending to their surgical needs. She currently shares her home and life with an orange and white Tabby named Edgar Annie Polo or Ed for short. When not working or attending school, she enjoys playing music, riding her bike, hiking, and reading comics. She has many favorite quotes by Muhammad Ali, who she happens to share a birthday with, with the following two being at the top of her list: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life” and “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”.

Customer Relations

Zak Heebsh, Customer Relations Assistant Manager

Zak has been working full-time since he graduated High School. Zak volunteered at Wisconsin Humane Society reading to dogs and he was a dog walker at MADACC. He has also volunteered with Green Acres Boxer Rescue at their Boxer Bash event. If Zak had to pick a specialty, he would choose the customer service aspect of his job. He has always enjoyed interacting with people. Zak has a dog (Clara) and three cats (Buddy, Kettle & Ira). Zak has trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for six years at Red Schafer MMA. He loves to read, play video games, and travel.  His favorite quote is, “It wasn’t until I’d met everyone else’s measure of success that I realized I’d failed myself.”  – Rick Remender







Kira Bublitz


Kira graduated from Carroll University in 2013 with a major is Psychology and minor in Sociology. Kira has been the director and volunteer coordinator of the Wisconsin Boston Terrier Rescue (WBTR) since 2014. She started working at EBHS in January of 2015. Kira loves working with animals, and her passion is fostering dogs and cats for WBTR and EBHS. In addition to her foster animals, Kira has four dogs (Stella, Remi, Marley and Ria) and three cats (Lily, Henrietta and Jack). In her free time, Kira and her husband love to go camping and hiking with their dogs! Kira’s favorite quote is, “Adopt don’t shop!”








Stephanie DeSwarte

Stephanie_2017-10-09Stephanie attended University of Wisconsin Green Bay and University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Her field of study was elementary education and history. She joined EBHS in September of 2017. Stephanie has always had a passion for animals. She has had dogs all her life and used to breed guinea pigs. She currently has a dog named Sabrina who is a former resident of EBHS. When Stephanie is not at work she enjoys going hiking with her dog, traveling especially on cruises, shopping, and spending time with family and friends. One of her favorite quotes is “Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”- Einstein










Kelly Graeve

Kelly graduated from UW- Oshkosh with a degree in Education. Working at EBHS is a great job for Kelly because she enjoys working with people and animals. Kelly has cats of her own and she also enjoys fostering cats and kittens. In addition to working at EBHS, Kelly also transports animals with Badger Rescue Animal Transport Services (BRATS). When she is not at work, Kelly enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.








Karen Sopik

Karen_2017-10-09Karen attended the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and has a BA degree in Communications.  She also has a degree in Paralegal Studies.  Prior to joining the Elmbrook Humane Society in August 2017, Karen spent 20+ years in the private and public sectors.  Karen has 3 dogs, Rusty, a Bichon-Shihtzu mix; Ziggy, a Rat Terrior mix; and Abbie, a Jack Russell Terrior/Corgi mix.  Ziggy and Abbie were both adopted from the Elmbrook Humane Society.  In her spare time, Karen is a dance mom, traveling with her daughter to both local and national dance competitions.  She also likes to read, garden and spend time with her family.  Karen’s favorite quote is: “It’s Nice, to be Nice, to the Nice!”  Major Frank Burns, MASH











Photos courtesy of Erin Beckett,