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Meet AWA’s Staff

Our staff oversees award-winning and innovative programs including adoptions, foster care, pet clinic and rehoming that help more than 15,000 community pets in South Jersey

Administration and Development

Please Note: The Development Team, Volunteer Coordinator, and Executive Director offices are temporarily located at 701 Cooper Road, Suite #11 (next to Rite Aid and across from Hope Church)

Laura Houston - Executive Director

Laura Houston joins the AWA team with over 20 years’ experience working to advance the human-animal bond.  Ms. Houston most recently held the position of Director of Education with the Elmwood Park Zoo (EPZ) in Norristown, PA where she was instrumental in EPZ becoming the first zoo in the nation to become Autism Certified. Prior to that, she was with the Philadelphia Zoo for 16 years where she held several roles including Director of Education. While at the Philadelphia Zoo, she helped steward the creation and advancement of multiple programs and exhibits including the award-winning ZooCrew teen volunteering program and Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master’s degree in English both from Rutgers University – Camden. In addition to being an avid animal-lover, she is also passionate about engaging with her community, holds the position of Secretary for the Gloucester Commission for Women, and is a dedicated Philadelphia sports fan. Ms. Houston is a life-long resident of West Deptford, New Jersey where she resides with her partner, Bill, two rescue dogs and two very sassy African grey parrots.

Maria Giorla - Director of Finance and Administration

Maria Giorla comes to AWA with more than 25 years of experience in financial management, which includes accounts payable, payroll, banking, financial reporting/forecasting and cash management. She also has experience managing and directing human resources activities.

Marian Conicella - Development Manager

Marian took on the role of Development Manager in fall of 2021 and has been a long time supporter and advocate of AWA. You may have met Marian at one of our many fundraising events, shelter farewell tours, or new shelter hard hat tours.

Alicia Haley – Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator  –

Kerry Rose – Website & Digital Communications Coordinator –

Tracy LaForge – Donors Relations Communications Coordinator –

Meggin Olivo- Event Manager, Development Associate –

Ann-Elizabeth Weiner – Human Resources & Accounting Coordinator –

Lauren Donaldson – Database & Donor Relations Administrator –

Sue Beck – Database & Donor Relations Associate –

Ron Delp – Special Projects Coordinator –

Adoption Center

Nanci Urban - Senior Shelter Services Manager

Nanci directly manages the shelter services which includes intake/rehoming programs, animal care, shelter veterinary care, adoptions, animal transport, shelter/public training and behavior programs, foster care program, temporary boarding program and retail shop. She has 25 years of shelter experience under her belt. And can be guilty of taking her work home with her, which is how she has Daisy (transported up from LA), Lolly (transported in from TN), Peanut (rescued from a pet shop Nanci helped to close down over 10 yrs ago), Akira (transported from NC and an official foster fail in 2021) and 2 cats, Maggie and Bugs (AWA alumni). She is extremely excited to be a part of the new shelter construction and the growth of the organization that will soon follow.

Dr. Emily Seidl - Senior Veterinarian

Dr. Seidl received a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Prince Edward Island Atlantic Veterinary College. She became interested in veterinary medicine while working and volunteering in a shelter. The important mission, community involvement and unique case load kept helped solidify her career path. She was recently became an editorial advisory board member for DVM360, the No. 1 multimedia platform in the veterinary industry. In her spare time, Emily enjoys reading, hiking and bouldering with some cross stitch thrown in!

Elizabeth Stanley-Reicherter CPDT-KA, ABCDT, CBCC-KA - Behavior Support & Training Manager

Liz is a certified behavior consultant canine (CBCC- KA).  She is one of only 402 in the world.  Liz is also a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA) and canine good citizen evaluator with a degree in Anthropology from New York University.  She specializes in finding solutions for behavioral challenged dogs, cats and small animals.  Liz designs and implements effective behavior modification plans to achieve behaviorally health animals within the shelter environment.  Ensuring the animals at AWA stay mentally and physically healthy is critical to AWA’s work.  To this Liz also teaches community workshops and public dog training classes.

The topics covered in AWA’s community workshops are diverse:  Listening to Your Dog for Girl Scout to Zoom sessions at Medford Leas about Clicker Training Cats to Proper Leash Walking and At Home Enrichment Toys 101 for the public.  The love of teaching others has helped Liz in her designing AWA’s staff and volunteer training program as well as in developing a future dog trainer mentoring program for college students.

Before joining AWA in 2015 Liz was an independent dog trainer focusing on problem behavior solving at the Dog Lady Dog Training.  She also volunteered and assisted with behavior modification at an open-admission high volume animal shelter on Long Island, NY.  With a strong focus on behavior and behavior modification she was able to increase the number of animal lives saved and lower animal relinquishments to that animal shelter.

Liz loves learning.  Her goal is to eventually secure the title of “Behaviorist,” a title reserved for only a few hundred trainers in the US.

When away from AWA Liz enjoys time on her farm with her son, husband and a house and barn yard of animals.

Ryan Castoral - Foster & Transport Coordinator

Ryan started at AWA in 2021 as a vet tech and has been a foster parent for AWA for the past 7 years, as well as an AWA adopter of 3 dogs, 2 rabbits and most recently, a kitten named Marshmellow. Ryan has a wealth of shelter knowledge and experience. She was an ACO and office manager of an animal shelter in Ocean county for many years and prior to that a vet tech in private practice. Her background in the field (and having firsthand knowledge of our foster program as a foster parent herself) made her a natural fit for the program. She is dedicated to the animals in our care and to the organization and is looking forward to growing our program even more.

Robert Snyder - Animal Care Supervisor

Robert’s passion for animals started as a kid when he was raised with dogs, cats and fish all his life. He always had a passion for animals growing up and this passion took him on a journey to find different outlets to assist all forms of life from our furry friends to our aquatic ones too! Robert is an avid aquarist who used take in surrendered injured fish to rehabilitate them and get them into new homes. When fish were found in abandoned homes of people who left them behind, which happened often, he’d often take them in when pet stores or other resources weren’t available to do so. He was always successful at finding placement and it became his mission to provide this kind of love to our finned aquatic friends. Robert has over 15 years of experience in retail management and comes as a graduate from Pennco-Tech with a degree in CAD Drafting. He was successful at managing various establishments and created programs to engage employees and always had a listening ear to fix various problems in departments and find solutions to the issues at hand. Robert became an excellent candidate for our organization, and he was hired as our Animal Care Supervisor in March 2022. He will overlook the Animal Care Department in making sure that the upkeep and care for our animals temporarily residing here is number priority along with managing our growing animal care staff. In his spare time, Robert enjoys console gaming, hiking, biking, and reading. He lives with his husband Christian and their three cats: Ava, Arya, and Ada. Along with their dog, Timothy (Pictured with Robert) who is an AWA Alumni and was adopted on June 6, 2021.

Katie Nelson - Adoption & Customer Service Supervisor

Having always loved animals, and after thriving as a dog walker and pet sitter, Katie joined the AWA in September 2016 as an Adoption Counselor, eventually growing into the role of Adoption and Customer Service Supervisor.  She loves benefitting both people and animals by making quality adoption matches.  She is excited to support the continued progressiveness and growth of the adoption program, as well as the AWA’s other programs and services.  Katie’s furry family include her dog Kado, who can smell a dropped treat from a mile away, and her cat Kelby, who loves to jump on Katie’s shoulders when she’s least expecting it.

Ashley Prem - Veterinary Technician Supervisor

Ashley is our Veterinary Technician Supervisor and has been a Veterinary Technician since 2012. Ashley has had experience in multiple areas of the veterinary field including Emergency Care and General Practice as well as a Surgical Technician. Ashley joined our facility in 2021 as a part time surgical technician and has since moved into the Vet. Tech. Supervisor position. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys spending time with her animals: dog (Zuko), guinea pigs  (Boo & Biggie) and her turtle (Penelope). She also enjoys hiking and playing video games when she can.

Christian Snyder - Community Pet Outreach Specialist

Ending his career in 2007 as an Assistant Manager for Environmental Services at The Flanders Hotel in Ocean City, NJ, which lasted 9 years and was his first job, Christian was ready for a change. That shift would prove to be life changing in so many ways. In 2007, Christian wanted to begin the next chapter of his life devoting himself to working with companion animals. Not exactly knowing what to do, he first started as a bather for Petsmart Grooming Salon. Educating himself on canine and feline breeds assisted in his journey to a better understanding of the needs of clients and companion animals alike. After a few years of learning and growing, he was promoted to work as a Pet Nurse at Banfield Pet Hospital in Turnersville, NJ. New to this world, his primary duties were triaging patients and assisting the veterinarian on duty. From here, Christian would journey through various channels to ascertain the experience necessary to forge ahead. Christian then started at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, Cherry Hill NJ as a Veterinary Assistant (2010)

During this time, Christian had decided that he wanted to work as an Animal Control Officer for the State of New Jersey. While simultaneously working as a veterinary assistant, Christian went to Camden County College in Blackwood NJ to receive his license to become a Certified New Jersey Animal Control Officer. After graduating the course, in December 2012 Christian was officially hired as an Animal Control Officer for Willingboro, NJ. This would be a career that lasted 9 years. During his tenure there, in addition to his Animal Control duties, Christian quickly observed a need into finding ways to better educate the public as there were no resources for the community to expand their knowledge on the needs of domesticated animals. This also included the needs of wildlife conservation and protection in suburban neighborhoods. Christian created a community outreach program titled “PAWS to Safety” in Willingboro NJ for Burlington County NJ to engage the community on how to properly care for their companion animals and the importance of wildlife in their neighborhoods and safety protocols to keep wildlife and neighbors safe with humane education.

In a need to expand his knowledge further, Christian decided that it was time to move ahead and apply everything in his journey to a new career change. Christian officially left Animal Control and forged ahead to apply his skills and experience to a new position. He then applied for a position here with the Animal Welfare Association in April 2021. By chance, a new position was created within the organization as an Intake/Rehoming Specialist which assists clients to successfully rehome their pets by giving them tools and resources for placement and keeps companion animals out of shelters. Nanci Urban, our Senior Shelter Services Manager, knew that with Christian’s over 15 years of animal welfare and education that he’d fit perfect in this position. Christian was officially hired on April 14th, 2021. Advancing in the organization, starting July 1st, 2022, Christian will now be our Community Pet Outreach Specialist. Within this role, he will be responsible for key important programs: Intake/Rehoming, Pet Food Pantry, and our new program the Pet Bereavement Program as a Pet Bereavement Counselor. In 2009, Christian became certified with this certification that he’s held since then. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walks, and console gaming. He lives with his husband Robert and their three cats: Ava, Arya, and Ada. Along with their dog, Timothy (Pictured with Christian) who is an AWA Alumni and was adopted on June 6, 2021.

Pet Clinic

Staci Smith - Clinic Manager

Stacie joined the AWA team as the Pet Clinic Manager in May of 2022.

Leroy Scott - Staff Veterinarian

Leroy Scott joined the AWA team as a staff veterinarian in May of 2022. Dr. Scott will be focusing on wellness exams to keep pets healthy in the South Jersey Community.

Capital Campaign

Maya Richmond - Strategic Director / Former Executive Director of AWA

After a decade of tireless work to further AWA’s mission and vision, Maya Richmond will be departing from her 13 year role as Executive Director and will be taking on the role of Strategic Director of AWA.

During her tenure, Maya has been the driving force behind AWA’s growth and success as an organization including:

  • Designing and overseeing construction oversight of AWA’s new Adoption and Education Center slated to open in 2022
  • Spearheading the construction of the Public Pet Clinic in 2013.
  • Creating the Vets on Wheels program to provide veterinary outreach in the City of Camden, NJ.
  • Partnering with other agencies like Bancroft and Kingsway or VNA to launch programs designed to help people and pets.
  • Leading and raising 100% of AWA’s first capital campaign for $2,500,000 for the new building.
  •  Facilitating over 27,000 adoptions and 96,000 spays/neuters.

Maya’s passion, skills and drive elevated AWA’s services and programs. She has worked with foundations and donors to grow support to fund significant expansion of our programs while simultaneously building the foundation for the AWA we have today which is physically manifested in the new Adoption and Education Center. Maya designed the entire project for the new Adoption and Education Center, developed the vision, and raised 85% of all the funds received for AWA’s Capital Campaign.     Click here for Maya’s goodbye letter to donors and AWA stakeholders