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What is Dogs for Better Lives?

Dogs for Better Lives (DBL) is a national nonprofit organization, based in Central Point, Oregon, whose mission is focused on the procurement, training, and placing of Hearing Assistance Dogs, Autism Assistance Dogs, and Facility Dogs.

Accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and recognized by Charity Navigator as a 4-star nonprofit, DBL has been acquiring and rescuing dogs, bettering lives, and providing Assistance Dogs since 1977.

Since its founding, DBL has grown from placing Hearing Assistance Dogs to also include Facility Dogs, and more recently, Autism Assistance Dogs. DBL has nationally placed more than 1,500 dogs since its inception by its late founder, Roy Kabot.

What is a Regional Advisory Board?

As DBL continues to grow and embark on their journey to better the lives of those with disabilities, pairing them with an amazing Assistance Dog, they are also working on cultivating the next generation of leaders across the country, currently targeting the Pacific Northwest, Northeast, and Southwest regions to become involved in carrying out their mission and vision.

DBL’s Regional Advisory Boards (RAB), formerly Young Professionals Boards, are comprised of like-minded individuals who share a similar passion for dogs and giving back to people with disabilities in their communities.  Members are engaged in advocating for and marketing the mission of DBL, participating in outreach events, as well as planning and fundraising through a variety of initiatives.

Am I A Good Fit For The Regional Advisory Board?

It is essential that each of the Regional Advisory Boards encompass a rich and diverse mix of backgrounds and skillsets. We’re currently looking for members who share a passion for DBL’s mission, love dogs and how they better others’ lives, and want to collaboratively participate in something much bigger than themselves.

Where Are the Regional Advisory Boards Located?

Currently, Regional Advisory Boards are successfully engaged in the Pacific Northwest, Northeast, and in California, all regions where Dogs for Better Lives has a prominent footprint with clients, donors, and volunteers.  In building on DBL’s long-term vision and working to support current initiatives, we are currently working to launch RABs in both Texas and Florida.

DBL to launch signature event with Regional Advisory Boards

With the support and guidance of the Regional Advisory Boards, they will annually host signature events around National Service Dog Month in September, while engaging volunteers, clients, donors, and community partners.

Regional Advisory Board – PNW launched in Fall 2019, Regional Advisory Board – NE launched in January 2022, and Regional Advisory Board – CA launched in August 2022. Eventually, DBL will have Regional Advisory Boards in strategic locations across the country, working to support each of the nonprofit’s planned regional footprints.

Board Structure

 Term Length

When committing to Dogs for Better Lives’ Regional Advisory Board (RAB), the term will last for one year (12 months), from the date that the RAB approves the new member.  As long as the member fulfills all of the commitments throughout the year, members will be welcome to apply for an unlimited number of terms.

 Leadership Roles

Each Regional Advisory Board (RAB) will have a variety of leadership roles that will be voted on annually by its respective members in state/region.  These positions currently consist of Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary.


1) Meetings; Each RAB chapter will meet monthly with an internal meeting with its respective members, at a time that works for the entire group. Quarterly, RAB chapters will meet with DBL leadership via Microsoft Teams to provide updates, participate in continuing education opportunities, provide strategic planning discussion on upcoming events, and engage their respective Board Mentor from DBL’s national board.

2) Fundraising; When committing to Dogs for Better Lives’ Regional Advisory Board, a member is committing to a minimum fundraising goal of $1,000, through their direct support, engaging others to support the nonprofit, and/or through in-kind. This can also be done through the support of the four following (annual) initiatives:

3) Marketing; All members of the Regional Advisory Board are expected to assist Dogs for Better Lives in spreading the word about their brand and mission, whether that be through word of mouth, sharing social media posts, and/or introducing new members to our community.

4) Benefits; By being involved in DBL’s Regional Advisory Board (RAB), there are number of benefits you will receive for your participation:

  • Being a part of something that is larger than yourself. As a member of the RAB, you will have a DIRECT impact on Dogs for Better Lives’ ability to provide our services to people in key regions across the country that could benefit and qualify for an Assistance Dog.
  • As a member of the RAB, you will have the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals that sit alongside you on the RAB, as well as having access to the network of Dogs for Better Lives, which includes being introduced to the Board of Directors and key staff. Please note, the RAB Chair and Vice Chair will have the opportunity to attend one (1) Board of Directors meeting to report on the status of the RAB.
  • Acknowledgement on Dogs for Better Lives’ social media channels.
  • Recognized in Canine Listener magazine, DBL website, and in annual report.

How To Apply

Those interested in applying for DBL’s Regional Advisory Board should click on the APPLY button below. In the application itself, please be sure to indicate which region you are interested in applying to.

Regional Advisory Board – Pacific Northwest

Rita Brennan

Chair, PNW Member

For as long as Rita Brennan can recall, she has been fascinated with working dogs and wanting to be involved with them. In 2020 when Rita found an opportunity to “Raise a Future Assistance Dog,” through Dogs for Better Lives’ (DBL) puppy raiser program, she jumped right in. A short time later, DBL field representative, Jess Taluth was dropping off Rita’s first puppy in training, Guinness.

Thanks to the close collaboration with her DBL trainer, over the course of 12-months, Guinness transformed from silly puppy to focused adult (with a side of wiggles and wags). Rita’s first puppy-raising experience was very rewarding, and she signed up to raise another, a yellow lab pup named Meadow.

Although neither of her puppies ultimately became Assistance Dogs, they are both life-changing and adored companions. Both Guinness and Meadow were career changed and now Guinness has been placed in a forever home in Oregon, while Meadow was adopted by Rita and resides with her in Washington State.

Rita’s life has changed for the better, witnessing first-hand the patience, resources, and commitment that DBL devotes to the development of these life-changing dogs. “Joining the Regional Advisory Board - PNW is another way I can contribute to DBL’s important mission,” stated Rita. “I’m honored to be a small part of making a huge impact.”

Rita joined the Regional Advisory Board – PNW in January 2023.

Elena Tello Portoles

Vice Chair, PNW Member

Elena Tello Portoles is a Spanish Teacher at University Prep and has served in a variety of roles, Head of the Languages Department for six years, and currently serving as 11th Grade Dean of Students. Elena also mentors students through her role as an advisor and supports their development as
human beings.

Elena was born and raised in Lleida, a city about two hours away from Barcelona (Spain). Passionate about French language and literature, she participated in a University exchange program - Erasmus - and she had the opportunity to finish her degree in Paris (Sorbonne Nouvelle and Paris Saint-Denis) and obtained her BA in French from the Universitat de Lleida (Licenciatura en Filología Francesa).

Elena has worked at University Prep in Seattle for the past 16 years and earned a Master in Applied Linguistics to the Teaching of Spanish as a Foreign Language by the Universidad de Jaén while teaching full time.

Elena enjoys drumming, dancing, drawing and painting, and, of course, spending time with her dog Eiffel. She also enjoys daily walks in nature and the joy of the little things in life.

Elena joined the Regional Advisory Board – PNW in September 2021.

Sara Torelli

PNW Member

Sara Torelli is a School-Based Mental Health Counselor at Issaquah High School (WA) through a partnership with Swedish Medical Center. She provides services to the 2,500 student population as well as community education surrounding mental health.

Sara grew-up in Seattle, WA and graduated from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. After working and volunteering in the social service field for a few years post college, she moved to Chicago to pursue her master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Chicago. After graduation, Sara returned to the Pacific Northwest and has worked in a variety of settings including Medical Social Work in the Emergency Room, Child Welfare as a CPS Social Worker and School-Based Social Work.

As a Social Worker, Sara has witnessed the therapeutic impact animals have on humans and has a strong interest in animal therapy. Outside of work, Sara has spent the majority of her time advocating on behalf of animals and volunteering with a number of local animal rescues including Seattle Persian Himalayan Rescue, Old Dog Haven and Oregon Saint Bernard Rescue. There is no greater joy for Sara than transporting animals from shelters to their forever homes and learning of their transformations over time.

“I’m excited to begin volunteering with DBL’s Young Professionals Board, as the organization fully embodies my interests in both human and animal welfare and the therapeutic bond between them,” stated Sara.

Sara Torelli joined the Regional Advisory Board – PNW in April 2021.

Regional Advisory Board – Northeast

Elizabeth Cincotta

Chair, NE Member

Elizabeth (Beth) Cincotta has 15-years of experience in marketing, development, and communications. Having spent much of her career working for nonprofits, she has an appreciation for mission-driven organizations and the passion that motivates much of their nonprofit work.

“I am excited to join Dog for Better Lives’ Regional Advisory Board – Northeast, as I have seen firsthand the incredible benefit that Assistance Dogs have in the lives of people they are matched with,” stated Beth Cincotta. “From young kids with autism to people with hearing impairment, dogs offer amazing independence and support.”

Beth served as the Director of Marketing for another Assistance Dog organization, and later as the Vice President of Marketing and Development for an agency that assists people with disabilities, giving her unique insight that will prove useful for Dogs for Better Lives and the Regional Advisory Board – Northeast.

Currently, Beth serves as the Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Giving for Coastline Technologies, a managed IT company owned by her husband.

Beth, husband Gregory, and her two young boys reside near the Falmouth campus of Dogs for Better Lives. A goofy Golden Retriever named Tuukka and two black cats named Smidge and Dr. Claw complete their family.

“I love how Dogs for Better Lives uses both purpose-bred and shelter dogs,” stated Beth. “Saving the lives of shelter dogs and giving them new purpose is just another thing to celebrate.”

Beth joined the Regional Advisory Board – Northeast in November 2022.

Brianna Barry

Secretary, NE Member

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Brianna Barry has (proudly) worked for Boston Children’s Hospital since 2016, as a Senior Project Manager within the Program for Patient Safety and Quality.

Brianna attended Lafayette College in Easton, PA and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Neuroscience. As she progressed professionally at Boston Children’s Hospital, Brianna simultaneously pursued and completed a Master of Science degree in Healthcare Administration from Saint Joseph’s University. Through her academic endeavors and professional experience, coupled with additional Lean Six Sigma certifications, Brianna has developed a robust and diverse background rooted in project management and process improvement skillsets.

Brianna pursued volunteering on Dogs for Better Lives’ YPB with the belief of fulfilling an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals that are equally as passionate as she is in regards to assisting others, all while uniting under a shared love of dogs. At the age of 19 Brianna was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and her Mini Goldendoodle Denali has been an incredible enhancement in her life. Brianna and Denali recently completed a Canine Good Citizen certification together. Brianna feels beyond lucky and thankful that she is able to work with Dogs for Better Lives to help support the mission and values of this organization.

“I believe that Assistance Dogs are unsung heroes; they are unconditional and unwavering in their love and support,” stated Brianna. “Joining the Young Professionals Board and spreading awareness is something that I am honored to be a part of, particularly as the organization develops in the North East”.

Brianna was born and raised in the South Shore of Massachusetts, and recently purchased a home in Whitman, MA where she resides with her boyfriend and their one-year-old Denali. When the warm weather comes around to the North East, they like to hop on the Harley and cruise- Denali included!

Brianna joined the Regional Advisory Board – NE in April 2022.

Marie Bullamore

NE Member

Marie Bullamore has more than 25 years experience in legal operations and global mobility. At Seyfarth, one of the country’s leading law firms, she manages a team of 10 data and system analysts dispersed around the country in support of a nationally ranked law practice. Serving clients in the Fortune 500, higher education institutions, and research hospitals, she partners with her legal colleagues to drive solutions that tap the power of people, process, and platform.

She first came to New England from her native Baltimore to study at Harvard College (’97, Engineering Sciences) and for more than 15 years has called both Cape Cod and the Northern Berkshires home. A lifetime animal lover and outdoor enthusiast, in recent years Marie has discovered that hiking, camping, kayaking, skiing, and hunting are even more fun with a dog! In 2021, looking to serve the local community and spread the joy of canine companionship, she and her black lab Tally trained to become a therapy dog team for hospital visits. Marie and her partner Peter were thrilled in April to add a brand new pup to the pack – Thistle, Tally’s cousin.

“It’s such an honor to join this group of dedicated and visionary northeast RAB members,” stated Marie. “My weekend warrior ways take me all over – I’m eager to help spread the word of DBL’s mission and its growing east coast presence from the mountains of New Hampshire to Boston, to Western Mass, and into the mid-Atlantic.”

Marie joined the Regional Advisory Board – NE in July 2023.

Brian Buckley

NE Member

Brian Buckley has been in the Asset Management industry for 15 years, currently with J.P. Morgan, specializing in building and managing investment portfolios for non-profit organizations and family offices. Brian attended Bates College in Lewiston, ME and later furthered his studies at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Brian is a Massachusetts native, but had stops in North Carolina, New York, and Maryland over the last decade before relocating back to the Boston area with his fiancée, Michelle. Brian and Michelle are proud parents of a Goldendoodle named Clover. Clover is a sucker for a good belly rub or scratch behind the ears, and loves seeing her dog friends at Breakheart Reservation or the Fells.

“I am honored and humbled to be part of such a great organization, and serve as a member of the Regional Advisory Board - Northeast,” stated Brian. “I am excited to leverage my background, passion for dogs, and commitment to service to help further DBL’s mission.”

Brian joined the Regional Advisory Board – NE in December 2023.

AJ Cullen Langell

NE Member

AJ Cullen Langell joined the Regional Advisory Board – NE in June 2024.

Melissa Cusson

NE Member

Melissa Cusson is a Massachusetts licensed Loan Officer (NMLS MLO2274866) working with individuals and families purchasing/refinancing a home or investment property. Prior to entering the mortgage industry, Melissa earned a BS in Finance & Accounting from Bentley University and went on to gain 14 years of corporate and nonprofit program management experience. Melissa always made time to volunteer in various capacities within her community – from participation in animal welfare organizations to human services, to engagement in environmental sustainability projects.

In 2012, Melissa and DBL’s Regional Advisory Board - NE Chair, Beth Cincotta, created The Daily Dog Blog (DDB) to inspire responsible pet ownership. The DDB hosted several small-scale fundraising events which were so well-received by the local community. Continuing on the same path, Melissa then launched an inaugural Animal WelFair event for her colleagues to learn about the benefits of pet adoption, to promote volunteerism, and to highlight the important work of Service Dogs. Initially planned in lieu of a Take Your Dog to Work Day, the Animal WelFair ran for four years and helped connect numerous potential volunteers to 30 different organizations.

By 2014, Melissa co-founded the grassroots nonprofit, FIDO of Natick Inc. She spent 7 years tirelessly working with friends and volunteers to achieve their goal of building healthy pet/owner relationships and opening Natick’s first official dog park. Melissa and the FIDO crew hosted fundraising events at local businesses, coordinated litter and Poop Patrol cleanups around the town, and secured a $250K grant from the Stanton Foundation to make the dog park a reality. FIDO also received an incredible outpouring of support from the friends and family of neighbor and fellow dog lover, Eddie Kramer, who passed away unexpectedly at the all too young age of 18 months. The park opened in 2020 and is known as Eddie’s Park, in his memory.

Outside of work and being a certified Crazy Dog Lady, Melissa spends time with her husband-to-be, Brian, loving on her own beloved pups, Cooper and Finn, spending time with family, practicing yoga, gardening, and crocheting dog bow ties, among other odds and ends.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to advance Dogs for Better Lives’ mission,” stated Melissa. “I am most enthusiastic to collaborate on the development of the Northeast Signature Event by growing community engagement, leveraging my network and optimizing resources.”

Melissa joined the Regional Advisory Board – NE in March 2023.

Lourdes Silva

NE Member

Lourdes Silva is a doctor of internal medicine and currently works at Atlantic Health System in Newark, New Jersey. Lourdes graduated from Rutgers University and then went to medical school at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (PA), completed her internship and residency at Newark Beth Israel (NJ), and was part of the residency faculty at United Health System (NY).

Lourdes was born in Lima, Peru and emigrated to the US with her family at the age of 13. Growing up in New Jersey, Lourdes realized that she wanted to become a doctor with the opportunity to give back to others, through service.

Her passion is to serve the most vulnerable members of society such as the poor, elderly and disabled. Over time Lourdes rescued several homeless dogs and cats and found it to be rewarding. In the past Lourdes has volunteered her time with a cat shelter in Binghamton, NY and at the Raptor Trust in Millington, NJ.

Lourdes became involved with Dogs for Better Lives in 2022, as a puppy raiser for Jasmine, a wonderful and amazing black Labrador. As a volunteer raiser, Lourdes learned about patience, service, and dedication, in helping to train and care for a future Assistance Dog.

Growing up with dogs and cats in Peru and the U.S., Lourdes now has Theo, an energetic 6-month old Golden Retriever puppy, and are learning and growing together.

“Dogs are the best gift to humanity,” stated Lourdes. “DBL transforms them into guardian angels that help people in need, ultimately reach further independence.”

Lourdes joined the Regional Advisory Board – NE in November 2023.

Allison Romano

NE Member

Allison Romano joined the Regional Advisory Board – NE in June 2024.

Regional Advisory Board – California

Viviana Mendoza

Chair, California Member

Viviana Mendoza is a social media manager that helps user-focused companies reach, attract, and retain customers through creative solutions. She has worked for small marketing agencies that serve companies like HelloFresh and Amplitude. As well as working as in-house marketing and social media for Men's Wearhouse, Jos. A Banks & Moore's Fashion. Currently she leads the social media team at Every Man Jack, a men's grooming company while also managing her own boutique digital marketing collective for independent music artists.

She has a background in psychology and is a registered behavior tech who worked with children with autism to help them develop skills that would help them become independent and succeed in school. She enjoys working with children and learning to develop programs that are entertaining and beneficial for them.

Viviana has two rescue dogs, Hobo and Jesse James, who love to go on hikes through national parks and long road trips. She is also passionate about music, enjoys attending concerts and music festivals and also has been a concert photographer for close to 3 years. She likes good coffee, good food & talking about music and the occasional spin or pilates class.

“I decided to join the Regional Advisory Board - CA because I am passionate about dogs and know how beneficial having a dog in your life can be,” stated Viviana Mendoza. “I am also passionate about helping those with disabilities and creating opportunities to improve their lives, while collaborating with people who share similar interests as me.”

Viviana joined the Regional Advisory Board – California in September 2022.

Hana Kim

Vice Chair, California Member

Hana Kim is a dynamic leader with demonstrated experience in marketing products and services across CPG and Retail industries. She has held several senior level marketing roles, at The Coca-Cola Company, Safeway, BevMo! and is currently at Tailored Brands, where she leads omni-channel marketing for Rental/Wedding businesses.

At BevMo!, Hana spearheaded BevMo! Loves Pets and partnered with five regional animal rescue organizations across California, Arizona, and Washington. She raised more than $100K over two years through tasting events and planned adoption drives in BevMo! parking lots, expanding the partnership beyond donations.

Hana has two rescue dogs, Pinot and Sauvi, who accompany her to the office and help with her workload. She enjoys going on hikes with them and her partner, Wojciech, and also likes to travel internationally, experiencing different cultures. She also likes to golf with her family but needs more time to practice.

“Being so passionate about dogs, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved with DBL’s Regional Advisory Board – California, focused on helping to provide Assistance dogs to those in need,” stated Hana. “I’m excited to work with others who share the same passion and wish to make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

Hana joined the Regional Advisory Board – California in August 2022.

Trenton Jewett

California Member

Trenton Jewett is originally from a small town located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. San Francisco became his home for education, which later transformed into a career in residential architecture. When not designing homes, Trenton enjoys cooking and exploring the outdoors through backpacking, mountain biking, and kayaking. Trenton enjoys sharing his adventures with Rocky, his rescued Formosan Mountain Dog from Taiwan.

The transition from a mountainous backdrop to an urban landscape has influenced both his professional and personal perspectives. It's a blend of nature's tranquility and the city's energy that guides him.

"I believe that rescue dogs can embody resilience and loyalty, qualities that translate into remarkable service dogs which can offer unmatched devotion and support," stated Trenton.

Trenton joined the Regional Advisory Board – California in August 2023.

Kristin Juel

California Member

As a refinement after a 25 year career in Advertising, Kristin Juel founded Juel Concepts, an incubator and music marketing/management firm to focus on building careers for independent artists like Melbourne’s Hamish Anderson, Atlanta’s Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics, and NYC’s Justy.

Since 2013 Juel and her team have been encouraging artists to know their worth, keep their focus while preparing them for the high stakes and data driven music industry. In 2020, she became a Senior Analyst/Research Contributor with Water & Music (research intelligence network for the music industry) with focus on AI music, web 3 and music in the metaverse.

Kristin is an advisor to several startups including Stvd.io Space (an online place for young artists to connect with their community and fans) and the NVAK Collective which is a web3 label and foundation set to focus on fostering learning of music production with youth in underserved areas of the world. She prioritizes mentorship for young entrepreneurial minds with both Grammy U and Live Nation’s Music Forward Foundation.
Kristin resides in Los Angeles, where she is not only the host of web series and podcast Uncut Juels, but also an avid member of the live-music-rocks- any-night-of-the-week club.

“After losing my last fur baby and Chow Chow, Lola, in 2021, I can't express how much I truly admire anyone who can love and train puppies for others,” stated Kristin. “It's how my North Star guided me to join RAB. I'm hoping that with my 35 years of inventing a desire for products, services and musicians, that we can help generate more awareness of what Dogs for Better Lives is all about, and how their Regional Advisory Board – CA RAB is and how their work impacts those who need it most.”

Kristin joined the Regional Advisory Board – California in March 2023.

Tina Prado

California Member

Tina Prado’s professional career spans numerous successes in multi-unit and multi-state leadership roles that include creating corporate relationships, team building & development, performance management, strategic planning, profitability, adherence to budgets, shrink reduction and exceptional Customer Service standards.

Tina has built and leveraged cross functional partnerships, working closely with former CEOs and the executive leadership Team, toward greater efficiencies and productivity. Tina’s background encompasses both large and small companies and was part of the expansion of a “start-up” company, playing a critical role in taking them from 35 locations to over 200, including the opening of their first state (Arizona) outside of California. Tina has an entrepreneurial spirit, and values team members that have vision, flexibility, agility, and are brand ambassadors who will uphold the company culture and create future growth opportunities.

Tina strives professionally to deliver exceptional Customer Service (internal & external) while working in a number key roles, including corporate trainer, peer leader, mentor and subject matter expert in training & development and have conducted multiple Human Resources investigations. Tina is a critical thinker that considers context, while also scoring high in connectedness, providing a solid balance between IQ and EQ. This allows her to relate to and connect with all different types of people, creating high performing Teams, inclusive environments, while providing exceptional internal and external service.

“I am an advocate for both animal welfare and community service,” stated Tina. “Joining the DBL Regional Advisory Board - CA allows me to combine my love for dogs and passion for serving others in a larger, more meaningful way.”

Tina joined the Regional Advisory Board – California in September 2023.

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