Board of Directors

The BCSA Board of Directors provides general governance for the organization, including setting policies and objectives. The Board is made up of volunteers from member organizations who bring a range of expertise to the BCSA, in support of our mission of ending the private ownership and exploitation of wild cats in the United States. 

Kathryn Bertok

Kathryn Bertok

BCSA Board President

Kathryn Bertok studied Zoology at NC State University before starting her career at Carolina Tiger Rescue as an animal care intern and then being hired on as a full-time Animal Keeper.  After gaining years of experience in animal care, she was promoted to Senior Animal Keeper and then to Curator of Animals.  As Carolina Tiger Rescue grew, so did the demands of the job.  Eventually the Curator of Animals position was changed to Assistant Director.  She now supports the entire program staff, including animal care, site, volunteer management, and education. 

After over 20 years at Carolina Tiger, Kathryn has been honored to watch Carolina Tiger Rescue grow into a thriving rescue that is a proud founding member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance.  She loves not only helping improve her own sanctuary, but greatly enjoys working to support others. She firmly believes that everyone benefits from the success others.

Kathryn served as an Alternate on the Steering Committee for Pam Fulk for several years and has also served as Chair of the Education and Membership Committees. She currently serves on the Rescue, Planning, External Communications, and Events Committees and is the current Chair of the Planning and External Communications Committees, as well as the President of the BCSA Board of Directors for 2024.

Catherine Doyle

Catherine Doyle

BCSA Board Vice President

Catherine Doyle is the Director of Science, Research and Advocacy for the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which operates three sanctuaries in California, including the 2,300-acre ARK 2000 natural habitat sanctuary for rescued or retired elephants, bears, and big cats.

She designs and carries out research focused on animal behavior and human-animal relationships. Catherine also leads PAWS’ advocacy efforts and has been successful in passing protective legislation such as the ban on elephant bullhooks in California. She organizes the biennial PAWS International Captive Wildlife Conference.

Catherine has a Master of Science degree in Anthrozoology. Published work includes chapters in The Ethics of Captivity (Oxford University Press, 2014) and The Handbook of Practical Animal Ethics (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2018), and a paper on captive wildlife sanctuaries (Animal Studies Journal, 2017).

Catherine has been serving on the Steering committee for the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance since its inception in 2017, and is currently serving as Vice President of the Board of Directors, Chair of the Advocacy Committee, and is also active in several additional committees. She is a member of the BEAR Alliance and the advisory board for The Whale Sanctuary Project.

John Madigan

John Madigan

BCSA Board Secretary/Treasurer

John Madigan serves as the Operations Manager of Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary (CRTS). CRTS is a big cat rescue facility funded through a 501c3 non-profit corporation, The Scott Foundation.  CRTS provides permanent lifelong care for abused, neglected or unwanted big cats.

John has a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering Technology (University of Dayton). After working for five years as an Environmental Engineer for the USAF, John took a keeper position at CRTS. He has been with CRTS for seven years, being the Operations Manager for two. John has served as the Chair of the BCSA Steering Committee in the past. He is currently serving as the Secretary/Treasurer of the BCSA Board of Directors, as well as the Chair of Finance Committee and Events Committees in 2024. John is also currently serving on the Planning and External Communications Committees.

Carson Barylak

Carson Barylak

BCSA Board Member

Carson Barylak is Campaigns Manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). When Carson was six years old, a neighborhood cat in need of a home adopted her family, instantly becoming a loyal companion—and she has had a soft spot for felines ever since. Little did she know that befriending that tiny stray would ultimately lead her to advocate for and protect some of the world’s largest wild cats and the places they call home.

Carson has considerable experience with legislative and regulatory issues affecting wildlife management at the state and federal level. Prior to joining IFAW, she held positions at national and international conservation organizations including the Animal Welfare Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council.

Her background in science, understanding of the law and advocacy experience equipped her to manage IFAW campaigns focused on addressing captive wildlife trade, safeguarding animals impacted by natural disasters, promoting human-wildlife coexistence and advancing protections for imperiled species. She has worked to advance IFAW’s U.S. Big Cats policy campaign and spearheads conservation policy efforts related to wildlife crime and predator control reform.

In addition to serving on the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance Board of Directors, Carson is a member of the Alliance’s Advocacy Committee, where she works with member sanctuaries and partners to develop, evaluate and pursue shared public policy objectives. She is committed to learning from BCSA sanctuary leaders and values every opportunity to better understand wildlife rescue, animal care, facility operations and community engagement.

Carson holds a J.D., B.S. (environmental science) and B.A (chemistry) from Ohio State University, where she was active in advancing sustainability policies.

Bobbi Brink

Bobbi Brink

BCSA Board Member

Bobbi Brink is the Founder and Director of Lions Tigers & Bears, a big cat and exotic animal sanctuary in Alpine, California. Bobbi has been working with and advocating for captive big cats, bears and other exotic animals since the early 90s, after witnessing firsthand the abuses and neglect inflicted on captive animals victimized by the exotic animal trade. Bobbi has made it her personal life’s mission to end the abuses that stem from this heinous industry, one animal at a time.

Bobbi serves on the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance’s Board as well as the Events and Advocacy Committees, where she brings her expertise to make major headway for captive big cats.

Bobbi has rescued hundreds of animals from captive abuse across the United States, providing them medical care and transport to new lifetime homes at reputable sanctuaries, including Lions Tigers & Bears. Bobbi is a prolific fundraiser and tireless advocate for abused and displaced animals, and she has testified before Congress, helping to advocate for legislation that would regulate the trade and private ownership of exotic animals.

Both she and Lions Tigers & Bears have won multiple awards and recognition for leadership and public service, including the Carol Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, and numerous accolades from the local Chambers of Commerce, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and the California State Assembly.

Christi Gilbreth

Christi Gilbreth

BCSA Board Member

Christi Gilbreth has a Wildlife Ecology Degree from Texas A&M University. After working a year at a rehab center, she began her career working with exotic cats as an intern at the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary.  Then, she was hired on as the Lead Keeper and eventually earned the position of Curator. While taking care of the exotic cats and bears, Christi continued to help build the Education Program mentoring over 300 interns starting their careers in the animal field. During her time in Leadership, the Education Program received the Certificate of Merit for Zookeeper Education by the American Association of Zoo Keepers. 

After 13 years of working with over 100 exotic cats and bears, Christi moved on to work at the Lee Richardson Zoo, where she was supervisor of the Big Cat and Hoofstock areas. While she gained knowledge working with exotic hoofstock, she provided her expertise to help strengthen the Zoo’s policies working with dangerous animals and played an active role in their Animal Capture Team.   

After two years at the zoo, Christi realized that her heart belonged in the sanctuary field where everything was done for the animals and to improve their lives. She enjoys being a part of giving animals a second chance at a quality life. She is now the Senior Caregiver for the Wildlife Department at Black Beauty Ranch where she leads her team in caring for over 250 animals encompassing over 20 different species. She helps lead the Animal Capture Team and has written numerous policies on how to safely work with and around exotic cats and other dangerous animals. She enjoys working at Black Beauty Ranch where every day brings a new adventure. She believes it’s a privilege to be able to give these animals a second chance…a life as close to the wild as we can give. A life they deserve. 

Kristin Leppert

Kristin Leppert

BCSA Board Member

Kristin Leppert is a Program Director with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), where she helps wildlife sanctuaries in North, Central, and South America earn accreditation. Prior to her work at GFAS, Kristin was campaign director for Save Endangered Animals Oregon, a statewide coalition that successfully banned endangered species trafficking. In Washington, D.C. she led the Fur-Free Campaign for The Humane Society of the United States, directing investigative research that led Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, and Kenneth Cole to adopt fur-free policies and supported the passage of the Truth in Fur Labeling Act. She has appeared in national media including The Today Show and Good Morning America. Kristin holds a degree in Political Science from Portland State University. Kristin previously served as former Steering Committee member, Allan Kornberg’s alternate on the Steering Committee. She also serves on the BCSA’s Advocacy Committee.

Lynda Sugasa

Lynda Sugasa

BCSA Board Member

Lynda Sugasa is the Founder and Executive Director of Safe Haven Wildlife Sanctuary, located in northern Nevada. Lynda founded Safe Haven in 1998 in northern Illinois that served as a wildlife rehabilitation facility. As the facility and placement requests grew, the decision was made to relocate the facility to the 320-acre Nevada location in Imlay. Lynda and Safe Haven Wildlife Sanctuary have been involved with the BCSA for many years now, but Lynda is new to the Board of Directors in 2024.

Emily McCormack

Emily McCormack

BCSA Board Member

Emily McCormack attended the State University of New York at Oswego where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology.  Her initial internship at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, commenced in January of 1999.  Upon completing her six-month internship, Emily was hired on to become a permanent animal care staff member. In 2002, she became the Volunteer & Intern Coordinator.  Emily was also promoted to the position of Animal Curator in April of 2011.

She has been a speaker at multiple conferences, including AZA, AAZK, & Bear Care.  Emily has also traveled and spoke at multiple zoos and universities to spread awareness of the big cat crisis in the U.S. Currently, Emily is currently serving on the Planning and Events Committees. She served as the BCSA Steering Committee Chair in 2023, after serving as the Vice Chair in 2022. Emily is also part of the recently formed BEAR Alliance.

Tammy Thies

Tammy Thies

BCSA Board Member

Tammy Thies is the founder of the Wildcat Sanctuary, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit that provides a safe home to felid species including, cougar, tiger, lynx and other wild cats in need of shelter.

Thies has a marketing and journalism degree from the University of St. Thomas.  After graduation, she developed and managed advertising campaigns for clients such as Coca-Cola, BMW, Holiday Inn and Timberland. 

She is a native Minnesotan and during her advertising career became aware of the need for a sanctuary through her exposure to big cats during photo shoots. She learned that, throughout the United States, tens of thousands of these animals are privately owned as pets and used as performers or for-profit breeding. Too often, the cats outlive their usefulness and have nowhere to go.

Thies made a mid-life career change to become a voice for these animals.  She began The Wildcat Sanctuary on 10-acres in Isanti, MN. Now, years later, the Sanctuary houses over 100 residents on 40 acres in Sandstone, MN.  Animals are not bought, sold, bred or traded. Each resident is given every opportunity to behave naturally in a wonderful free-roaming environment and receive the best vet care at the on-site animal hospital.

The Wildcat Sanctuary provides educational outreach seminars to educate the public about the captive wildlife crisis across the United States, as well as supporting legislative efforts banning these practices. Thies was very instrumental in testifying on behalf of the Minnesota Exotic Animal Law that bans the ownership of dangerous exotic animals as pets.

Thies has appeared as an expert on the captive wildlife crisis across national media outlets such as the History Channel, Animal Planet and the CNN iReport.

The sanctuary is accredited by The American Sanctuary Association, Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, recognized as a top sanctuary by Tigers in America, a member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance, and awarded a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator. The Wildcat Sanctuary is the only big cat sanctuary in the upper Midwest. Tammy has also served on the board of the American Sanctuary Association, as well as steering committees for the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance.

Trish Nichols

Trish Nichols

BCSA Board Member

Trish Nichols has been Black Pine Animal Sanctuary’s Executive Director since 2019.

She has extensive experience in the nonprofit sector  business management and politics. Her past roles include Executive Director for the Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County, President of the Boys & Girls Club, Director of Operations for Superior Landscape Products and Excavation and Councilwoman at large for her community.

Black Pine Animal Sanctuary was established in 2004 to provide life-long refuge to displaced, captive-raised exotic animals and to educate people about responsible animal care and conservation.