Leadership Team


John L. Lipp, CEO

John L. Lipp is a nationally known leader in the nonprofit sector with comprehensive experience in fundraising, executive leadership, governance, community engagement, and program development. A passionate advocate for the power of the human-animal bond, John served on the board of directors of FAAS from 2011 to 2017 before joining the staff in March 2017. John has worked with a variety of organizations over the last 30 years and has served as a trainer and keynote speaker for local, national and international audiences. He was CEO of Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) in San Francisco from 2004 to 2011, and most recently served as associate vice president, volunteer engagement for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) national leadership team. John’s book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Recruiting and Managing Volunteers, was published in October 2009 by Alpha/Penguin. In 2015, he was a featured contributor to the anthology Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World from Jossey-Bass. As an advocate for people living and thriving with Parkinson’s disease, John is also an active volunteer fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. John and his husband, Peter, share their Alameda home with two wonderful rescue dogs, Lucy and Chance.

Steve Ferguson, Operations Director

Steve hails from South Dakota. Growing up as a “military brat," he lived in many other places as well, including London and Frankfurt. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in Norman and went on to a successful career in technology that eventually brought him to the Bay Area. Thanks to his background as a manager for a Fortune 500 company and owner of his own retail store, Steve came to FAAS with a strong customer service ethic. This experience combined with his compassion for animals and the people who love them makes him the ideal operations and facilities manager. He is excited to be in the position to help create a positive and supportive environment in which staff and volunteers are able to focus on the welfare of FAAS's animals. He already has received many kudos for his cheerful customer service and wicked sense of humor. Steve has three dogs, a cat, and one foster dog. A true geek, in his spare time he enjoys all things science fiction and superheroes.

Carla Thornton, Marketing and Communications Manager

Carla grew up with a menagerie including dogs, cats, Dutch rabbits, pigeons, Bantam chickens, and a Shetland pony. She moved to the Bay Area after receiving a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and was a senior editor at consumer technology publications before embarking on a successful freelance editing and writing career. In 2014 she began helping FAAS with social media, and in September 2015 she made a lifelong dream come true by transitioning to a full-time career in animal welfare. In her spare time Carla hangs out with her husband and their pets, a 35-year-old macaw named Louie and two Chihuahuas. Phoebe, 15, was adopted from FAAS, and Chester, 9, was adopted from the Central Caifornia SPCA in Fresno.

Nanou Ballou, Adoptions and Foster Services Manager

Nanou grew up in rural France with a great respect for nature. Her family had lots of pets including dogs, cats and guinea pigs and took in "every stray that found its way to our gate." Nanou emigrated to the U.S. in 1990 with a degree in international business and taught at her daughters' Alameda preschool for 10 years. She began volunteering at FAAS in 2012 working with dogs and cats and eventually began teaching FAAS's volunteer orientation classes as well. She became a full-time FAAS staff member in August 2017. At home, Nanou and her husband have three Chihuahua mixes and four cats adopted from FAAS, and two outside cats that have adopted them.

Monica Fischer, Adoptions Manager, FAAS South Shore

Monica grew up in the Bay Area and moved to Southern California where she graduated from San Diego State University with a B.S. in criminal justice. Afterward, she completed coursework for a masters in sociology at DePaul University in Chicago and worked in human resources until she took time off to raise her children. An animal lover who grew up with dogs, she began volunteering at FAAS in 2017, and joined the staff a year later as a kennel staff associate. She was promoted to Animal Care Manager in 2020 and is currently working on obtaining a certificate in Animal Shelter Management. In her spare time, Monica fosters dogs from various rescue groups, attends day trips with her daughter's Girl Scout troop, and occasionally runs a 5K race. The family has two dogs, Suki, an 8-year-old German shepherd, adopted from FAAS, and 5-year-old rescue Shar Pei Mishka. 

Rita Ortiz, Community Services Manager

Rita is a native New Yorker. She headed West after college, settled in California, and never looked back. Her lifelong love for animals is non-exclusive, although dogs, cats, horses, raptors, and squirrels hold a special place in her heart. Rita holds a BA degree in political science from Hunter College and a masters in professional writing from the University of Southern California. The majority of her 30-plus-year career has been spent working in higher education (Chapman University and USC) and with non-profits (East Bay SPCA and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute). Volunteering is an important part of her life.  When she arrived in Alameda in 2012, she immediately signed up to volunteer for FAAS. Rita is a member of Alameda’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and has volunteered with numerous animal rescues and community organizations. She is particularly proud of her work with the Prison Education Program, where she taught creative writing classes and published an anthology of her students’ work. She and her husband, Joe “Catman” Ortiz, also volunteer for ICRA. She and Joe live in Alameda with Leo, Lena, and Cleo, their three rescue Maine Coons, and a rescue dog, Carmelita, who happens to be the cutest dog in the world (pictured here).

Shannon Cowan, Outreach and FAAS South Shore Manager

Having grown up watching her mom, Cindy, work in the same industry, Shannon learned the animal shelter business from an early age. Her mom instilled in her the same passion, love and respect for animals that had driven her in her own career, and now Shannon has attained the same job title her mother did. When she took her mom’s place at FAAS, Shannon brought with her a number of years in customer service experience from various industries. In addition, she has party and event planning experience, making her a jack of all trades in her profession. She has amassed a plethora of knowledge about pets including dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, snakes, fish, frogs, and (catching her breath) chinchillas; she is the go-to “cat whisperer” at FAAS. Finally, being a fourth-generation Alamedan has its perks when it comes to working with the community and tracking down lost pets. When Shannon isn’t helping animals in need, you can find her spending time with her husband, Jacob, and their dogs, Moxie and Chewie.

Amanda McNair, Animal Care Manager

Amanda is a Bay Area native with a BA in English literature from UC Berkeley, and a masters certificate in shelter management and medicine from the University of Florida. She grew up in a family that fostered cats for Island Cat Resources and Adoption (ICRA) and took in strays. Prior to coming to FAAS, she worked for almost 10 years in hospital administration. Amanda began volunteering at FAAS in 2017, always knowing in the back of her mind that one day she would make a career out of helping shelter animals. That dream came true in 2021 when she joined FAAS as a trainer. She lives in Alameda with her senior pittie, Snickers.

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