Gabrielle Amster brings more than 15 years of experience in animal welfare to her new role as director of Wallis Annenberg PetSpace.

Wallis Annenberg PetSpace welcomes Gabrielle Amster

By Kamala Kirk

Wallis Annenberg PetSpace, a unique community space in Los Angeles that focuses on the mutually beneficial and dynamic bond between people and their pets, as well as the origins and science of that relationship, has named Gabrielle Amster as its new director.

Amster brings to Annenberg PetSpace more than 15 years of experience in animal welfare, including leadership positions at Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo, Santa Fe Animal Shelter in New Mexico, and Animal Trustees in Austin, TX.

In addition to leading multi-faceted animal welfare teams, Amster has implemented inclusive animal adoption processes, reduced the length of stay of shelter animals by enhancing canine and feline enrichment programs, and implemented cutting-edge marketing campaigns to help increase awareness and adoption rates.

“With the selection of Gabrielle Amster, we will have more than an extraordinary nonprofit leader,” said Wallis Annenberg, founder of PetSpace and chairman, CEO and president of the Annenberg Foundation. “Gabrielle is everything I had hoped for to kick off a whole new chapter in the care, protection and study of our cherished animal friends.”

The search for a new director attracted more than 100 outstanding candidates from across the country and from Canada and Australia. In its four-year history, PetSpace has grown measurably and moved quickly to provide adoptions and programs online during Covid-19. Amster joins PetSpace in the midst of a very successful run with increases in adoptions and those joining PetSpace’s online programming, even with the disruption of the global pandemic.

“I am so excited for PetSpace and Gabrielle, as she is just the right person to lead the organization into the future,” said Jill Tucker, CEO of the CA Animal Welfare Association. “She is innovative, has boundless energy and ideas, and is deeply committed to the welfare of animals.”

Outgoing PetSpace director Dr. Donna Fernandes is ending a two-year appointment as director of PetSpace. Fernandes is a nationally respected animal welfare leader who previously served as president and CEO of the Buffalo Zoo, as well as the curator of animals at Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn.

During her tenure, Fernandes developed and executed a strategic plan to increase adoptions and public engagement which resulted in a 40% increase in the adoption rate and a 20% increase in attendance prior to the pandemic. She also oversaw the creation of Critter Corner – the latest educational area of PetSpace dedicated to learning about a variety of companion animals including reptiles, birds and small mammals.

Going forward, Fernandes will continue to act in an advisory capacity to the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace Leadership Institute.

Annenberg PetSpace features an interactive place for pet adoptions, an education center and an academic leadership institute. Its mission is to strengthen and promote the human-animal bond.

“It is truly an honor to join Annenberg PetSpace and its very accomplished team,” Amster said. “I, along with countless others, am inspired by Wallis Annenberg’s vision to create a unique community space where people and pets connect in so many ways, and where ideas can flourish. I’m eager to help advance the remarkable programs currently under way, and I’m excited to embrace the possibilities ahead for PetSpace.”