Board of Directors
Dairne Ryan – Board Secretary and Cultural Liaison
Dairne was born in Seattle, lived in Mexico City as a child, speaks Spanish fluently, and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area all her adult life. She attended UC Santa Cruz where she majored in Latin American Studies, and later received a B.A. in Health Services Administration from St. Mary’s College. She met Emma in 1998, when Dairne was growing a high-volume MASH sterilization program for feral cats in the East Bay, and sought advice from Emma, who was then the San Francisco SPCA’s leader in creating community-based t-n-r programs. Dairne is an alumni of AB campaigns in the Galapagos, Dominican Republic and Cuba, and loves working with people who love animals and nature, to create a more compassionate environment for all living beings on our planet.
Merriss Watters, DVM
Merriss has always felt a deep connection with animals and has been volunteering with animal welfare organizations since she was 8 years old. After graduating with honors from veterinary school at UC Davis and completing her internship, she worked as an emergency and critical care vet while, in her free time, volunteering at local shelters and traveling with organizations like Animal Balance. She has extensive experience in high quality high volume spay/neuter (HQHVSN) and has worked with Compassion Without Borders, SNP LA, NOAH, Operation Catnip, and many other like-minded organizations to combat the overpopulation crisis.
Merriss believes in spreading the gospel of spay neuter and animal welfare far and wide. Before taking her current position as Medical Director of Feral Cat Spay Neuter Project (FCSNP) where she heads up their mentorship program, she acted as adjunct professor and head of the WSU program at Seattle Humane. There, she taught senior veterinary students HQHVSN techniques and the importance of caring for our unwanted pet population.
Merriss is constantly inspired by the profound compassion and devotion Animal Balance brings out in its volunteers. She has been a devout Animal Balance volunteer since her very first trip to the Dominican Republic and has since traveled to American Samoa, Cape Verde, Maui, and the Bahamas. In addition to her position at FCSNP, Merriss is currently pursuing her Masters in Shelter Medicine through University of Florida and raising her new baby girl. She lives in Seattle with her Husband, Daughter, and their two American Shelter Dogs.
Jen Bolser DVM – Board Secretary
Jen obtained her veterinary degree from Colorado State University in 2004 and then completed a one year rotating medical and surgical internship at The Animal Medical Center in New York City. She joined The Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Boulder, Colorado and enjoyed 10 years with this amazing animal welfare organization. As Chief Clinic Veterinarian, Dr. Bolser provided leadership and medical/surgical services to this unique clinic combining shelter medicine and general practice. Enthusiasm for teaching and sharing knowledge led to her innovation of a shelter medicine internship training program for new veterinary graduates. In addition to companion animal care and welfare, she is passionate about wildlife advocacy and conservation. Her favorite hobbies involve exploring the world and nature with her husband and canine companions through hiking, snowshoeing, SCUBA diving, biking, swimming, or any outdoor adventure.
Jen has been a proud member of the Animal Balance family since 2009. Her first Animal Balance adventure was to the Galapagos Islands and needless to say she was hooked! Traveling and working with different cultures in unique environments continually inspires her and reinforces her passion for international veterinary efforts including MASH style spay/neuter campaigns. Currently living in Beijing, China, she is working with and training Chinese veterinarians and local rescue groups to help improve animal welfare, veterinary medical techniques and pet overpopulation challenges in China. She has an immense gratitude for the volunteers and supporters of Animal Balance who continually recharge, teach and inspire each other to create positive change for all animals and communities around the world.
Emma Clifford, Founder and Director of Animal Balance and serves as a Board Member
Emma Clifford graduated from the University of Central England with a BA hon in Sociological Research in 1995. Emma was born in the UK into a family who rescued animals. As a teenager she became vegan and began actively protesting blood sports and other forms of animal cruelty, such as vivisection.
After graduating, she moved to the United States and joined the animal welfare movement. For 8 years she worked at a local, national and international level, immersing herself in the movement and learning how to manage a successful non-profit organization. While at The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF/SPCA) she developed and directed the feral cat, foster and sterilization programs. She was also the city representative for the SF/SPCA. She has presented at conferences and advised other humane societies in how to implement these programs in their cities and reduce the city’s euthanasia rate.
In 2003, Emma discovered that the cats and dogs of the Galapagos Islands were being poisoned as a means of population control. In response, Emma founded Animal Balance in 2004. Shortly after, Animal Balance began their work sterilizing the cats and dogs throughout the Galapagos Islands. Due to the success of this program, Animal Balance has expanded operations globally.
Emma gives lectures and consults with many animal welfare organizations around the world to help find ways to reduce the cruelty and suffering of animals and implement humane and sustainable animal management programs. She now lives in Washington with her animal pack and enjoys hiking, camping and exploring.
Meredith Hippert, Director of Field Operations
Meredith began her animal welfare career working for an animal shelter in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her knowledge in animal sheltering expands from foster programming, admission guidelines, Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) and humane education programming, door-to-door outreach, medical and sanitation protocols and humane investigations. Utilizing her experience, she then focused her efforts on reducing shelter intake through affordable and accessible veterinary care. She has experience in implementing and training, spay/neuter programs throughout the United States and has developed medical standard operating procedures for several non-profit organizations. These policies have aided in clinic efficiency, which safely increases patient volume. Meredith also provides veterinary technician training on low-stress animal handling and veterinary technician skills required for the high-quality, high-volume surgical environment.
Meredith now applies her extensive knowledge to aid in global animal population management strategies. She continues to engage in public speaking events advocating for community based TNR programs and affordable and accessible veterinary care. She now resides in Austin, Texas with her crew of dogs and cats where she enjoys cycling and rock climbing in her free time.
Stephanie Dawes, Executive Assistant
Stephanie began her career in Hotel and Catering management and enjoyed a successful hospitality career with amongst others Marriott Hotels in both Europe and Australia. Wanting to become more involved in the animal welfare world, she transitioned to work for what was then the World Society for the Protection of Animals in London. A move from London to the Caribbean, living in the Bahamas, Grenada and Barbados gave her fantastic opportunities to get more involved and to learn more about the challenges facing cats and dogs living in island communities. The Caribbean was followed by time in Florida, working and volunteering at the Jacksonville Humane Society, she then moved to Portland, Oregon and is extremely proud to have been a part of Animal Balance since 2013. She is currently pursuing a biology degree and is also passionate about being a marine naturalist creating awareness of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale community in the Pacific Northwest.
Animal Balance History
Animal Balance was formed in 2004, under the fiscal sponsorship of Animal Fund for two years and was awarded its own 501 (C) 3 status in 2006.
Animal Balance was established to end the killing of one species to protect another, hence the name ‘animal balance’ and our logo, the yin yang paw; which is understood in every culture and language.
In 2003, Animal Balance Founder, Emma Clifford discovered that the authorities on the Galapagos Islands were killing the cats and dogs with compound 1080 as a means of population control. This rat poison was put in meat and left on the streets for the dogs and cats to eat. However, children often played in the sandy streets with the puppies and kittens and all animals: human, non-humans, native or non-native could come into contact with the poison. It was a recipe for disaster.
Throughout 2003 Clifford persistently emailed the Director of the Galapagos National Park Service requesting permission to fund and organize high-volume, high-standard sterilization campaigns in the towns to humanely reduce the cat and dog populations. In addition, Animal Balance promised to provide the necessary tools to the community. Helping them assume responsibility for their pets. Essentially, the goal was to create a sustainable and humane animal management program for the four inhabited islands that were home to cats, dogs and humans.
This was met with ridicule and disbelief by many established NGO’s on the Galapagos Islands. As far as they were concerned the cats and dogs were not native so therefore should be killed. One organization suggested shipping them all to one island and abandoning them there. We pointed out that humans are also not native to the islands and were the sole cause of the introduced cats and dogs. The reality was the cats and dogs existed ad will continue to exist on the Galapagos. The question was, how can we humanely manage their populations?
At this time the international community was reducing the fishing quotas, banning shark finning and the collection of sea cucumbers; all essential activities to protect the sea creatures from over exploitation. Because the 4th generation Galapaganian’s depended upon fishing, their livelihoods were at stake and tensions rose between the Galapagos National Park Service, the Municipality and the community. There were street protests, tire fires and the Park Service Director’s house on Isabela Island was burned down. The fishermen essentially brought the islands to a standstill as they controlled the boat traffic between islands and operated the taxi’s on land. The Galapagos Islands were crippled.
The authorities needed a positive project to help mend bridges. Cat that time, the authorities were poisoning people’s pets and they were slowly dying in the streets from the rat poisoned meat. Clifford finally heard from Victor Carrion, the Director of the Eradication and Control of Invasive Species. Carrion gave permission for a pilot sterilization program on Isabela Island, one of the most remote and least populated islands.
We had our first team on the ground in May of 2004. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society kindly transported an entire warehouse of medical equipment and supplies from Seattle to the Galapagos Islands on their ship The Farely Mowat. We all met on Isabela Island and held our first Animal Balance clinic.
It worked! Seeing its successes, we were asked to replicate the program on the three other inhabited islands. By 2007, we had sterilized over 80% of the cats and dogs in the municipal areas on four islands. We now maintain the program in partnership with the Agencia de Regulación y Control de la Bioseguridad para Galápagos (ABG) and the Galapagos National Park Service.
Clifford wanted to fully understand and appreciate what it was like to live in a community of free roaming and in-tact cats and dogs so Animal Balance could better serve the island communities. In 2007, she did just that by relocating to the Dominican Republic. That year, Animal Balance successfully replicated the Galapagos model in the town of Cabrera, Dominican Republic.
Today, Animal Balance has expanded to help the communities of American Samoa, Independent Samoa, Bahamas Islands, Haiti, Cuba, Saipan, Cabo Verde, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, the Big Island and Aruba.
Our strategy continues to expand on a global scale.