ABOUT US

CT Votes for Animals is a state-wide, grass roots animal advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of CT’s animals by championing legislative changes in the CT General Assembly.  CVA partners with its brigade of animal supporters who live in every legislative district across Connecticut.

Mission

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Connecticut Votes for Animals:

  • Advocates pro-animal policies;

  • Educates the public regarding  animal protection issues;

  • Rallies an engaged public to support passage of animal-friendly laws and the defeat of proposals harmful to animals;

  • Safeguards the interests of animals by making their well-being a priority for our elected leaders.

 

​Connecticut Votes for Animals is a not-for-profit 501(c)(4) organization.

Leadership

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Susan Linker

Susan Biella-Linker founded Our Companions Animal Rescue, a nonprofit organization in 2002. Susan also serves as Connecticut’s representative on the Humane Society of the United States’ Companion Animal Advisory Council and is a Trustee of the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation.

Susan is the past Vice President of Connecticut Votes for Animals and the former President of the Animal Welfare Federation of Connecticut, a partnership of no-kill animal welfare organizations. Prior to establishing Our Companions, she worked in various capacities in the field of animal welfare including an eight year career with the Connecticut Humane Society and its subsidiary, Fox Memorial Clinic.  ​Susan also spent some time outside the animal welfare field where she pursued financial development experience with the American Red Cross fundraising team. 

Susan lives with her husband Mitchell who serves as Our Companions’ Development Committee Chair, her rescued dog Darla and too many cats to mention and not sound crazy.

Susan Linker, Board Chair

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Andrea Dobras

Andrea has been active in animal welfare since 2006, when she joined Our Companions Animal Rescue during the early stages of the organization’s development.  Working mainly with feline adoptions, rehoming, hoarding cases, and behavioral issues, she also served as secretary on the Board of Directors for three full terms.  In 2007, she received the ING Volunteer Excellence Award and in 2016, an official citation from the General Assembly for her service to the organization.

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More recently, Andrea has been active in her community, establishing a grassroots effort to end the waterfowl hunting on the Quinnipiac River in New Haven.  She worked tirelessly with the local residents and politicians to build momentum on this long-term problem, resulting in the official ban of waterfowl hunting in the area.  This campaign sparked her interest in politics, allowing her to combine this new-found passion with her love of animals.

Andrea is the Executive Director of the New England Resident Service Coordinators, a 501c3 organization that specializes in bringing education and training to housing professionals.  She lives in East Haven with her partner and her family of rescue animals which currently include 2 cats and a White Capped Pionus parrot.   

Andrea Dobras, Secretary

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Karen Laski has been an animal advocate since the late sixties starting with the CT Animal Welfare League then progressing to CT Animal Rights Front and Animal Advocacy CT, the first political animal advocacy group in CT started by Julie Lewin.

Karen worked for 25 years at Manchester High School helping kids with truancy problems.  A lifetime of volunteerism began with Children’s Literacy, Hartford, Manchester Committee for Peace and Justice, Manchester Shelters for the Homeless and Compassion in Entertainment, a group that educates the public about the plight of animals used for circuses and traveling shows.
 

Joining the Board of CT Votes for Animals in 2011, Karen’s role involves legislative planning and citizen lobbying for animal welfare bills.

Karen Laski

Karen Laski, Director

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Virginia Maxwell

A lifelong animal lover, Virginia brings 28 years of forensic science experience to combatting the maltreatment of animals. Formerly a forensic scientist at the State of Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory, she is now a Professor in the Forensic Science Department at the University of New Haven. Her research focus involves different ways of using Forensic Science in animal cruelty investigation with current projects including environmental degradation of physical evidence, analyzing crime data to predict animal fighting locations, dog fighting, and cruelty in animal “sports”. In conjunction with Attorney Jessica Rubin, she has established a formal collaboration between the University of Connecticut School of Law and the University of New Haven for the investigation of animal cruelty.  This collaboration is to provide support to animal control officers, first responders and attorneys, and others involved in investigations, as well as humane education and additional research initiatives. Having grown up around farms in the United Kingdom, she is interested in the lives of farmed animals. With the cooperation of a local dairy farm, she has been able to help three cows retire to sanctuaries: Pippi and the Princess to Farm Sanctuary, and Allie to JP Farm Animal Sanctuary. The photo shows Princess as her yellow ear tags were removed shortly before leaving for Farm Sanctuary.  She lives in Hebron with her family, a rescue dog, and two cats.

Virginia Maxwell, Director

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Sandy Bonola

As the director of organizational strategy and development, Sandy Bonola is creating operational and strategic plans to meet CVA’s financial, programmatic and advocacy goals. Sandy has years of experience in organizational planning and non-profit support and runs a consulting agency to help develop the capabilities of non-profit Boards. Sandy is on the board of a small rescue in New Hampshire and recently advised a marine life environmental non-profit in Georgia working to preserve the calving areas for the Right Whale and other wildlife. 

Sandy Bonola, Director of Organizational Strategy and Development

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Henry Petrofsky

After a long management career in professional accounting, Henry decided to utilize his background for the benefit of the field that he is truly passionate about, which is promoting humane animal welfare programs and policies. He is the former finance director for Our Companions Animal Rescue and is also one of the original founding members of Connecticut Votes for Animals. “I’ve always wanted to do whatever I could to improve the welfare of the general animal population including domestic, wildlife and farm animals, and CVA is the perfect vehicle to help achieve meaningful progress in this area.”

 

Since its founding in 2008 Henry has worked with CVA on a long list of legislative initiatives which have greatly benefited the animals and he would like to continue building on this legacy and help establish Connecticut as being a progressive minded state with regard to the humane treatment of its animal population.

Henry is currently the treasurer for CVA and he also assists with “tabling” and promoting CVA at various events. Henry resides in Berlin, Ct with his wife Ruth and 5 cats.

Henry Petrofsky, Treasurer

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Andrea Kerin

Fiercely dedicated to protecting wildlife and the environment, Andrea Kerin brings decades of non-profit philanthropy experience to the CVA board. Her admirable professional background includes director of leadership giving from the CT Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound and development positions at the CT Audubon Society and Save the Children.

 

Andrea’s recent retirement from her job is allowing her more time to devote to the many issues she cares about. This past year she has been involved in developing a local ordinance for Fairfield regarding shelter requirements for outside dogs. The proposal offers a stricter approach than the recently passed state law in providing adequate shelter for any dogs left outside.

 

Andrea and her husband Chris Kerin, already a friend of CVA, are generous donors to a number of animal and environmental causes. They are the proud “parents” of two rescue mini-Australian shepherds.

Andrea Kerin, Director

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Ilene Lefland

Ilene always knew that when life allowed, she would channel her energies to pursuits that improve the lives of animals; she just didn’t know it would be as a member of the CVA Board! Starting out as a volunteer in 2019, Ilene jumped right in, becoming actively involved in the organization and then joining the board.


With a unique blend of strategic communications experience and political savvy, Ilene brings a distinctive perspective to the CVA Board. In addition to serving as press secretary for political campaigns and the CT General Assembly, she developed public education and awareness campaigns across multiple industries during her tenure as a marketing communications agency executive. She was also instrumental in advocacy efforts leading to passage of CT’s law – the first in the nation – protecting women’s reproductive rights. Early in her career, Ilene covered the State Capitol as a journalist. She is still a news junkie at heart and enjoys a good public policy debate.


A life-long animal lover, Ilene lives in North Haven with her husband and two cats – both of whom were less than cooperative in posing for a photo!

Ilene Lefland, Director

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Jo-Anne Basile

Jo-Anne Basile is CVA’s first Executive Director, a position created during CVA's 10th Anniversary year and a change that reflects the continued growth of the organization which is  dedicated to bringing about laws to ensure long-term positive change for animals throughout Connecticut.

 

Jo-Anne was CVA's lobbyist at the State Capitol from 2014-2017 working with CVA members and legislators to successfully bring Desmond’s Law and Private Shelter Rules, among other bills, into Connecticut’s laws protecting animals. Jo-Anne comes to CVA with a strong legislative resume having served as a Legislative Aid and Director for three members of the US Congress and Vice President and lobbyist for a premier national telecommunications association in the Washington D.C.  Jo-Anne and her three senior dogs live in Guilford. 

Jo-Anne Basile, Executive Director

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Linda Pleva

Linda Pleva, who is also vice president of Desmond’s Army, is CVA’s community engagement and communications coordinator, helping to expand CVA’s base with programs including legislative webinars and workshops throughout the state. She also works with the Communications Team developing messaging on our digital platforms.

Linda Pleva, Community Engagement and Communications Coordinator

Advisory Council

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  • Elizabeth Abbe

  • Mark Bailey

  • Ruth Cutrone

  • Kasia Dienwebel

  • Shirley Dominguez

  • Joe Grabarz

  • Adria Henderson

  • Joe LaMotta

  • Kathleen Sullivan

  • Marlene Wilhelm

Legislative Advisor to the Board

  • Former State Representative Diana Urban