Celebrating International Women’s Day: Meet 4 of our Extraordinary Leaders

As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, we are honored to give center stage to the exceptional women who form the heart and soul of Dallas Pets Alive! (DPA!) These outstanding individuals are not only valued members of our team but also deserving of recognition for their remarkable impact on animal welfare in North Texas.

The extraordinary women we are highlighting today include: the visionary Founder and Executive Director, Leslie; the Assistant VP of Animal Operations and Foster Director, Jenay; the ever-ready foster parent, Allee; and the volunteer cat whisperer, Sarah. These remarkable individuals embody the spirit of dedication, compassion, and resilience — often while wearing many hats. Each woman brings a unique set of skills and a profound sense of purpose to their work. Above all, they have found their niche within DPA!, excelling in their respective roles and always going beyond the call of duty.

In this special feature, we delve into the lives and stories of these women, highlighting their journeys, contributions, and the invaluable impact they have made on the lives of animals in our community. Join us as we celebrate their phenomenal efforts and get to know a few of the women making DPA! what it is today.

International Women’s Day: Honoring DPA’s Outstanding Leaders

Leslie Sans, Founder & Executive Director
International Women’s Day

Leslie Sans is a trailblazer in the field of animal welfare. With a Master’s in Higher Education Administration, Leslie’s career took a pivotal turn when she discovered her true calling. Her introduction to the world of rescue began as a volunteer with Austin Pets Alive! (APA!), where she was deeply moved by the plight of animals facing euthanasia due to overcrowded shelters. It ignited a fire inside, propelling her to channel her energy towards making a difference in the lives of these voiceless creatures.

Upon moving to Dallas, Leslie saw an opportunity to replicate the success of APA! and founded Dallas Pets Alive! in 2012. Starting with only a few volunteers, her leadership and vision transformed DPA! into a thriving organization with five full-time employees, four part-time staff, and 230 fosters and volunteers. Even without the advantage of a shelter, Leslie and her team save hundreds of animals from euthanasia every year. Each rescued animal is provided comprehensive medical treatment and a loving foster home while they wait for their adoptive family.

Leslie’s daily responsibilities range from being the voice of the company to networking at events to leading multiple teams. But over the years, fundraising has become Leslie’s primary focus. Her goal was to always keep DPA! debt free and to be known for that stellar reputation with veterinary partners. In 2023 alone, her efforts helped fund $357,780 in medical procedures and treatments!

Under Leslie’s guidance, DPA! has flourished, expanding its reach and impact in the community. Innovative programs, such as the Bark Dorm, Dogs Matter, and PASS exemplify her forward-thinking approach to animal rescue and her commitment to finding creative solutions to complex challenges. The Adoption Container, another groundbreaking original from the DPA! team, has been a game-changer since its inception last year — facilitating exciting community events, a close-knit volunteer network, and most importantly, more adoptions!

Leslie’s journey from volunteer to executive director sets an empowering benchmark that she is proud to share with aspiring female leaders. For Leslie, the ability to show her two daughters that it is possible to excel in both professional endeavors and motherhood is a source of considerable meaning and fulfillment. Her story illustrates the life-saving impact one individual can have and the endless possibilities that lie ahead for women who dare to dream big and pursue their passions.

Jenay Bennett, Foster Director & Assistant VP of Animal Operations
International Women’s Day - Jenay

Jenay Bennett’s journey with DPA! demonstrates her deep commitment and genuine passion for animal welfare. Over the last six years, she has transitioned from a foster volunteer to a key figure in the organization, significantly impacting its growth, community outreach, and effect in the Dallas area.

Prior to joining DPA team, Jenay was a 4th-grade teacher, a role where she developed skills in management, planning, empathy, and understanding — which later proved invaluable in her work with animals and volunteers. The transition from teaching to animal welfare allowed her to apply these skills in new and meaningful ways.

Jenay’s involvement with DPA began with fostering cats and dogs, which led to volunteering on the Foster Team. Before long, she was the “go-to gal” and expanded into multiple lead roles.

In addition to fostering at home, she oversees the entire Foster Team, handles the cases of behavior-challenged animals, and assists with all animal operations. To date, she has opened her home to 51 animals, both dogs and cats, and has adopted four of her foster pets, leading to a very lively household!

At the heart of Jenay’s contributions to DPA is the Adoption Container, a one-of-a-kind project created with our partners at Community Beer Co. In this multifaceted role, she plans and organizes community events while educating visitors about the container’s purpose within our organization. Though no one anticipated its wild popularity, under Jenay’s supervision and direction, the Container has grown into a central hub for volunteers, animal adoptions, and so much more.

The essence of Jenay’s experience lies in the lasting relationships she has cultivated. The saying “we come for the animals and stay for the people” truly resonates with her, as DPA has been fertile ground for friendships and connections that extend beyond a shared love for animals. Jenay credits her mentor and friend — VP of Animal Operations, Sarah McGoldrick — with helping her develop her leadership and networking skills, resulting in extensive professional growth.

Jenay’s story exhibits how passion can be turned into purposeful action. As she prepares the “DPA Hub” for exciting upcoming events like the Container Anniversary Party in March and the Pup Crawl in April, her enthusiasm for her work is palpable. International Women’s Day may only come once a year, but Jenay’s commitment to animal welfare and community leadership deserve to be honored every day.

Allee Etheridge, Foster Parent Extraordinaire
International Women's Day - Allee

Allee Etheridge is an artist, educator, and dedicated animal rescuer whose life journey has been as diverse and vibrant as the menagerie of pets and foster animals she cares for on her East Texas homestead. Her childhood dream of caring for a myriad of cats has developed into a deep-rooted connection to animal welfare, marked by her tireless efforts to foster and provide sanctuary for all creatures great and small.

At 16, Allee began volunteering for One by One Cat Rescue. This early experience, nurtured by the founder, Pat Thompson, laid the foundation for a lifetime dedicated to animals. Pat’s mentorship not only offered Allee a glimpse into how the animal welfare world works, but it also taught her the day-to-day essentials like administering medication, keeping the cats’ environment clean, and showering them all with “exquisite care.”

Fostering is Allee’s way of coping with the distress caused by animal suffering — it’s her method of ensuring peace within herself, knowing she’s done all she can for these creatures. She began her substantial fostering efforts with Dallas Pets Alive! over 9 years ago, where she formed a deep connection after rescuing a family of Pit Bulls on the brink of euthanasia.

To date, Allee has provided a safe haven to 133 animals across five different species, primarily through DPA! but also with other organizations, such as Bella’s Heart, and Southwest Llama Rescue.

Though fostering is her specialty, Allee’s influence stretches far beyond the boundaries of her homestead. Etheridge Farm Fosters, has thousands of loyal followers over 6 continents, garnering generous donations and spreading awareness. She also has the unique ability to connect people, which has led to successful collaborations between DPA! and various community projects and events, furthering the organization’s cause.

As a professional ceramist, Allee’s has been recognized nationwide and she has many significant exhibitions under her belt. Beyond her artistic endeavors, Allee faces daily challenges due to her disability, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome — a connective tissue disorder affecting multiple bodily systems. This condition has shaped her lifestyle and work ethic, necessitating a departure from conventional employment. Despite that, her humor, creativity, and resilience have made her an indispensable member of the DPA team.

Allee’s has made it her life’s work to embody animal advocacy. She serves as a reminder of the impact one individual can have on the lives of many, and we are proud to share her amazing story for International Women’s Day. In every rescued animal and inspired foster parent, Allee’s legacy continues to grow — a lasting tribute to her love and commitment to those without a voice.

Sarah Plagens, Distinguished Volunteer & Resident Cat Queen
International Women's Day - Sarah

Sarah Plagens, a Dallas local with a passion for art, animals, and engineering, has led a life marked by creativity, compassion, and continuous learning. Born and raised in Richardson, she grew up in a supportive family environment where she was encouraged to enthusiastically pursue her interests.

Her academic path reflects her well-rounded nature, beginning with a BFA in drawing and photography from Southern Methodist University in 2008, where she met her long-time friend Allee. Furthering her academic pursuits, Sarah ventured into the sciences and obtained a BS in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2018.

In her volunteer work, Sarah has played crucial roles that leveraged her diverse abilities. Her involvement in animal welfare began in 2015 after her friend, Allee, introduced her to Dallas Pets Alive! Sarah began as a photographer at dog adoption events but soon noticed the unique challenges in cat adoption.

Acknowledging this gap, she evolved her role into “Cat Foster Marketing Liaison Lead,” focusing on promoting cats for adoption through new and effective marketing strategies.

Her contributions don’t stop there. As “Foster Process Engineer” for the Foster Team, Sarah used her engineering skills and innovative thinking to streamline the pet management process, making it more efficient for volunteers and ensuring better care for the animals. She’s also an inspirational mentor to new fosters and an advocate for animal welfare within the community. Her efforts have directly influenced the adoption rates of countless cats, showcasing her ability to merge creativity with humanity.

The year 2022 was a milestone for Sarah as she became a homeowner, providing her with the opportunity to set up a dedicated space for fostering animals. Her home has since become a sanctuary for cats and kittens, such as Juniper and the “Brunchkins” – Waffle, Pancake, and French Toast, all of whom have benefitted from her care.

Sarah’s commitment to animal welfare is a testament to the power of nurturing and support. She credits much of her character and ethos to her mother’s influence and compassion as a neonatal nurse. Her younger sister Rosemary’s pursuit of a PhD and dedication to fostering cats also serve as an inspiration. Allee’s unwavering devotion to animal care has been both motivational and instrumental in Sarah’s active participation in animal welfare.

Beyond her titles and roles at DPA!, Sarah exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism, fostering, and mentorship. She has made a lasting impact on her hometown and the lives of animals throughout the Dallas area. She inspires others to follow their passions and make a difference; that’s why we’re proud to recognize her invaluable work in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Inspired to Join our Mission?

Your contribution, no matter how big or small, gives animals in need the support and care they deserve!

Check out our wide selection of Volunteer Opportunities

Learn more about Becoming a Foster

Make a one-time Donation to our Medical Fund

Become a Champion with a Monthly Recurring Gift

Receive our updates

Join our newsletter to receive updates in your inbox.