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OUR MISSION

To improve the lives of the animals in our care, be timely and compassionate in our responses, educate the public through community outreach and, provide for the health and safety of the citizens and animals of Ventura County.

Leadership Team

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Tara Diller, Director

Tara Diller is a self-described "data junkie" and a fierce animal advocate. She has a strong passion for changing the face of municipal shelters and is committed to doing that right here in Ventura County. She recently relocated to Southern California from Sacramento and was the Division Manager for Sacramento County Animal Care.Tara is the Secretary for California Animal Control Directors Association (CACDA), a Board that is dedicated to providing leadership, training, and development, support and advocacy to animal care and control agencies. Tara has also worked as a Best Practice Consultant for Animal Shelters recommending best practices to help increase live release rates by implementing industry standards proven to save more lives, enrich the lives of animals in the shelters, improve employee morale, recommend programs and tools to emphasize officer safety, implement innovative programs to reduce animal intake by creating pet retention programs, recommend the utilization of software systems to develop streamlined workflow efficiencies, develop community partnerships with veterinarians to offer free/low-cost spay neuter programs and focus on improving community relations.Tara firmly believes in innovative sheltering practices such as Community Cats, also known as Trap Neuter Return (TNR), shelter playgroups, pit bull education, shelter enrichment and in-house rehabilitation, bringing the shelter to the community to increase awareness, transparency and creating unlikely community partnerships. She is a proud mom to a student at UC Davis studying to be a Clinical Psychologist and is a Student Assistant at the UC Davis MIND institute researching Autism. Tara has two Chihuahua's, an American Pit Bull Terrier mix and a diabetic cat. Her husband and daughter are her biggest supporters and advocates and share her passion of saving lives. During her free time, Tara enjoys studying industry best practices, reading good books, going to the beach, and spending time with her husband and pets.


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Donna Gillesby, Deputy Director

Donna began her career with VCAS in 1992 as a temporary help kennel attendant. In 1994 she was hired as an Animal Control Officer and, over the years, has held the positions of ACOI, ACOII, Statistics Officer, Supervising Animal Control Officer and achieved the position as Deputy Director in 2009. She has a passion and drive for our Ventura County shelters to be the best they can be.Donna completed the national No-Kill Management course in early 2014 but began making steps toward becoming No-Kill back in 2012. Donna has two successful adult children, Tara and Randy, an old lady cattle dog named Lily and three cats named Baby, Ruufie and Ferrah.
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Heather Skogerson, DVM, Managing Veterinarian

Dr. Skogerson received her undergraduate degree at University of Nevada Reno, and further went on to receive her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at Colorado State University. While Ballard was always her home town, she grew up traveling across the United States and two countries with her family. When she started her career in veterinary medicine, she began as a large animal intern at a surgical referral facility in Reno. From there she switched to small animal medicine when her son was born. Dr. Skogerson then practiced small animal medicine in Carson City, Nevada for eight years before moving back to her home town of Ballard, CA. She is on the Board of Directors for the Animal Rescue Team, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation facility in Solvang, CA. In November of 2012, Dr. Skogerson joined the VCAS team. Shelter Medicine was a new adventure so she spent every free moment reading everything she could so that she could do the best for the animals under her care. Shelter medicine now has become a burning passion for her. Dr. Skogerson still spends a great deal of time educating herself every day on new and improved information for the care and medicine of shelter animals. She is currently taking graduate courses through the University of Florida for a Graduate Certificate in Veterinary Forensic Science to assist law enforcement officers with animal cruelty investigations. In her free time, she enjoys outdoor activities; stand up paddling, hiking, and biking to Spudnuts with her son. She also enjoys traveling to Baja to relax on the beach and ride motorcycles.


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Aaron Ortega, Supervising Animal Control Officer (Shelter Operations)

Aaron joined the department in 2010 and has held 4 different positions and promotions until becoming a supervising animal control officer in 2017.  Aaron has served the department in licensing, shelter animal care, cruelty and disaster operations in the field as well as the processing of animal nuisance complaints.  Aaron has successfully written grants for Animal Services which has helped institute “Dogs Playing for Life” and two fully equipped animal disaster evacuation trailers funded by the Department of Homeland Security.   In 2014 he created the shelter’s first ever Enrichment Program model, which continues to thrive and evolve to this day. Aaron is a firm spay/neuter advocate and believes in public outreach and education to increase responsible pet ownership. Aaron is also a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps.  He is married with 3 children, and enjoys running, skateboarding, boxing, concerts, and watching documentaries.  Aaron has a pet Chihuahua named ‘the Beef’. Aaron also serves on the Health Care Agency’s Safety Advisory Council. 


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 Bryan Bray, Supervising Animal Control Officer (Field Operations)

Bryan joined our team in 2005, as an animal control officer I, working in the kennels. He is a lifelong Ventura County resident. Over the years he has serviced our department in several capacities. Some of his duties included, investigating nuisance complaints, assisting in training staff, and acting as the department safety officer. For many years he has been the department's Emergency Volunteer Response Team coordinator. He coordinates emergency response with partnering agencies, volunteers, and has coordinated animal evacuations throughout the years. Bryan is currently the field operations supervisor and has oversight of services performed in the contract cities. In addition, he also oversees the administrative citation program with the individual cities, and coordinates licensing programs. He also developed and supervises the department's license ambassador team. 


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 Randy Friedman, Media & Marketing Manager

Randy Friedman joined Ventura County Animal Services (VCAS) in 2012 as a volunteer and became the shelter's first Marketing Manager shortly thereafter. Randy's long career in science, education, technology and digital media made him an excellent candidate to create a strong Media Department for an organization that was transitioning to no-kill. Keeping positive, both in-person and online, is very important to him. He knows that you attract more bees (or followers) with honey rather than with vinegar. In addition to his official role, Randy supervises business interns from two local universities, helps organize staff BBQs and staff bonding activitiesHe has lived in a variety of locations such as Israel, Washington D.C., and in the picturesque mountains of San Jacinto where he was the Master Teacher at an outdoor space and science facility.After a long day of feeding the Social Media machine, broadcasting live on Periscope and creating fundraising campaigns, Randy enjoys mountain biking, wood burning and telescope viewing. He looks forward to the day when his job will no longer be needed and every healthy, adoptable animal has found their forever home.


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Virginia Hearn, Statistics Officer

Virginia Hearn is the Statistics Officer and has worked for VCAS for over 10 years. Growing up, her passion has always been animals. From working in the kennels, some field work, the Statistical Officer position, and also as a Kennel supervisor. She also started the shelter's first free roaming chicken clan with her rooster 'The General'. She has enjoyed being part of positive changes throughout our department and looks forward to future improvements. Virginia's favorite part of her job is having the opportunity to foster bottle baby kittens. This opportunity allows her to watch them grow to their adoptable age and then be placed in their forever homes......priceless. 
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Marilyn Baca – Lead Communications, Office Assistant IV

Marilyn Baca is a native to California, moving to Ventura County in 1979. She joined Ventura County Animal Services in 1980 as an officer in the kennel, then moving into a position as a field officer. In 1986 she transitioned into the communications center. She is currently the Lead Communications Officer working under the watchful eyes of office cats, Lola and Murry. Marilyn has four shelter-adopted cats: Papa, Kaytee, Bug and Emmitt. 
Sandra Ropes

Sandra Ropes - Assistant to Director and Deputy Director

Sandra joined Ventura County Animal Services in 2013 as an Office Assistant. In June of 2015 she moved to the administration office. She is married and has a daughter. Sandra and her husband are passionate about rescuing. “Adopt Don’t Shop” is their motto. All of their pets have come from shelters. She has two big German Shepherds at home named Boris & Natasha and two Siamese cats named Makua & Makena.