Maddie’s® Executive Leadership Fellows Have Arrived at APA!

by Lindsey Picard • Posted in: General


#ThanksToMaddie, Austin Pets Alive! is excited to announce – and welcome – our inaugural Maddie’s Fund® Executive Leadership Fellows! Sheila Kouhkan and Miranda Hitchcock are kicking off their year-long fellowship with Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center this week.

Sheila and Miranda were selected to spend 12 months in Austin shadowing the leaders of both Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center. They will complete a practical project that will focus on creating exciting, fresh solutions to help Austin’s No Kill community become even stronger and more effective. While acting as a deputy directors at both shelters, Sheila and Miranda will receive the tools and training to further their careers and implement this collaborative model in other communities.

We’re excited to welcome Sheila and Miranda for this unique and groundbreaking opportunity in the animal welfare world. Learn more about our Executive Leadership Fellows below!

Sheila Kouhkan
Sheila Kouhkan moved to Austin, TX from Los Angeles, CA for the Maddie’s Fund Executive Leadership Fellowship and the incredible opportunity to work with Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center. She originally moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to attend the University of California – Los Angeles. During her time at UCLA, she held an internship with Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz as well as the UCLA Institute of Democracy, Education, and Access. After graduating, she joined the office of Councilmember Koretz where she served as a Field Deputy, Community Liaison, and Special Assistant. She worked with Councilmember Koretz on animal welfare legislation and assisted with policies such as the ban on the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats, and rabbits (AKA the puppy mill ban) and the ban on the use of the bull hook on elephants on traveling shows (AKA the bullhook ban which resulted in the retirement of all Ringling Bros. elephants soon after).

Towards the end of 2015, she accepted an opportunity to work for Best Friends Animal Society where she oversaw the NKLA Coalition and various projects relating to the NKLA initiative. Los Angeles is committed to being No Kill by 2017, and one of Sheila’s last projects with Best Friends was working with the Los Angeles City Council to pass a resolution reaffirming their commitment to No Kill. This resolution passed unanimously on May 3, 2017. (You can read more about the resolution here:

Sheila enjoys traveling, hiking, fostering, interior design, and testing out new vegan recipes. But, what makes her happiest is spending time with her dog, Ziba. She is also hoping to learn photography so she can take better pictures of Ziba for her Instagram page (@Ziba_The_Rescue).

Miranda Hitchcock
Miranda grew up in Maryland and loved animals right from the start: her childhood dream was to win the lottery and build a sanctuary for all of the homeless animals. So far, she hasn’t won the lottery- but she’s incredibly excited to be working with animals anyway. With an engineering degree from Penn State, Miranda loves figuring out “how stuff works” and brings an analytical approach and a love of science to her work. After several years of volunteering at her local shelter in Maryland, she dove into working there full time doing social media, outreach, and data analysis. Now, she’s incredibly excited to be taking on the Executive Leadership Fellowship with Maddie’s Fund in Austin.

During the next year, Miranda is excited to learn what’s working best in No Kill sheltering, and also to help propel the mission even further with research and innovation. She hopes one day to be able to bring some of these programs and practices to other communities and help them succeed in the No Kill mission.

Miranda has traveled to over 50 countries, and loves exploring new parts of the world. She’s an avid scuba diver, salsa dancer, and rock climber. In her spare time she’s a dog trainer who loves teaching both people and dogs.