Two cute pet dogs, cane corso and Staffordshire bull terrier at home in living room



Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) celebrates the bond between people and pets. Over the past two decades, we have worked with animal shelters, local governments, and other organizations throughout the country to make sure that all people and pets have a safe place in every community. Our Old Friends foster program guarantees that senior dogs have a soft and loving place to stay. We provide free pet food, dog training, and veterinary resources to our local community. Our staff consults with animal shelters across the country on evidence-based progressive and inclusive enrichment and adoption policies. We also offer grants to other organizations that have sustainable programs designed to keep people and their pets together.

Our History

Founded in 1985, Animal Farm Foundation began as a horse rescue. We shifted focus to “pit bull” dogs when our founder, Jane Berkey, discovered that “pit bull” dog owners were not welcome in a lot of communities and spaces. Jane experienced some of that herself when she adopted a “pit bull” from a local shelter. People made a lot of assumptions about her and her dog. She wanted to learn more about those stereotypes and help other dog owners.

Through that work, we’ve learned that assumptions about “pit bull” dogs have no basis in science. In fact, the majority of dogs people think are “pit bulls” actually aren’t a member of any breed at all. The motivation behind “pit bull” dog stereotypes was to keep marginalized people out of communities.

This is why we’ve worked so hard to end breed restrictions, including breed-specific legislation. Recently, we decided to move all of our science-backed efforts, like ending BSL, to our subsidiary organization, National Canine Research Council. This move allows AFF to focus solely on directly helping people, pets, and their communities.

Our Work

Dogs may be our main mission but AFF is surrounded by farmland that we put to good use. Rescued and retired horses, cows, and other farm life call the farm home.

Located in Dutchess County, NY on 400 acres, daily life on the farm is one big summer camp with our rolling hills, wide open spaces, and dirt roads. Our CPDT certified staff, along with our dedicated volunteers, make every day the best it can be for our animals. The senior shelter dogs in our Old Friends program have the opportunity to couch surf between staff houses and visit our local town, while our rescued farm animals get to explore the vast fields around the property. Our staff may be small in number but we make up for it in the impact we have on the animals we care for.


We designed every position on our team to link intrinsically with our mission. Everyone here has hands-on experience with why we do what we do – whether that’s training dogs, transporting them, making grants, educating the public and animal welfare workers, or speaking to the world-at-large about animal and human welfare. We keep everyone focused and don’t waste anyone’s time

Male cynologist with service dog, training outside

Bernice Clifford, CPDT-KA

Director of Behavior and Training

Bernice, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is originally from Brookline, Massachusetts. She shares her life with 4 dogs, 2 goats, multiple chickens and the unexpected cat. She came to the animal world, working with Dr. Amy Marder and the New England Veterinary Behavior Associates in 2001, after adopting a “pit bull’ dog named Dixie and experiencing unexpected discrimination.

Bernice creates the enrichment and behavior protocols for the dogs at AFF and in other shelters and rescues. She travels nationwide working with other shelters and speaking at conferences about enrichment, training, and behavior modification for shelter dogs.


Nikki Juchem

Manager of Operations & Public Policy

Nicole has worked in a variety of leadership roles over the ten years working for Animal Farm Foundation, and in more recent years, the National Canine Research Council. She started her career in animal welfare in 2013, in that time she established many programs that focus on strengthening the bond between people and pets, including tools that help shelters to drop breed labels. In her new role as Manager of Operations and Public Policy, Nicole oversees many projects for NCRC and AFF but her main focus is on insurance breed restrictions, BSL, and of course, seeing all dogs as individuals. Like most of us that work for Animal Welfare, Nicole has many different roles and is also responsible for IT, web design, graphic design, and marketing. She also volunteers in her local community. Nicole lives with her partner Jesse and is currently fostering senior dogs for AFF. When not at work she enjoys hiking, traveling, and spending time with her family. Got questions, need advice, or just want to tell us about your accomplishments? Shoot her an email. 

Melanie Appleton

Director of Finance

Melanie joined our team in June 2013. Following 8 years of crunching numbers in a public accounting firm, Melanie was happy to align her skills with numbers and skills with animal welfare. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from SUNY New Paltz and obtained her CPA license in 2011.

Regina Lizik

Communications and Fundraising Manager

Regina holds a B.A. in Philosophy, World Religions, and Classical History and consequently enjoys telling people “well, actually …” She’s written for outlets like the Daily Beast covering the intersection of pop culture and religion. She fell in love with exploring the relationship between dogs and people while serving as the Viral Editrix for BARKPost.

At AFF, she handles all content, as well as social and fundraising campaigns.

Regina is legally blind and advocates for equality for people with disabilities on the FB page Buttons the Shiba. There, she discusses life with an unconventional guide dog, disability rights, and dismantles stereotypes about living everyday life with a disability.


Ashley Pastor CPDT-KA

Shelter Engagement and Communications Manager

Ashley received her BS in Environmental Science from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She’s a canine volunteer at the DCSPCA and helps with fundraiser events within the community. She’s worked with large carnivorous mammals at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY.

At AFF, Ashley provides daily care and enrichment for the dogs, in addition to working on basic training and behavioral protocols. She shares her life with dogs named Henry and Roxie, and a cat named Hershey. Ashley enjoys photography and watching old movies.


Christa Ploschke

Administrative Assistant/Bookkeeper

Assistant to Awesomeness and Ninja Bookkeeper. That is what Christa brings to Animal Farm Foundation! Christa left behind her mundane career in an accounting firm in pursuit of finding purpose and making a difference. She found that when she began working at AFF. Christa is happy to assistant in the awesomeness that is AFF and brings her bookkeeping skills with her.

Christa shares her life with her rescue dog, Kato. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, gardening and watching movies both old and new.


Cassidy Scalzo CPDT-KA

Marketing and Shelter Resource Manager

Cassidy is a recent Marist College graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She has always loved animals, so much so that she started working with the Two by Two Zoo as an educator/handler when she was only nine years old. Cassidy also worked part time at a doggie daycare, where she learned the basics of dog introductions, playgroups and body language.

Although 9-year-old Cassidy would be disappointed that present-day Cassidy isn’t a “jungle girl,” she’d probably think working at AFF is a close second!