Gina Knepp: A Champion for Animal Welfare

Gina Knepp, National Shelter Engagement Director

By Michelson Found Animals (Originally published on

Gina Knepp was working for the city of Sacramento when her boss gave her an assignment: Go to the Sacramento animal shelter, and shut it down. “I didn’t know a darn thing about animals,” said Gina. But it didn’t matter. She was an effective leader, and it turns out that was exactly what that Sacramento shelter needed. So, instead of shutting it down, Gina decided to save it, thus starting a long, public career with the simple goal of saving the lives of as many animals as possible.

Gina Knepp, Michelson Found Animals

Photo credit: Sacramento City Express. Gina Knepp was featured in Sacramento City Express about her retirement.

How to Save an Animal Shelter

When Gina arrived at the Sacramento shelter, around 75% of found dogs and cats were being euthanized. Putting down the animals was cheaper, but it took an emotional toll. Gina noted an upsetting amount of compassion fatigue in the shelter industry from people who loved animals and wanted to help them but whose psyches had become burdened with the heavy realities of shelter work.

But Gina saw a world of possibilities. She changed the name of the shelter to Front Street, she came in with unbeatable hope for the organization, and she adopted the motto: “Try anything once.

“Whoever is in charge is responsible for the personality of the organization,” Gina pointed out. “When the leader has optimism and energy and is willing to work hard, those things rub off on people. [At Front Street,] we built excitement around saving animals’ lives.”

People in the organization would come to Gina with zany ideas, and she would try them all. Her goal? Get the word out about Front Street. Gina wanted the community to know about their work, even if that meant (literally) jumping out of an airplane. Front Street was constantly in the news for its events and fundraisers. As a result, the Sacramento community embraced the shelter. It became the people’s shelter– a place where, if someone’s pet ended up there, they knew the animal was in good hands.

Learn more about Gina Knepp and her efforts here.

Get the latest news from Michelson Philanthropies. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sep 6, 2023 | Michelson Found Animals, News