Meet the Pack - Administrative Staff

Steve Appelbaum
President of Animal Behavior College

Steven Appelbaum, CEO/ Director of Animal Behavior College, Inc. (ABC), and President/CEO, Animal Behavior and Training Associates, Inc. (ABTA).

Animal Behavior College is a highly innovative vocational school for animal lovers looking to pursue and succeed in animal careers. Currently ABC offers three vocational programs. The first is for people wanting to become professional dog trainers, the second for those wishing to become Veterinary Assistants, and the third for individuals who aspire to become a Professional Groomer. Founded in 1998 by Appelbaum, ABC has grown to the largest school of its kind with students in all 50 states and every Canadian province. ABC’s financial aid for students includes the following; full scholarships for qualified military spouses through MyCAA, select state funded program options, payment plans and low interest loans to qualified individuals. The vocational training school projects over 3,800 students in 2011 and will look to launch additional career programs in the upcoming years.

ABC is not the first company Steve piloted to success. Previously, Appelbaum, due to a unique combination of expertise and entrepreneurial vision, created the only nationwide dog training company in an industry that to date is largely fragmented and disorganized. Appelbaum's belief that pet chains and super stores would carve a sizable niche for themselves in the pet supply industry and that their one-stop shopping format would include obedience training, predated the actual event by several years.

In 1986 Appelbaum pioneered a unique profit sharing and marketing plan with Petco Animal Supplies, Inc. (Petco) that within four years resulted in his small Los Angeles based company, ABTA, growing to be the largest of its kind in California.

Appelbaum's foresight and proven track record resulted in Petco naming ABTA in 1995 as the exclusive provider of dog obedience classes for the entire chain of Petco stores. In 1998, ABTA was named exclusive provider of dog obedience classes for all Canadian Petcetera Warehouse stores. These arrangements coupled with numerous others, allowed Appelbaum's company to become the largest independent dog training company in North America. At its peak, ABTA employed over 525 trainers in forty-three states, Washington D.C., and every Canadian province west of Quebec.

In February 2004, Petco and Appelbaum concluded a negotiated agreement in which Petco hired ABTA trainers and took the obedience program in home. This freed Appelbaum to focus on his school for trainers, Animal Behavior College (ABC).

Aside from his ground breaking work with ABTA and ABC, Steve Appelbaum also works with a number of pet product manufacturers by assisting them in capitalizing on the strong influence dog trainers have in stimulating pet product sales.

Appelbaum has written a book called "The ABC Practical Guide to Dog Training", published by Howell.

From May 2007 through December 2008 Appelbaum was the editor of Off Lead Magazine a publication focusing on professional dog trainers.

In addition to his work as an editor Appelbaum has had several articles on business building and marketing published in Pet Business and a variety of other dog related publications. Steve has also been a featured columnist on business building for Off Lead Magazine.

Steve has been featured as a speaker at the American Boarding Kennel Association's (ABKA) annual conference, Barkleigh's Animal Behavior West conference, Hershey Groom and Train Expo, and the IACP annual conference. Appelbaum has also been utilized as an expert witness on dog/animal related legal cases.

Steve Appelbaum is a former BOD member of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP). He also belongs to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Appelbaum is also an honorary friend of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association (SCVMA).


 

Debbie Kendrick
Vice President of Animal Behavior College

Debbie Kendrick is the Vice President of Animal Behavior College, Inc., (ABC) and has been with ABC since they opened their doors in 1998. She is also a devoted dog owner and dog lover with over twenty-three year's of experience as a professional dog trainer and behavior modification specialist. Ms. Kendrick is a master in forging relationships with other organizations in the pet industry, including manufacturers, retailers and animal shelters. She is also recognized as a top-level trainer, instructor and lecturer and is a trainer that other professionals frequently consult for advice. This coupled with her professional writing skills has made her a highly regarded addition to the ABC pack.

Debbie was born in New York but has lived in California since she was a teenager. She has successfully raised three daughters as a single mom and is now the proud grandmother of two granddaughters. Her four-legged family consists of three large dogs and one rescued cat.

Debbie began her career in 1974 by serving a one-year apprenticeship with an AKC Dog Obedience Judge and Master Trainer. She states "schools for dog trainers didn't exist back then". Between 1975 and 1979 she competed in obedience trials statewide, titling her own dogs in basic and advanced obedience. The high light of her competition years was winning the Top Dog Award at the Southern California Dog Obedience Trials. From 1980 until 1988 she owned and operated a successful dog training business in Southern California offering group classes and private lessons for basic and advanced obedience training and problem solving strategies.

In 1988 she accepted the position of Head Trainer at Animal Behavior & Training Associates, Inc., (ABTA). As Head Trainer she was responsible for the dog training programs at 3 training locations. All 3 training locations were ranked in the top ten, statewide. Her success in the Head Trainer position prompted numerous other promotions between 1990 and 1998 including Regional Training Manager and National Sales Manager. In 1998, Steven Appelbaum, President of ABTA, asked her to share in his vision of creating a nationwide school where dog lovers could get the education needed to become professional dog trainers. Ms. Kendrick enthusiastically accepted the position of Vice President of Animal Behavior College, Inc., (ABC).

She is the author of numerous articles and quotes on dog behavior in national and local pet industry magazines including Fido Friendly Magazine and Dog Fancy Magazine. Debbie is an ABC Certified Dog Trainer and a Professional Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. In addition, Ms. Kendrick was honored with a nomination for the 2001/2002 edition of the International Who's Who of Professionals. This is the definitive work on the world's leaders in commerce, economics, policy, and trade.

Ms. Kendrick's contribution to the ABC Dog Obedience Instructor Training Program is extensive. Her personal quest to improve shelter dog rehabilitation and adoption has lead to ABC students performing a projected 400 hours of volunteer work each month in animal shelters, humane societies and rescue locations nationwide.

Debbie was also instrumental in the creation of ABC’s Veterinary Assistant Program. Her research skills coupled with her due diligence made her contribution to this programs development invaluable. In addition Ms. Kendrick played a key role in the selection process of ABC’s Veterinary Assistant staff. Her commitment to the education of our students was a key component in hiring educators with strong customer service skills and a high level of commitment to quality education. Debbie states “I interviewed many candidates and purposely selected individuals who possess the desire to teach others and pass on the skills and nurturing attitude that is required to be successful in this vocation.”

Debbie attributes her success to the fact that she followed her dream and is thankful for the opportunity to be part of the pack that promotes humane animal training through scientific education.


 

Candace Mason
Director of Admissions

Candace Mason was born and raised in California in a busy household with 2 younger sisters and at least 4 dogs at all times. She says "working and playing with the dogs was our way of life. I have never known anything else. Before I was even old enough to start school, I was going with my mom (also a professional dog trainer) on private and group class training lessons. By the time I was 7, I was entertaining my friends with the tricks I had taught my Golden Retriever, Amber."

Ms. Mason first began her professional dog training career in 1994 when she was hired by Animal Behavior and Training Associates (ABTA) as a part time Dog Trainer for Petco. Since 1996, she has also been teaching private lessons on her own. Candace strongly believes in having a wide array of training techniques at her disposal to be able to effectively help dogs and their owners achieve the best possible relationship.

Ms. Mason is not only a dedicated dog owner and dog lover with over 10 years of professional dog training experience, but she has also trained horses professionally using the Natural Horsemanship techniques taught by Pat Parelli's followers. Candace has attended numerous seminars learning to effectively train horses by building a partnership, establishing ground skills using trust and psychology, and has even learned to ride bareback and bridle-less for the 'Ultimate Harmony' experience. In the late 1980's, Candace started competing in AERC Endurance Riding. To date, Candace has completed over 1000 Race miles with AERC. In 1989, she became the youngest rider to ever successfully complete the 700-mile Pony Express XP ride from Nevada to Utah.

In 2000 ABTA promoted Candace to Human Resources Director. As the HR Director, she was responsible for overseeing the testing and hiring of over 400 ABTA Dog Trainers who conducted Petco group classes nationwide.

In 2003, ABC recruited Candace from her job as Director of the Human Resources team at ABTA, which at the time was the largest independent dog training company in the country. Candace's dog training knowledge, organizational skills, customer service, and work ethic had earned her the position of Director of Admissions for Animal Behavior College.

Candace states "There is nothing like having a career you truly enjoy. I am proud to be part of the ABC family positively impacting hundreds of dogs and people every year. Training people and dogs is such a rewarding career and makes each day that much more worthwhile."


 

Cristina Acuña
Human Resources Manager

Cristina Acuña has always had pets in her house. This includes everything from birds, cats, dogs, hamsters, fish, and even a pet tarantula, named Einstein. Animals have always played a major role in Cristina’s life and from an early age she thought it would be wonderful to have a career working with animals.

This dream became a reality in 2002 when Cristina started working for Animal Behavior and Training Associates as a Human Resources Representative. At that time, Cristina was part of the Human Resources Team responsible for finding professional dog trainers to train out of the Petco Stores throughout the United States and the Petcetera stores throughout Canada.

Cristina has worn many hats while working for ABC; and in 2010 she was promoted to the Human Resources Manager of Animal Behavior College. Cristina takes great pride in being part of the ABC family and doing her part to help educate the next generation of professional dog trainers, vet assistants, and groomers.

Cristina believes so strongly in the relevance of the ABC program that she enrolled in the Dog Obedience Instructor Training Program and has completed her certification. As an ABC Certified Dog Trainer, she looks forward to the great things in the future.

Cristina states, “Working at ABC has been one of the best experiences in my life. It is so rewarding to know I work for an exceptional institution that is helping to make a positive difference in people and animals lives.”


 

Kristyne Bennett
Executive Assistant to President

Kristyne is the Executive Assistant to ABC President Steven Appelbaum. Originally from Pennsylvania, she relocated to Northridge, CA after earning a BS in Mathematical Sciences from University of California, Santa Barbara in 1990.

In September of 1996, Kristyne was hired as a part time Assistant for Animal Behavior and Training Associates, Inc. (ABTA). After just a few months, Kristyne decided that being at ABTA was the career for her, so she left her position at a local vocational college and went to work for ABTA full time.

During her time with ABTA, Kristyne has worn many hats. She worked in the Human Resources Department, Payroll Department, Accounting Department, as well as the comptroller.

Due to her years of dedication and hard work, in January of 2004, Kristyne was promoted by ABC to the Executive Assistant to the President. Kristyne describes her career as “the most rewarding experience I could ever imagine!”

Animals have always been a part of Kristyne’s life. The ones that stand out in her memory were a Dachshund named Greta Lee Von Twinkle Toes which she chose and named herself when she was four, a mixed breed named Charles Herbert Ivonovich Puppy (CHIP for short) which she saved from a neglectful home, and a black long-haired cat, Sperry, who was named after a brand of shoes.

She currently lives in Castaic with her husband, two kids, and a rescued Saint Bernard named Koda.

Kristyne states, “It has been a wonderful experience being part of ABC from the beginning. I am proud of what we have accomplished together and am thrilled to be part of the ABC family.”


 

Alyssa Knerl
Compliance Officer

Alyssa Knerl was born into an animal loving family in Sacramento, California. She jokingly admits that her family has always had more four-legged members than two-legged ones. Her first memories revolve around the family’s Black Labrador, Bridget. “Bridget was the household ‘goofball’ and such a sweet dog who was easy to love”. Sadly, Bridget was a passionate digger, which led to her being re-homed to another loving family.

Early in her childhood, Alyssa knew she wanted to strive for a career in the animal industry. She had first considered becoming a veterinarian to help improve the health of many animals. Unfortunately, the thought of possibly losing a patient was too heartbreaking for her so she selected a career where she could help save the lives of animals instead. Remembering the incident of having to say good-bye to her childhood pet due to a behavior issue, Alyssa began researching ways to fix the digging behavior that Bridget was so fond of. Being the avid reader that she is, Alyssa continued to collect and read dog (and a few cat) books for well over a decade. Her favorite books focus on dog training and behavior modification. After years studying animal behavior, Alyssa knew where she wanted her career path to lead.

In the fall of 2001, Alyssa was hired in the Admissions Department of Animal Behavior and Training Associates, Inc (ABTA). Her primary function was to set up a structured program for people and their dogs that would best address the specific challenges the owners were having with their dog. This involved enrolling them in group classes at their local Petco store or arranging for an ABTA Trainer to work with them one on one in their home. Working with trainers gave Alyssa an invaluable learning experience as she interacted with some of the top trainers in the country.

In 2003, her talents caught the attention of the Vice President of Animal Behavior College, Inc (ABC) and she was recruited to join the ABC pack. Since becoming a member, Alyssa has worked with hundreds of students and participated in several projects to continuously improve the quality of ABC’s programs. She is proud to be a part of ABC and the company’s dedication to teaching the next generation of pet professionals to improve and save the lives of animals nationwide.

Alyssa has attended numerous seminars regarding all areas of training to keep herself updated in the dog world. She is an honor student graduate of Animal Behavior College and has taught numerous group classes through Valencia’s and Santa Monica’s park and recreation and conducted private lessons. One of her clients was a popular talk radio personality of the Los Angeles area and his 3 spunky Labrador Retrievers. Along with her professional training, Alyssa has dedicated hundreds of hours to her local animal shelter working with the dogs on behavioral issues and teaching basic obedience cues. “Any part I can do to help get the wonderful dogs adopted out into permanent, loving homes. It’s my gift to my lovable, four-legged friend, Bridget.”

Alyssa is a valued member of the ABC team and we are lucky to have her.


 

Marc Zoolman
Marketing Executive

Marc Zoolman is a native to Los Angeles. His father ran several pet services in the 70’s including animal transportation and pet sitting services. Growing up, Marc always had a large mix of dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and rabbits living at home with him which he enjoyed being he was an only child. Currently married and living in Woodland Hills, Marc has one cat named Holly. He hopes to add a small dog to the family in the next year.

Marc holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration/Marketing from California State University Northridge. A recently new employee at ABC, Marc looks forward to bringing his marketing experience to the table and helping ABC achieve its goals. In addition to working for ABC, Marc has done marketing for brands such as Nature Made, Nature’s Resource, Allstate Insurance and various software/Internet companies. He enjoys traveling, wine tasting, and has completed 6 marathons. His running goal is to someday run the Boston Marathon. When he has time, Marc works part-time at a local winery.

“Working at ABC allows me to use my creativity and marketing experience to turn our student’s enthusiasm for animals into a passionate career,” Marc says. He attends many of the animal industry tradeshows and looks forward to meeting ABC’s students and graduates whenever possible. Marc also looks forward to one day become an ABC Certified Dog Trainer.


 

Kimberly Decker
Administrative Assistant

Kimberly grew up in Phoenix AZ surrounded by an eclectic blend of pets including cats, birds, hamsters and, of course, her loving pups. One of her fondest memories was playing catch Frisbee with her 80lb German Shepard, Precious, whom she lovingly rescued as the mother abandoned her at 5 weeks old. Kimberly has always had a strong desire to help animals.

Working in a variety of industries, Kimberly established herself in Pharmaceuticals, Banking, and even sheet metal fabrication but none as rewarding as working in the animal industry. “I love helping people build their dreams and career within the industry!”

Currently living in Santa Clarita, California with her husband and 2 rescue dogs, Max & Diva, she enjoys camping, boating, playing with the pups, and spending time with her large, extended family. “Everyday at ABC is much like working with family. I love surrounding myself with fellow animal lovers.”


 

Wendy Bedwell-Wilson
Author of ABC's Continuing Education Program - Pet Sitting and Dog Walking

Award-winning writer Wendy Bedwell-Wilson writes about pets from her 80-acre hobby farm in southwest Oregon, which she shares with her husband, a retired racing Greyhound named Magic, a hound mix called Pete, domestic shorthairs Bubba and Benny, and a menagerie of barnyard critters, including resident Peking ducks Elaine and Betty. She regularly contributes to more than a dozen magazines, including Dog Fancy, Dog World, Cat Fancy, and Pet Product News International. She has also written five dog breed books, “Yorkshire Terriers,” “Boxers,” “Boston Terriers for Dummies” “Smart Owner’s Guide to Border Collies,” and “DogLife: Shih Tzu,” as well as “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Open Nesting,” a book about family dynamics. Wendy is currently working on a book about how to build the quintessential chicken coop.
Wendy began her professional career in the pet industry as an editor on PPNI. During her four-year tenure, she gained practical and theoretical knowledge of not only how to properly care for pets, but also how to operate a successful pet business. Eight years ago, she decided to launch her own pet business as a freelance pet writer – and it has proven to be a worthwhile venture. To date, Wendy has written more than 600 feature stories about topics as diverse as international environmental trends in the pet marketplace, Greyhound rescue efforts in Guam, and how companion dogs assist children with autism. Wendy’s passion centers on both educating people through well-crafted prose how to better their bond with their pets, as well as helping pet professionals excel in their business pursuits. Wendy can be reached at petwriter@live.com.


 

Denise Fleck
Pet CPR and Firstaid Author

Denise Fleck has trained with seven national organizations in animal lifesaving skills as well as being a longtime rescue volunteer and animal response team member. She has assisted Homeland Security with their K9 Border Patrol First-Aid Program, has developed her own line of Pet First-Aid Kits and is the author of Quickfind Books’ Pet Care Series. Currently, Denise serves as President of the Volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter in Burbank, CA and is the recipient of the Burbank Police Department’s Volunteer of the Year Award for her work with the animals. Denise is also a freelance writer for numerous animal publications and has received the Award of Excellence from the Cat Writers Association as well as the Maxwell Medallion from the Dog Writers Association of America. Denise has shared Pet First-Aid & CPR skills on CBS-TV’s The Doctors, Animal Planet’s Groomer Has It and Pit Boss, A&E’s Kirstie and Alley’s Big Life and appears twice monthly on the KTLA Channel 5 News in Los Angeles sharing pet tips. De nise is owned by two rescued Akitas named “Haiku” and “Bonsai”. Visit her website at www.sunnydogink.com.


 

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