Our Amazing Staff

Ellen Simmonds

Executive Director

Ellen joined PAWS in 2017 and is responsible for all financial matters and general office management. She comes to us from a non-profit where she loved working with the children. She has experience in office operations, financial management, grant writing and strategic planning. Ellen enjoys tennis, golf, reading, and annoying her family by practicing her language skills on unsuspecting foreign visitors. She also annoys staff by profusely thanking anyone and everyone who visits PAWS.


Phone: (203) 750-9572 x 106  |  Email: ellen.simmonds@pawsct.org

Barrie Sesmer

Feline Coordinator

Barrie Joined Paws in January 2022 following 16 months as a Paws volunteer on both the cat and dog sides. She has many years of experience fostering, transporting, socializing, and adopting out both cats and dogs. 

When not a Paws she can be found at home with her husband, 4 cats, 1 dog, and frequent fosters, all rescues! Her 3 non-furbabies have left the nest.

Phone: (203) 750-9572 x102  |  Email: cats@pawsct.org

Casper Alert.jpg
Lisa Barnett

Canine Coordinator

Lisa joined PAWS in 2016, after working many years as an advocate for the elderly and disabled. She feels she can put her experience giving voice to the voiceless to use at PAWS and is very fortunate to be able to help PAWS’ dogs with their new beginnings. She has immersed herself in animal rescue over the last several years, working for animal control and rescue, as well as volunteering.  Lisa additionally has experience with fostering and training.  When not at PAWS, she enjoys hiking and travel with her daughter and her dog.


Phone: (203) 750-9572 x 109  |  Email: dogs@pawsct.org

Tori Haave

Medical Coordinator


Tori joined PAWS in 2016 as an animal care attendant and has now worked her way up to being our Medical Coordinator. She is a die hard animal lover, adopting a PAWS cat, dog, and even a PAWS turtle. She has spent the last few years learning from previous PAWS vet techs, veterinarians, and even spent some time working at a local veterinary hospital to further her skills. She takes pride in the fact that she loves all of our animals as much as she loves her own. When not at PAWS, you can find her at home booking yet another trip to Disney World, or slaving away to her kitty, who is the king of the house.  

Phone: (203) 750-9572 x110  |   Email: vettech@pawsct.org

Lisa DiDonato

Volunteer Coordinator

Lisa has worked at PAWS as the Volunteer Coordinator for the past 12 years. She feels extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to combine her love for animals with her skills as a Masters level Social Worker. From the moment she assisted her mother, when she was setting up an Animal Assisted Therapy Program, Lisa knew she wanted to work with animals and people. Lisa believes she was always meant to be in a place where people and animals are intertwined in a deep respect for each other. She has found that in her work at PAWS, and is reminded of that, as each animal leaves the doors at PAWS with their new owners for their second chance at a better life. Lisa keeps very busy at home as well with her husband, two sons, and three dogs which includes one she is currently fostering (all rescued from PAWS).


Phone: (203)750-9572 x103  |  Email: lisad@pawsct.org