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Our Team & Board of Directors

Gail Pope

Founder of BrightHaven & Board President

Gail Pope, Founder of BrightHaven

Gail was born in Harrow, England, in 1946 and pursued careers in banking and the airline industry, before moving to Southern California with Richard and children Kirstie and Justin, then teenagers, and their animals to begin a new life. Had someone shown her a picture in 1986 of her life now, she would simply not have believed it!

Gail began her involvement with the animal world in the late 1980s and founded nonprofit Cats Are People Too with Richard in Trabuco Canyon, Southern California. They changed the name to BrightHaven in 1993 to reflect its new mission – that of the rescue and enhancement of the lives of senior and special needs animals. Over the years Gail learned much from the wise,  both animals and people, and from the early days began to follow a holistic path as she learned about the circle of life and death.

Gail’s work in the world of animal healthcare, hospice and natural dying is widely acclaimed. She has an international consultation practice and is contacted by many vets and animal caregivers regarding BrightHaven’s natural methods and protocols.

Gail is also one of the founding partners of the Animal Hospice Group (AHG). AHG iscommitted to helping, educating and certifying animal lovers to provide better end-of-life care and comfort for animals and families, by building their animal hospice skills and confidence. For more details about the AHG certification program, please visit

Gail has authored six books available on Amazon addressing various aspects of animal hospice and caring for older animals holistically. BrightHaven’s comprehensive education program includes online self-paced courses about animal hospice.

She and Carol Hulse co-authored GRATEFUL for Animals: Spiritual Comfort & Wisdom in Life’s Last Chapter, which honors the human-animal bond as the authors gently explore the many ways animals are indeed wise and wonderful guides and companions on the spiritual journey. This heartwarming book, also available on Amazon, shares uplifting lessons learned from animals during their last chapter of life, which are extremely relevant at every life stage.

Gail has been involved with the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC), the industry’s leading organization, for many years. She served on one of their early Board of Directors (2009-2010), and more recently was an Advisory Board Member from April 2017 through December 2020.

Gail’s module entitledUnderstanding the Animal Dying Experience” is part of the IAAHPC Animal Hospice and Palliative Care certification program. Her book, Soar My Butterfly: The Animal Dying Experience, is required homework for this program.

She also co-authored a chapter on animal hospice with IAAHPC’s Amir Shanan, DVM, for his book called Hospice and Palliative Care for Companion Animals: Principles and Practice.

Gail currently serves on the Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA) Board of Directors. In addition, she is a faculty member of Holistic Actions! for Companion Animals.

In July 2013, BrightHaven Co-Founders Gail and Richard Pope received the prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Service, in acknowledgement of their devoted service to this extremely vulnerable population of beings.

Richard Pope

Co-Founder of BrightHaven (1945 – 2023)

Richard Pope, Co-Founder of BrightHaven

We are so grateful that Richard’s unwavering generosity, commitment and lifelong passion for animals helped to create and make BrightHaven and our work a continuing reality

Richard was born in Harlington, England, on October 19th October 1945, and was the first child of Ernest Bernard Pope and Iris Freda Pope.

Richard graduated High School in Northwood Middlesex, UK, and subsequently attended The West London College of Building Construction and Engineering. He then worked for various construction and building companies until joining Taylor Woodrow Homes.

In 1986 he was asked to the join their California division to help expand operations in the western US and relocated the family to Southern California, where he was eventually made CEO of the western United States home building division.

Over Richards’s long career he was thought of as one of the most respected and forward-thinking development leaders in the United States. He held senior management positions at various companies and even formed his own successful home building company named St. James Properties.

Richard loved to travel and the executive positions he held over the years took him all over the world including Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, India, North Vietnam, Europe and the UAE.

At the time of his passing he was proud and honored to be serving as Chairman of Summit State Bank, located in Sonoma County, California, and also as Chairman of The Dang Collective, a performing arts and education company headquartered in London, UK.

Like his dad and his son Richard loved the game of golf and would be out playing whenever he could. True to character he played best and incredibly calmly under pressure and as such there were few who could beat him. He loved the competition and the frequent moments when he could deliver an opponent-crushing, clutch-winning shot to take the game!

Richard lived his life to play and listen to music; he loved to play the guitar and really imagined himself as Eric Clapton, although we’re not sure the rest of the family agreed with that! In addition to Eric Clapton, he loved John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Carlos Santana, Bob Marley and BB King to name but a few. He always would quote John Lennon and say, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

However, his greatest joy and passion came from his love of animals. One of his proudest moments came in July 2013 when BrightHaven Co-Founders Gail and Richard Pope received the prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Servicein acknowledgement of their devoted service to senior, disabled and chronically ill animals.

Richard loved and adored his family and went to great efforts to ensure that everyone kept and will continue to remain closely connected in the fast-paced busy times we now live.

BrightHaven life will never be the same without him, but we know that Richard will forever be guiding us from behind the veil.

Kirstie Franceschi

Board Secretary

Kirstie francheschi BOD profile

Kirstie is the Development and Property Manager for Codding Enterprises in Santa Rosa. Codding controls over three million square feet of commercial space and has a full-service construction company. She is also a founding Board Member of the Council of Infill Builders, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation that is committed to improving California through infill development.

Kirstie lives in Santa Rosa with her husband Dave, teenage daughter Emma, their two cats, George and Pattie and two dogs, Taacka and Cassie.

Susan Hoffman

Animal Rescue Coordinator & Board Chief Financial Officer

Susan Hoffman

Susan pursues her passion of animal rescue by heading up BrightHaven Shelter Rescue (BSR), which saves senior and special needs animals from shelters and places them in foster, permanent and hospice care homes. After a demanding day job in the legal profession, she comes home to care for her own brood of forevers and fosters before turning to her rescue work that includes returning calls, liaising with shelters and speaking with foster parents. Susan’s record of finding homes for abused, sick and needy seniors is incredible!

Carol Howe Hulse

Education Program Manager

Carol Howe Hulse – Education Program Specialist

Carol felt connected to BrightHaven from the moment she first arrived for Kathleen Prasad’s Animal Reiki 1 workshop in May 2010! Working with Gail and Richard to develop a multi-faceted education program designed to share BrightHaven’s Menu for Healing and animal hospice expertise with the world is a dream come true for Carol – using her creativity and intuition to help animals and people to live their best lives. Carol is an author, writer, photographer and animal Reiki practitioner.

Carol’s book, Walking with My Dog Through (End of) Life, is an intimate look at a profound life passage, from terminal diagnosis through hospice care and natural death. It includes how BrightHaven’s animal hospice principles greatly helped Carol and her beloved dog Silver to find their way. Available on Amazon.

Carol and Gail Pope co-authored GRATEFUL for Animals: Spiritual Comfort & Wisdom in Life’s Last Chapter, which honors the human-animal bond as the authors gently explore the many ways animals are indeed wise and wonderful guides and companions on the spiritual journey. This heartwarming book, available on Amazon, also shares uplifting lessons learned from animals during their last chapter of life, which are extremely relevant at every life stage.

Karen Wylie

BrightHaven Caregiver Academy (BCA) Director & Board Director

Karen Wylie, MEd, EdD, CAHP, is a lifelong business educator and consultant who has a deep passion for animals. Her journey of caring for a diverse range of animal companions, including purebred cats, dogs and horses, as well as active involvement in rescue, ignited her commitment to improving the lives of pets in their final stages.

With training and certifications in both human and companion animal death, dying and bereavement, Karen has become a dedicated advocate for enhancing hospice care for aging and terminally ill pets. She currently serves as the Director of BrightHaven Caregiver Academy for pet parents and holds the position of Executive Director of Animal Hospice Group (AHG), where she coordinates education and training programs for veterinary team members and allied animal care practitioners. 

A.J. de Bartolomeo

Board Director

AJ - board member profile

A.J. has more than twenty years of experience in complex litigation, including the prosecution and defense of class actions arising under the securities, communications, consumer protection and copyright laws. Her experience extends to the prosecution of pharmaceutical and medical device litigation, as well as the collection of class action recoveries and claims administration in bankruptcy proceedings. A.J. currently serves in court-appointed leadership positions in several MDL mass tort actions.

A.J. has been named among the highest class of attorneys for professional ethics and legal skills with an AV-Preeminent rating by Martindale Hubbell, and was recognized by her peers as a Northern California Super Lawyer every year since 2013.