Heidi Marston is comfortable getting into uncomfortable spaces. She has made an accomplished career and calling of solving complex problems related to socially vulnerable populations including people experiencing homelessness and military veterans. Merging her vast experience tackling systematic barriers to equity with a passion for animals promises to help make the world a better place for pets — and the people they love.
As Director of Pet Placement Initiatives, Heidi leads the team charged with managing a grant portfolio across the United States and Canada dedicated to helping pets find loving homes. This includes supporting the work of shelter and rescue partners across North America.
Prior to joining the PetSmart Charities team, Heidi served as Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), a Joint Powers Authority for the City and County of Los Angeles, working alongside a staff of 600+ to combat homelessness in Los Angeles, the epicenter of the staggering crisis. She logged more than a decade working for the federal government, where she held varied roles including Special Assistant to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Director of Community Engagement and Reintegration at the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System.
Heidi is a long-time foster pet parent, shelter volunteer and advocate in the animal welfare space. She brings an unwavering commitment to social, racial, and economic justice, challenging herself and others to move past generalizations and address entrenched disparities that present barriers to success. Heidi is also a lifelong learner and is a student of the Impact Center’s Women in Executive Leadership Program and certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. She’s a compassion-first leader and her highly collaborative style has driven solutions both internally and externally. Heidi was born and raised in Minnesota and has called Washington D.C. and Los Angeles home prior to moving to Phoenix, Arizona where she lives with her Partner and their two special needs rescue dogs (Kemper and Gatsby).
with Heidi Marston
How has your pet (or a previous pet) changed your life?
No animal is perfect, but I have had a few dogs with very special needs, from behavioral issues to aggression to illness. There have been days where I’ve felt hopeless and defeated, not knowing if I will be able to give them what they need. In all of these cases, these dogs have taught me that I need to let go of the expectations I have for them (and of myself) – that we all fail at what/who we are supposed to be. They have been constant reminders that we will only live our fullest life when we learn to accept ourselves (and each other) just for who we are.
What motivates you to want to be involved in the future of animal welfare?
Brooks was the first dog I owned as an adult and was truly my best friend. For 15 years he was my partner in navigating college, my parents’ divorce, grad school, more than 20 moves, jobs, marriage and all the other ups and downs of life. Because of Brooks, I wholeheartedly believe that regardless of our story, circumstances or socioeconomic status, pets are our family. That’s why our job is not just to care for the animals, it’s to care for the people who love them.
What makes you most excited about working with PetSmart Charities?
The mission of “making the world a better place for pets by investing in community partners that advocate and care for the well-being of pets and all who love them” is the reason I am excited to come to work every day! Many of us come into animal welfare because of our love for animals, but we know that doing this work requires so much more than helping pets. PetSmart Charities is perfectly positioned to lead the way in helping people understand that we cannot help pets without empathy and understanding the people who love them. This is why it’s so important to consistently challenge our own assumptions and biases – we cannot save the lives of pets without the support of people and the communities they live in!