Meet the Instructors

Kelly with cat.jpg

Kelly Thyssen

Kelly has over 15 years experience in the animal welfare field. Her responsibilities included working as an Animal Control Officer for City of Cedar Park, City of Pflugerville and City of Georgetown, as a Veterinary Technician for Pflugerville Animal Hospital, as a Kennel Manager for Humane Society of Williamson County, and as a Public Health and Prevention Specialist for Texas Department of State Health Services Zoonosis Program.


She has experience in giving lectures for multiple organizations including Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Zoonosis program, Williamson County Probation Office, the Georgetown Police Department and at the Intertel and Mensa Regional Conferences. She built contacts throughout the State of Texas while working for DSHS and has been called upon by DSHS to teach "Capture and Restraint" for the Basic Animal Control Officer certification course as a guest instructor.

Throughout her six years with Georgetown Animal Services, Kelly received several Teamwork awards from the Georgetown Police Chief, including in 2013 for her extreme effort in rescuing a dog suffering from heat stress, as well as for the development of an emergency first aid heat stress response kit designed for animals. She was named Police Civilian Employee of the Year in 2014. 

She is a member of Pflugerville Police Association, Pflugerville Community Emergency Response Team, and Citizens on Patrol.  While working for DSHS, she was a member of the Region 7 Central Texas Wildfire Response Team in response to the Bastrop County Complex wildfire of 2011. Kelly was the Chairperson for the Georgetown Animal Shelter Advisory Board from 2014 to 2018.


Tabitha Blewett

Tabitha Blewett has over 20 years of experience in the field of animal care and animal services.  While residing in California she worked as the education director for a non-profit wildlife rescue organization with special focus on large cats. She also worked for private animal boarding and training facilities in the San Diego area, as well as for the North County Humane Society.


After relocating to Texas, she worked for the Williamson County Humane Society as the kennel manager, and also served as a member of the advisory board for the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.

In September 2018, she retired from the Williamson County Sheriff's Office after 10 years of service. She was the Local Rabies Control Authority for Williamson County as well as the Animal Control Field Supervisor for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, where she oversaw a team of five Animal Control Officers.


During her time at the Sheriff's Office, she excelled in promoting educational outreach for the community, including giving frequent public education presentations for children. She developed the fractious animal training program for employees of the Williamson County Parks and Recreation Department, as well as educational seminars on urban wildlife which she has presented at various events around Williamson County.

In addition to full time training at the academy and around the state, Tabitha is a frequent speaker at conferences for both State and National organizations. She has presented at: HSUS Animal Care Expo, National Animal Care & Control Association Conference, Texas Animal Control Association Conference, Texas Unites for Animals Conference, Southeastern Animal Control Conference, New England Animal Control Academy Conference, & Texas Department of State Health Services, Zoonosis Control Division Continuing Education Seminars and Basic ACO Training.


Tabitha holds trainings & certifications in Basic, Advanced ACO, & Administrative ACO, Collapsible Baton, OC Spray, X26 Taser, Rifle Qualification, Zoonotic Diseases, Verbal Judo, Herpetology Handling, Blood Sports Investigations, TLAER Awareness Level, Officer Safety & Survival, Compassion Fatigue, Pet First Aid & CPR, Animal Services Disaster Response, and Rabies Investigations.


Tabitha is also Nationally Certified as an Animal Cruelty Investigator (Code 3 Associates & Colorado State University), Internationally Certified as a Rabies Educator (Global Alliance for Rabies Control), ICISF Certified Peer, a TCOLE SME on Rabies & Dangerous Dog Investigations, and a RACE approved Instructor (AAVSB).

 Specialty Instructors

cathy bustos 2 (2).jpg

Cathy Bustos

Cathy is a certified Peer Support Counselor and instructor for the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. Along with her husband Javier, she has traveled all over the country to help law enforcement and animal welfare professionals with understanding the importance of mental health and the best ways to take care of yourself, co-workers, volunteers, and staff. Cathy has over 25 years in law enforcement and is a certified Master Peace Officer. She is a published author of articles addressing mental health in law enforcement, and is an active peer support member who deploys across Texas and the U.S. to provide support after critical incidents.

jared headshot.jpg

Jared Thyssen

Jared Thyssen is certified as a Master Peace Officer by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.  Jared graduated Summa Cum Laude from the St. Edward’s University’s Honors Program in 2007 with a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice.  During this time Jared worked as a civilian employee for the University’s Police Department.  Jared graduated from the Capital Area Council of Government’s Basic Peace Officer Academy in 2007 and was the Salutatorian and “Top Gun” of Class 46.


Jared began his career in September of 2007 and has served in many different roles.  Jared has worked in the Patrol Division where he served as a Field Training Officer tasked with training new officers.  Jared eventually promoted to Corporal and later moved into the Criminal Investigations Division where he served as a Detective.  During this time Jared took part in multiple types of investigations ranging from death investigations, sexual crimes, child abuse, property crimes, animal cruelty and crimes against persons to include assaults and robberies.  Jared was eventually promoted to Sergeant and returned to the Patrol Division where he supervised a daytime Patrol shift.  He is currently a Lieutenant over patrol. Jared has been tasked with investigating and documenting a wide variety of crime scenes during his career and has received extensive training in forensic photography. 


Jared also serves as an Instructor certified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.  In this role Jared has taught a wide array of courses to include Patrol Officer Safety, Crowd Management, Taser, Oleoresin Capsicum (Pepper) Spray, Legislative Updates, Missing and Exploited Children, Human Trafficking as well as Arrest, Search and Seizure.


Lana Toporek

Lana Toporek has been a Texas Peace Officer for 14 years. She is currently a patrol officer in Central Texas and has served as a field training officer, a defensive tactics instructor, and member of a dynamic entry team during her career. She also has over 30 years of martial arts experience, and currently trains under head coach Robby Rabadi and Rabadi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai.

Lana holds certifications in: Master Peace Officer, TCOLE Basic Instructor License, Certified Gracie Survival Tactics Instructor (Level 1), Certified Defensive Tactics Instructor (Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy).

Additional achievements include: Purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Advanced Muay Thai practitioner, 5th Degree black belt in Kajuunkenbo, Black sash in Hung-Gar Kung Fu, Former NASM certified personal trainer, several time gold and silver medal winner at the Texas Police Games, gold medal winner IBBJF (Blue belt women's division), several time gold and silver medal winner at NAGA.


Tim Cole

Tim Cole is the Owner of Austin Reptile Service and has been keeping reptiles for over 40 years.  He is an Advanced Level Animal Control Officer and holds a Texas Parks and Wildlife rehabilitation permit for reptiles. Tim is also a founding member of the Austin Herpetological Society as well as has sat on the board of various Herpetological Societies.

Since 2004, he has been conducting a four-hour Herpetological Workshop that was CE Certified by TACA and later certified by “Texas Department of State Health Services” through Humane Educators of Texas in Hutto, TX.

Check out his website at:

Proud Members Of:

TACA Logo.jpg