Starke Animal Hospital

10334 State Rte 100
Starke, FL 32091



Our Staff


Darlene Rivera, C.V.T. - Practice Manager

Darlene Rivera, C.V.T. - Practice Manager

Darlene is the “go-to” manager for all employees. As hospital administrator for 2 hospitals, Darlene is responsible for all aspects of the business including staff, clients, patient care, inventory, technical support, hospital maintenance, and so much more. Without an honest, dedicated, organized and loyal employee like Darlene, the hospital would surely suffer.

Darlene grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania but moved to Florida when she was 13. She has always loved animals, but found her true calling when she was 17 and volunteered at a veterinary office. Soon after she was hired by that practice as a kennel assistant. For the next 14 years, Darlene worked as a receptionist, technician, and then office manager. In 2006, while continuing to work full time, Darlene decided to go back to school to earn her Associate in Science Degree in Veterinary Technology. Having graduated in 2009, we are very proud to have a licensed Certified Veterinary Technician on our team. Darlene has worked with Dr. Blackburn since 2001, and her diverse knowledge of the profession, her experience, and her drive and dedication make her an essential part of the veterinary team.

Darlene lives in Keystone Heights with her husband, William, and their two girls, Marissa and Mia. Darlene spends most of her free time helping her daughters with their sports and academics. She also enjoys working out with her daughters at the local gym and taking beach trips to St. Augustine with her family.

Nikki - Lead Veterinary Technician

Nikki - Lead Veterinary Technician / Manager

Nikki is our efficient, calm under pressure, powerhouse worker who keeps everyone laughing with her witty sense of humor. She was born in Virginia but has spent most of her life in Keystone Heights, Fl.

Nikki has two amazing children, Faith and Peyton, and is like an aunt to most of the kids in her town. If she could adopt a million kids she would. She enjoys anything on the water, especially fishing. She spends more time outside then she does inside. She has 3 dogs and grew up on a horse farm with her 5 siblings.

Nikki works full time and still makes time to help pet owners outside of her job as well. Her idea of success in veterinary medicine is creating empowered clients through education and support and the prevention and relief of suffering in our patients. Nikki loves her team here at Starke Animal Hospital and considers all of her coworkers her family.

Hope - Veterinary Technician

Hope - Veterinary Technician

Born and raised in Florida, Hope has been working in the veterinary field for over 5 years. Her own experience with a sick young dog sparked her interest in the animal medical field and ignited her drive to learn more in order to help other pets.

She started her veterinary path at Keystone Heights Animal Hospital where she gained experience as a receptionist, assistant, and then technician. She furthered her educational and hands-on experience in the Progressive Care Ward at UF’s veterinary hospital. Hope’s favorite area of veterinary medicine is surgery, and she is dedicated to keeping all of our surgery patients at Starke Animal Hospital safe and comfortable during their procedures.

Hope spends a lot of her free time completing continuing education courses and learning about new and exciting things in the field of animal care. When not studying, she loves spending time outdoors at the park with her son. Hope’s fur family includes Oki a 7 year old Husky mix and Peppa a 1 year old sleek and shiny black kitty.

Christi - Veterinary Technician

Christi - Veterinary Technician

Christi is one of our home town natives having lived her entire life right here in Starke, FL. Christi has a soft spot in her heart for all of our feline family members. Whenever our kitties are in need of some extra love and support, we rely on Christi to save the day. Her compassion, general calm nature, and quiet intuitive sense seem to help put our patients at ease.

Christi started in the veterinary field over 10 years ago. She has held several positions including receptionist, assistant, and veterinary technician. Her cross-training makes her a valuable team member, able to help out anywhere she is needed. Christi’s favorite thing about working in a veterinary hospital is her hands-on day-to-day interactions with our little fur babies and their families.

Christi lives with her husband and her 2 young sons. Her 4-legged family includes Sadie, an American Cocker Spaniel, Brutus, a Pitt mix, Punkin, an orange and white long haired kitty, and Tinsel, her sweet little tabby girl. She also provides a home to some feathered chicken friends.

In her free time, Christi enjoys camping and fishing with her family. Each fall, she also enjoys cheering on her favorite college team the FSU Seminoles.

Missy - Receptionist

Missy - Receptionist

Missy is originally from Savannah, GA, but has lived most of her life in Florida. Prior to working at Starke Animal Hospital, Missy worked the hardest job there is as a stay at home mom, homeschooling her 3 children. She now has 2 wonderful grandchildren as well whom she adores!

Missy loves the lake life. One of her favorite things to do outside of work is to just hang out by the lake or ride on the boat while watching her kids water board.

Missy loves greeting clients and getting to know people. Missy always treats our client’s pets like they are her very own. Her home now includes a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix name Sugar and 2 cats, Momma Kitty and Boy.

Jackson - Veterinary Assistant

Jackson - Veterinary Assistant

Jackson is currently attending the University of Florida majoring in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Research. He is in the pre-vet program with the goal of becoming a veterinarian. His family has lived in Starke for generations and 6 years ago Jackson moved back to the area. 

Jackson’s first interest in veterinary medicine came from volunteering to ride along with a large animal veterinarian. Since then he has fallen in love with the profession and has decided to make it his career. In addition to our little furry pets, Jackson enjoys large animal medicine and grew up showing steers and hogs. 

On his days off when he isn’t studying or participating in the wildlife ecology club or pre-vet club, Jackson enjoys playing tennis, walking the trails at Paynes Prairie and Sweetwater Wetlands Parks, or spending time with his Old English Sheepdog/Poodle mix named Bennett. 

April - Veterinary Assistant

April - Veterinary Assistant

April grew up in Palm Harbor, Florida and has lived in North Florida for the past 19 years. April loves small town living and the country life and currently resides in Melrose with her husband, children, and animals. For eight years, she volunteered at the Humane Society of North Pinellas, where her dedication earned her the Volunteer of the Year Award for two consecutive years.

April’s passion for animal care and agriculture developed early in life. Having a mother with a career as a vet tech for nearly 40 years gave April early exposure to veterinary medicine. While in high school, April studied Animal Science and Agricultural Science, laying a solid foundation for her future endeavors. She also spent school vacations at her aunt’s Thoroughbred farm in Ocala, gaining hands-on experience in horse care, and she spent winter breaks assisting her aunt with her race-training horses at Tampa Bay Downs racetrack.

In her free time, April enjoys spending time with her husband and five kids. Her hobbies include international travels to Honduras, fishing, hiking, gardening, and boating/tubing down the river. In addition to her human kids, April has several fur, feather, and fin babies including four dogs (a German Shepherd, Cane Corso, Fila Brasileiro, and a Heinz 57 mix), a cat, chickens, and 3 Koi ponds.