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Meet the Team

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Emily Villarreal

Chief Executive Officer

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Stephanie Gerken

Founder & Director of Michael's Angel Paws I earned a degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Biology and Chemistry from Cal State Long Beach and was accepted into the Exotic Animal Training Management program at Moorpark College, CA in 2004. While there, I worked with a coyote, fox, bald eagle, lemurs, and many other animals. Each offered me the opportunity to explore various ways of training and I also attended conferences to keep up to date on the ever-changing world of training domestic and exotic animals. Upon graduation from Moorpark College in April of 2006, I moved to Las Vegas and began working with a major pet retail store as a Certified Dog Trainer. I taught group classes ranging from beginner to advanced levels of obedience as well as private lessons at the store and a board and train program. My passion for training took me to new levels of expertise in behavior modification training, agility training, and basic obedience training. In 2008, I left the pet retail world to work on another aspect of dog training - the home environment, providing real-life solutions in the real world. In June 2011, I became a Certified Service Dog Trainer at Bergin University of Canine Studies. I spent my day researching, learning, training, and taking care of dogs of various ages to prepare them for a life of helping others. I certified my first hearing impairment Assistance Dog in October 2011. I am currently working with several individuals as I train their own dogs to become Assistance Dogs for various medical and psychological disorders. In late 2011, I became a volunteer for the All American Dog’s Foundation, founded by veterans to help fellow veterans lead a more independent life through the use of an Assistance Dog. I helped raise one of the first puppies for the program, implemented training protocols, and created files for each of the dogs that detailed their training development. In August 2012, my husband and I became puppy raisers for Freedom, a Golden Retriever. Freedom, our first Assistance Dog for Michael's Angel Paws, was generously donated from Spring Mountain Kennels, WA. We have spent countless hours training, socializing, and teaching him how to behave as an Assistance Dog in public. In September 2013, we welcomed our first daughter, Addyson, to our family of three, four-legged kids. She has brought so much joy and love to my life. She is truly our little miracle. In December 2013, Freedom was placed with his veteran after 18 months of training. The two are doing fabulous together and it has been an amazing journey to watch Freedom's veteran lead a more independent life. I cried tears of joy as I passed the leash to his veteran, and then he cried tears of joy knowing I would miss my little man. It was all worth it and I would do it again. November 2014 brought the arrival of our second daughter, Madelyn Rose! I'm so happy that my heart is ready to explode with the amount of joy these two little ones bring to my life. In September 2015, we celebrated our fifth year as a non-profit which was AMAZING!! We have huge dreams and can't wait to see them come to life. In February 2016, the idea of Michael's Place began. This will be a place for all dog’s things - think of it as a community center just for dogs. In April 2018, we welcomed Leo into our home after losing Shasta in November 2017. Leo began his life as an Assistance Dog in Training but has since transitioned to our pet dog after being career changed. Even though his journey as an Assistance Dog came to an end, he has helped train several other Assistance Dogs in Training over the last two years. I am truly grateful that Michael's story lives on to help others.

Leadership Team

Canine Coaches

Board of Directors

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Kathy Sharp

Board President By way of introduction, my name is Kathy Sharp and I have the honor of being the newly elected President of the Board of Directors for Michael’s Angel Paws. I have been with the organization since late 2019 joining with my doodle Biscuit. I had been interested in becoming involved with pet therapy having seen therapy dogs on campus at Boise State University when I would visit my daughter at college. Once I started training classes with Biscuit, I knew he had the disposition to be a therapy dog. After becoming involved, I realized that my older doodle Cookie, also had that same disposition and she became a therapy dog. When I put on my Michael’s Angel Paws shirt and they get their bandanas on, they know they are going to work aka “making people happy”. I have been a Las Vegas resident long enough to be a native having moved here when Sunset & Pecos was the edge of town and the 215 freeway didn’t exist. I was born and raised in the Boise, Idaho area as well as a stint living in the Pacific Northwest. I am married to my husband Glenn and have one daughter, Kate who is also a member with her doodle, Honey and Hershey who is just starting his training. The board’s role is to help make Michael’s Angel Paws thrive within the Las Vegas community. But we can’t do it without you, the therapy dog volunteer teams, and the trainers who are really the heart and soul of the organization. I look forward to the upcoming year with the opening of the new Michael’s Angel Paws facility and to meeting many of you!

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Jazlyn Bissonnette

Director of Finance Jazlyn was born in California but lived all over the Southern USA before settling down in Las Vegas more than 2 decades ago. She saw how truly beautiful this city and her people are beyond the bright lights and flashy attraction and felt she had finally found her true home. Jazlyn has raised her family here and has worked for small businesses. Jazlyn is a bookkeeper who owns her own practice as well as works for a tech company. She is an avid volunteer and always looks for ways to help her community. Her Labrador, Midnight Storm, has an exceptionally sweet disposition and Jazlyn learned she never had a bad day coming home to her. After speaking to her Veterinarian, they agreed that Midnight would make a wonderful Therapy Dog. Jazlyn looked around at available options and finally found Michael’s Angel Paws and fell in love with the organization. Midnight took the appropriate classes and before Jazlyn knew it, they were bringing smiles through wagging tails as a therapy team. Her beagle, Bailey Ann, has taken a few classes with Michael’s Angel Paws and it soon became evident that Bailey Ann was an agility Rock Star. When Jazlyn saw Michael’s Angel Paws needed puppy raisers, she jumped at the opportunity. According to Jazlyn, it has been a long, exciting and hair filled adventure raising Mika May (Mika "Chew") to be an Assistance Dog for a Veteran in our community. Per Jazlyn, “what MAPs does for the community is almost immeasurable and I look forward to helping in any and every way I can”.

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Doyle Raines

Director of Fundraising

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Joyce Liy

Director of Canine Health & Wellness Joyce, originally from Tapachula, Chiapas, embarked on a profound journey of connection with animals. Armed with both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Communication Studies from New Mexico State University, she set her sights on achieving her DVM at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, culminating in clinical rotations at Louisiana State University in 2018. Known professionally as Dr. Liy, she transcends the title of veterinarian, emerging as a visionary advocate for pet well-being. Driven by a deep-seated commitment to merge holistic methodologies with traditional veterinary practices, Dr. Liy is dedicated to offering pet parents a comprehensive view of their pets' health. Her credentials as a certified veterinary acupuncturist and veterinary food therapist from Chi University underscore her leadership in advancing holistic pet care practices.

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Gene Kanofsky

Secretary Gene Kanofsky is a Founder of the Silver State Veteran Assistance Foundation and is an Army Vietnam Combat veteran. Gene was the 2016 - 2017 Department Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of Nevada and served in numerous post positions in Jewish War Veterans Post 65. He is very active in the support of all veterans and is a volunteer Veteran Service Officer supported by the JWV. He also volunteers at the USO and at the Southern Nevada State Veterans Home and Cemetery. Gene is also a guest speaker for veteran benefits.

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