Chris Patella, MS, Recreational Therapy - Founder & Director
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
Registered Instructor PATH, International

Chris Patella holds a Bachelor of Music from Ithaca College in music education and piano performance. She has a Master's Degree in Recreational Therapy from Southern Connecticut State University. 

After a successful 35 year music teaching career, Chris changed directions towards Recreational Therapy in 2009. With a vision to use Animal Assisted Interventions as the core of her practice, she obtained her certification as a professional dog trainer through Animal Behavior College and is a registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor through PATH, International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship).

Chris is involved in both equine and canine assisted therapy work at AaTs. In addition to her work as director for the program, she assists clients to develop loving, emotional bonds with our wonderful animal partners. Through the animals, Chris develops a natural relationship with program participants and explores a wide variety of recreational activities, thus promoting a relaxed and healthy life-style.

As a professional trainer she oversees the development and training of AaTs therapy, Emotional Support, and Service Dogs.
Chris enjoys spending time at her home in the Western Catskill Mountains of New York. She has a small organic farm and loves hiking with the dogs and trail riding with her retired horse, Diesel.

Beth Patella, MS, Recreational Therapy

Beth is a Recreational Therapist and Educational Consultant, as well as, a seasoned performer and teacher with over 15 years of experience. Beth has a Bachelor’s Degree (SCSU) in Music and German and a Master’s Degree (SCSU/UNH) in both Recreational Therapy and Education and is a Certified Teacher in the State of Connecticut.

In addition, Beth is a Certified Sound Therapist/Healer, where she has studied at the highest level of certification with Zacciah Blackburn, PHD at The Center Of Light Institute of Sound Healing and Shamanic Studies located in Ascutney, VT.

Currently, in her Therapeutic Practice, Beth uses sound and animal therapy as her two, main modalities. In addition, Beth is proficient in voice, piano, guitar, and clarinet and is completing her second singer/songwriter album and has been nominated as best singer/songwriter in CT (2016).

Beth is an Adjunct Professor at SCSU in the Recreation and Leisure Department and serves on the Board of Directors for Animal Assisted Therapy Services, Inc.

Kim Severance, Recreational Therapist, CTRS


Kim was born and raised in Chester, Connecticut and grew up training horses and competing throughout the state of Connecticut.

Kim holds a Bachelor's Degree in Art History from the University of New Hampshire and a Master’s degree in Recreational Therapy from Southern Connecticut State University. She has been working as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist since 2006.

Kim recently relocated back to Connecticut after working at a dolphin assisted therapy facility, Island Dolphin Care (IDC), in Key Largo, Florida. In addition to working with the diverse clientele at IDC, Kim worked directly with the animal care staff and eight bottlenose dolphins.

In June 2017, Kim adopted her first rescue puppy, Sadie. Both are currently working to become an AaTs Credentialed Therapy Dog Team.

Evelia Rivera, Certified Professional Dog Trainer

Evelia Rivera is also the owner/trainer with PAWsitive Approach, LLC. She worked at the Maritime Aquarium from 2006 to 2016 where she became a marine mammal trainer and worked with sea turtles, seals, meerkats, etc. She graduated from the University of Bridgeport with a bachelors degree. Many of her skills come from the need to learn and the need to benefit so others can equally benefit. She has developed many interpersonal skills with co-workers and shows excellence with animals. Moreover she has experience involving: volunteering at horse of Connecticut, past member of Beardsley Zoo chapter of American Association of zookeepers ( Past co- secretary) Therapy dog training since 2012, Behavior Coordinator at a local shelter  since 2016, a Canine good citizen evaluater since 2015, and a supporting member of IAABC. She has been a conference presenter twice at a International Marine Animal Trainer Association (IMATA) discussing sea turtle training as well as lionfish handling and conditioning. For fun she enjoys clicker training cats!

Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut she knows the Fairfield and New Haven counties very well. She is a diplomat to hard work and her ethics are sound and deliberately strong. She is a creative thinker and a creative writer which adds to her amazing portfolio. In between she's a busy mother-of-two Ariel and Caleb and two fur babies Bruce and Koda.

Janis Copes, Certified Professional Dog Trainer


Janis is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through Animal Behavior College. Her first exposure to obedience training was in 1986 with her Maltese, Tara, and she has continued to train all of her dogs in obedience since then. She currently has two rescue dogs, Sissy (Australian Cattle Dog mix) and Clark (Schnauzer mix).

Janis and Sissy are an AaTs Credentialed Therapy Team and work for AaTs in therapeutic settings with mentally and emotionally disabled children, teenagers and adults. Janis is a former AaTs Board member and Canine Committee Co-Chair. She has partnered with AaTs to board and train Emotional Support Dogs.

Janis is the owner of "Escape The Crate", LLC where she utilizes force free training to teach obedience cues, eliminate behavioral issues, and build trusting bonds between owners and their pets. Janis offers group classes and private in-home sessions.

In addition to her CPDT, Janis is an AKC licensed Canine Good Citizen instructor and evaluator, a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and the Pet Professional Guild.

Michele McLeod, Certified Professional Dog Trainer

Michele is a life-long animal lover. She found her dream home in Newtown, Connecticut in 2004 on a small farm. She moved there with her horses and a sweet Shih Tzu Cindy, but the family expanded rapidly to include a donkey, indoor and outdoor cats, and a remarkable German Shepherd Dog, Sirius (Black).

Sirius inspired her to study canine training extensively, to shadow trainer mentors, and eventually in 2015 to leave the medical profession to become a full time dog trainer.  She graduated with distinction from the Victoria Stilwell Dog Training Academy, is a student of James French based in the UK, whose force-free strategies allow communication, respect and cooperation between and among species. She has completed Jan Fennell’s Amichien Bonding coursework through the graduate level and is currently enrolled in both the Clothier Animal Response Assessment Tool Level 1 and The Trust Technique course created by James French.  

She is certified through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA), is a member of the Pet Professional Guild, the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. In addition to working with private clients, Michele trains rescue dogs who have behavioral problems and volunteers with several rescue organizations.  

Diana Kruzshak, PATH Registered Riding Instructor

Diana was introduced to horses at the ripe old age of 4...and like many young girls, became addicted. She rode anywhere she could and worked very hard at area stables to earn that privilege.

Growing up in the wooded country setting of Weston, it was not unusual for her daily routine to involve all kids of animal care. Along with the family dogs and cats, her home was often a respite for raccoon, opossum, skunk, deer, birds, barnyard animals...and of course, horses!

Diana has been a registered PATH riding instructor since 2012. When not working with therapeutic clients, Diana helps to manage the family's thirty five year old Newtown based horticultural business, enjoys plants and wildlife, and loves to travel. Most trips are typically built around horseback riding amazing way to experience the areacsulture!

Logan Morris, Canine and Equine Staff

Logan graduated from Sacred Heart University with a degree in Psychology. During her college years she actively participated in the university choir and several clubs. She interned with AaTs during her senior year and has continued on with us as a staff member. Logan works with children and adults utilizing her two wonderful AaTs Credentialed Cockapoo pups, Toby and Eddie. Logan has also been instrumental in expanding AaTs therapy animals to include our bunnies, Monday and Tuesday...our three guinea pigs, Brownie, Cookie, and Blondie...and our environmental fish tank. 

Logan is an accomplished equestrian and has been riding English style since she was six years old. She has competed in many schooling and rated shows. While in high school, she competed in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) and at Sacred Heart was a member of the University Equestrian Team. She has experience in both hunt seat and western style. The University team is a NCAA Division 1 Team and she competed individually at the Western semi-finals during her senior year and placed 4th thus qualifying for nationals. 

Logan has competed in agility with Toby and is currently helping "For the Love of Therapy Animals" Club build additional agility equipment for use in AaTs sessions. You will also meet Logan teaching some of the Community Dog Training classes!