Meet Our Caring Team in Toronto
Our compassionate team of veterinarians strive to increase or maintain your geriatric or terminally ill pet's quality of life. We want to ensure your pet can be as comfortable and pain-free as possible. We will help you prepare for your pet's eventual passing and offer our support during this difficult time. Take a moment to learn more about us and why we chose to dedicate ourselves to veterinary hospice medicine.
Dr. Faith Banks, DVM, CHPV, CCRT, CPLP
Dr. Faith Banks graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in 1996, and has been practicing veterinary medicine in Toronto, Ontario ever since. While working in a busy downtown veterinary clinic, she became interested in geriatric medicine and pain management for pets while caring for her own geriatric Bernese Mountain Dog, Smudge. After learning about the developing area in veterinary medicine called animal hospice, Dr. Banks knew she had found her passion.
She has completed numerous courses relating to geriatrics, animal hospice, pain management, canine massage and trigger point therapy. She has completed a Pet Loss and Grief Companioning Certification course through Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, in addition to certification as a Pet Loss Counsellor through the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.
She is amongst the first group of veterinarians to be named as a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian (CHPV) through the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC). Dr. Banks joined the IAAHPC and attends its conference annually to expand her knowledge of hospice care and continue providing exceptional care and service to her patients. She has written two chapters in a textbook called "Treatment and Care of the Geriatric Veterinary Patient." She is a guest lecturer at the Ontario Veterinary College for the Art of Veterinary Medicine course on animal euthanasia. She completed her certification as a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. Her goal in providing compassionate in-home palliative, hospice, and end-of-life care is to allow people to strengthen and lengthen the bond they share with their much loved pet.
When not working, Dr. Banks enjoys photography, travelling, reading, cottaging, collecting vintage flea powder tins and spending time with her friends and family. She shares her home with her husband and 3 children, a lovable senior Bernese Mountain Dog named Maple and her new puppy Bernese Mountain Dog, Elsie.
Learn more about Dr. Banks' mission:
Dr. Karen Stekel, DVM, CHPV
Dr. Karen Stekel graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in 1997, and has been practicing companion animal medicine ever since. After well over a decade working in busy Toronto animal hospitals, she joined Dr. Banks at MMVHS in 2013 and has found her passion working with families to provide compassionate hospice and palliative care. She feels extremely honoured to have the opportunity to do such important work, supporting pets and pet caregivers through the challenging geriatric and end-of-life periods.
Dr. Stekel is proud to have become a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian (CHPV) through the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, and is thrilled to be among the first cohort of veterinarians to earn this distinction. She also has certification as a Pet Bereavement Counsellor through the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.
When not working, Dr. Stekel enjoys volunteering at her children’s school, reading, traveling, spending time with family and friends and making visits to a local geriatric care facility with her St. John Ambulance certified Therapy Dog, Lennie Briscoe. She shares her home with her husband, 2 daughters and their 3 cockapoos, Lennie Briscoe, Rafael Barba (Raffi) and new pup Matilda (Tilly).
Dr. Rachel Ellis, DVM
Dr. Rachel Ellis is a 2008 graduate of North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to veterinary school, Dr. Ellis earned her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Vermont with a major in Animal Science. Dr. Ellis joined the team at MMVHS in 2015 and is honoured to be a part of such a unique and accomplished practice. Preserving the relationship between pets and their parents is very important to Dr. Ellis, as she supports pet parents through the difficult decisions that need to be made at the end of a pet's life.
Prior to beginning her formal education, Dr. Ellis worked in theatre for several years which took her from her hometown of Toronto to the United States, where she lived for 16 years. Dr. Ellis is delighted to be back in Toronto where she lives with her two cats, Flip-Flop and Eunice.
In her spare time Dr. Ellis enjoys playing tennis and baseball, horseback riding, attending all kinds of live music venues and sporting events, and exploring the city’s many unique neighbourhoods by bicycle. She also loves traveling and getting lost with her husband Luca Gismondi in new places throughout the world.
Dr. Sarah Pechmann, DVM, CHPV
Dr. Sarah Pechmann grew up in the Greater Toronto Area and discovered a great love for animals at a young age. She has always been fascinated by the unique and fulfilling bond between humans and animals. She has shared her home with all sorts of animal friends over the years, including chickens, rabbits, hamsters, a turtle, and of course dogs and cats.
Dr. Pechmann is a graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph. Prior to joining Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services, she worked full time at a busy local veterinary emergency hospital in the GTA. She joined the MMVHS team in 2017 and found her true passion in animal hospice and palliative care. She is delighted to be a part of such a dedicated team. Dr. Pechmann greatly values being able to support pets and their families through the changes that come with aging, long-term illness and end-of-life care. She is deeply committed to providing guidance and compassion during these emotionally challenging times.
Dr. Pechmann is a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian (CHPV) through the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care. She is also certified as a Pet Loss Bereavement Counsellor through the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.
In her free time, Dr. Pechmann enjoys gardening, reading, testing out new recipes and exploring the community with family and friends. She shares her home with 2 mischievous cats; Tumbleweed and Max, and a Mioritic Shepherd named Fred.
Dr. Lizete Valdmanis, DVM, CHPV
Dr. Lizete Valdmanis graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in 2008, and completed a veterinary internship at the Mississauga-Oakville Veterinary Emergency Hospital in 2015. Over the past few years, Dr. Valdmanis has developed a further interest in working with senior pets and hospice care patients. Hospice care is a developing area of veterinary medicine, and given the many advancements in small animal medicine, helping to ensure our pets experience a good quality of life, through to the final stages of their life, is an important part of their care.
Dr. Valdmanis is happy to have joined the team at Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services in 2019. In 2021, Dr. Valdmanis became a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian (CHPV) through the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. This certification provides specialized education for veterinarians so they can further help support pets and their caregivers on their end-of-life journey.
Outside of work, Dr. Valdmanis is involved with volunteering with numerous animal shelters and rescue groups. She enjoys the outdoors through hiking, skiing, and canoeing. When in the city, Dr. Valdmanis enjoys practicing yoga and playing guitar. She currently shares her home with her two fabulous feline friends, Arnold and Junior.
Dr. Amrita Banerjee, DVM
Dr. Amrita Banerjee graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 2012. Her main areas of interest include preventive care, pain management, geriatrics, and the unique needs of avian and exotic patients. Over the last eight years, more than half of her patients have been avian and exotic species and she is excited to use her experience to fulfill a longtime goal of providing these companions the dignity of end-of-life care in their homes, alongside her feline and canine patients.
Dr. Banerjee’s interest in geriatric care began following a conference in 2010 where the speaker, a certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner, opened her eyes to the world of not just treating pain, but preventing it in the first place. She strives to give patients of all species as comfortable a life as possible and enjoys speaking to her clients about how making small changes can often make big impacts in their pets' comfort level.
Dr. Banerjee is thrilled to join MMVHS as their sixth veterinarian.
Outside of work, Dr. Banerjee enjoys spending time outdoors in all seasons: backcountry camping, canoeing, snowshoeing and hiking. She shares her home with her husband, her lovely cat, Mango, and her adventurous dog, Badger.
Dr. Alana Watt, DVM
Dr. Alana graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) at the University of Guelph in 2018. Since then, she has spent several years in emergency and general practice. Ever since attending a lecture by Dr. Banks at OVC, Dr. Alana has been taken by the compassionate field of veterinary hospice. She is very excited to be joining the team here at Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services, in pursuit of her passion to support and care for humans and pets alike.
Dr. Alana believes in making our elderly pets as comfortable as possible in their later days. She believes strongly in the human animal bond, and has a heart to see that bond thrive. Dr. Alana is honoured to walk alongside her clients during times of stress and difficult decision making.
In her spare time, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, friends and family. She also enjoys time outdoors hiking, camping, horseback riding and sailing. She is the proud owner of a rescue cat named Beep Beep and a mutt named Walter.
Dr. Suzanne Gallant, DVM
Dr. Suzanne Gallant graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in 2015, and has been practicing companion animal medicine in the Halton region ever since.
During her years in practice, Dr. Gallant developed an interest in preventative care, pain management and geriatric medicine. However, her interest in geriatric medicine first began as a student while helping to care for her family dog, a special Shetland Sheep Dog named Murray. Murray helped her understand the challenge of managing multiple chronic illnesses and the discomfort and pain associated with these illnesses, while also closely monitoring quality of life. Most of all, he taught her the incredible bond that can be shared between animals and humans.
Dr. Gallant joined MMVHS in September 2021 and is honoured to help support families within her community as they navigate the complex and often challenging aspects of geriatric, palliative and end-of-life care.
When not working, Dr. Gallant enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, practicing yoga, hiking, and spending time at the family cottage. She shares her home with her husband and 2 very busy, young sons.
Dr. Nicole Pitulia, BVM&S
Dr. Nicole graduated from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 2018. Prior to completing her veterinary degree, she completed a BSc in Human Nutrition in Sweden, and an MSc in Preventive Cardiology in London, UK. Since becoming a veterinarian, she has spent several years working in small animal general practice and in the nutrition industry, both in the UK and in Canada.
Her time in veterinary practice opened her eyes to the importance of the human animal bond, and she strongly believes that our pets deserve to feel comfortable, safe and loved at all times, especially during their final moments. When she discovered Dr. Banks and the team at Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services, she knew right away that she wanted to be a part of it.
Dr. Nicole met her current partner at veterinary school in Scotland, and he is the reason she has left Europe for Canada. Together they spend most of their free time exploring Ontario with their whippet Penny. Dr. Nicole also enjoys baking Scandinavian treats (her speciality is cinnamon rolls), exploring the Toronto culinary scene, reading Swedish books and doing hot yoga.
Barb Cook, Hospice Team Manager
Barb Cook joined Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services in 2017 and is our Hospice Team Manager. She brings lots of experience from her previous career in the healthcare sector and really enjoys the many roles she has at MMVHS. Barb found us like many of you do. She and her husband have raised two children and three handsome German shepherd dogs; Bear, Murray and Gordon. When Gordon was diagnosed with a terminal illness at the age of 7, they searched for a vet who would euthanize him in their home. She found Dr. Banks and discovered in-home palliative care. Dr. Banks helped them care for Gordon at home until his last day.
Like the rest of the team at MMVHS, she considers it an honour to help pet owners at this very difficult time. While currently not a pet parent, helping others navigate end of life care allows her to be involved in the lives of pets, just in a different way.
Barb grew up in a large family with a cat, dogs, rabbits and even a few ducks. She loves to golf, travel and cook.
Jane Welowszky, Hospice Care Coordinator
Jane Welowszky joined MMVHS in 2018 and, along with our other wonderful Hospice Care Coordinators, acts as one of our first points of contacts. Having recently said goodbye to two of her beloved felines – Charlie and Minky Moo – Jane feels privileged and honoured to provide support to clients navigating care options and end of life decisions for their cherished companions.
Jane has a wealth of experience in animal welfare and advocacy and her kindness and compassion extends to everyone who knows and meets her. As a Humane Educator and freelance writer, Jane’s desire to deepen the understanding of the special bond between animals and humans is reflected in her editorial contributions in various publications.
Jane is excited to be returning to yoga after a brief hiatus, and enjoys powerwalking, discovering new plant-based recipes, and further developing her photography skills. She currently shares her home with two feisty felines – Bertie and Henny.
Jill Bergman, Hospice Care Coordinator
Jill Bergman is one of our Hospice Care Coordinators. She has many years of experience, living and working with animals, dating back as far as her childhood.
Jill graduated with a Bachelor of Education and taught elementary school for six years. Her love of animals led her to open a dog walking business which she operated for many years. At the present time, Jill enjoys the time she spends with her husband and family and their beloved dog Mr. She and Mr are currently in training so that he may become a certified therapy dog. Once he graduates, he and Jill will volunteer their time in the community, providing support to those in need.
Having lost two of her much loved Newfoundland dogs, Jill is very much aware of the emotions involved with pet loss. She considers it a profound privilege to be able to provide assistance to other families, grappling with the challenges associated with the end-of-life care of a family pet.
Joanne Sweers, Hospice Care Coordinator
Joanne Sweers has shared her household with cats and dogs for over 30 years. She presently has two senior dogs, Abby and Brandy, and knows how difficult it can be when beloved family members need extra help and support. She is honoured to be part of such a kind and compassionate group of professionals working to assist other pet parents during this stage of their lives.
During her career as a stay at home mom, Joanne has been active in the community helping raise funds for many different hospitals and charitable organizations within the GTA. She is passionate about animal rights and welfare. Recently Joanne joined Critter Cabs Animal Rescue, a volunteer organization that coordinates the transportation of animals in need across the province.
Joanne loves spending time with her family and friends and enjoys cooking, going to the gym and playing the piano.
Shawna Lennon, Hospice Care Coordinator
Shawna Lennon joined MMVHS in August of 2021. She worked at an animal hospital for nearly 20 years and has had various roles, both administrative and hands-on. Shawna has lived with her own menagerie over the years which included dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, fish and one lovely bearded dragon, but now has one amazingly hairless dog, Pablo, and one giant Abyssinian cross feline, Dougal.
Shawna worked with Dr. Banks many years ago in the clinic setting and has since admired her and her colleagues for the compassionate work they do. She shares our passion for geriatric and ailing pets and is devoted to helping them feel peace and dignity as they journey through their lives. Having experienced significant loss herself, Shawna shares an immense empathy with pet parents and hopes she is able to lend some comfort to them as they move through this delicate time in their pet’s life.
In her down time, she enjoys anything to do with food; roasting, bbq-ing, baking, pet food / treats, looking up various restaurant menus worldwide, shopping for kitchen accessories, watching cooking shows and collecting hot sauces.
Important words that she lives by: "don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Dr. Seuss
Kirsten Grieve, Hospice Care Coordinator
Kirsten Grieve is one of our Hospice Care Coordinators and she discovered us when her own beloved cat, Ferdinand, began to decline after his cancer diagnosis. She wanted to provide in-home euthanasia for him to ensure the end of his life was as peaceful and dignified as possible. The care and compassion shown by the staff and veterinarians at MMVHS so impressed her that she was eager to join our team and return that kindness to other families.
Kirsten is a registered veterinary technician and has worked in a variety of research, veterinary medicine and animal care settings. She has volunteered with multiple cat and dog rescue groups and spay/neuter organizations, she has delivered presentations at numerous Human-Animal Studies conferences, and has co-authored publications on animal welfare.
Although she grew up with several dogs, Kirsten and her family now share their home with 5 former feral cats. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, watching Scottish football (soccer) and tending her vegetable garden.
Laura Czerwinski, Hospice Care Coordinator
Laura Czerwinski is one of our Hospice Care Coordinators. Her love for animals started at a very young age. She grew up with hamsters, rabbits, cats, dogs and horses. Over the years, Laura volunteered at a local vet clinic, worked at a dog grooming/boarding facility, participated in canine agility classes, fostered kittens for the SPCA and worked with a local rescue in their feline spay/neuter and release program. Laura’s employment has always seen her in a caregiving role, from starting out as a Veterinary Technician in 2010 to her current position as a Registered Massage Therapist.
Laura currently shares her home with 5 rescue cats and her 15-year-old Lab mix, Nika. Laura understands, cherishes and respects the depths of the human-animal bond and knows first hand the challenges of caring for a senior animal, as well as the loss of a beloved pet. She is honoured to be able to provide caring and empathetic support for others who are navigating this difficult time.
In her free time, Laura enjoys the outdoors, gardening, painting and decorating, wine tasting, and travelling.
Crystal Rivers, Hospice Care Coordinator
Crystal’s family has given her the nickname of Snow White when it comes to her relationship with animals. She grew up on a small hobby farm and has been surrounded by pets of all sizes and ages her whole life. Today, she has a busy household with 2 teenage cats and a young Siberian Husky who definitely lives up to the breed’s reputation.
Crystal has always had a passion to support families and individuals, and her education has been geared towards doing so through bereavement and grief. She completed her Social Service Worker diploma and a Thanatology certificate program, receiving high honours in both. She has work experience supporting families whose loved ones are critical care patients and individuals receiving treatments in her local city’s hospitals. She also volunteers on the Palliative Care unit of a hospital, supporting both individuals and families who are at the end-of-life stage.
In 2019, her furry best-friend Cash was diagnosed with bone cancer. After only a month, she had to make the hardest phone call to date. The amount of compassion shown by the stranger who answered the phone, and by the vet who came to her home, was exactly what she needed through that devastating time. When she learned about the Hospice Care Coordinator position at MMVHS, she felt it brought all her studies and life experiences together in one supportive role.
Victoria Longo, Hospice Care Coordinator
Victoria Longo has recently joined the MMVHS team. She has had family pets all her life and started her working career at ten years old walking a neighboring Cocker Spaniel. This early experience cemented her desire to work in the animal field. She spent many years working in a busy midtown Toronto veterinary hospital in a variety of roles. The most rewarding aspect of this job for her was witnessing the strong bond between the clients and their pets. This led her to appreciate the importance of the roles both veterinarians and support staff play in ensuring that their patients receive excellent, compassionate care from their first visit to their last.
On a personal level Victoria has had her own experience caring for geriatric pets, including their palliative care and ultimate loss. Victoria is often asked why she would want to take on the role of Hospice Care Coordinator when it focuses on the saddest part of pet ownership. While this is true, she sees it as an opportunity to help people navigate through this very difficult time.
When not working, Victoria shares her busy home with her husband and two children, Michael and Isabella, and their wonderful orange cat named Leonard. After the loss of one of her pugs, Victoria became involved with Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides as a foster parent in their puppy program and is currently fostering a lovely Lab named Wave. Nia, one of Victoria’s fosters, left the program due to health issues and joined the Longo family permanently. She and Victoria now participate as a therapy dog team in the literacy program with One Health Partners.
Franny Fraumeni, Hospice Care Team Support
After a long career in retail advertising and marketing, Franny Fraumeni joined MMVHS in 2021. She also works at a funeral home as a hostess and a Service Experience Rep at a large retailer. She has been an animal lover since childhood, when she had her own pet rabbit, Pippi. They were so close and he was such a part of Franny’s large family, that Pippi was allowed to hop around in her bed secretly early in the morning.
Franny and her husband and children had a beloved Golden Retriever, Andie Girl, who died at age 11 in 2010. Today, as the grandmom of her daughter’s Parti Poodle, Poppins, and her son and his partner’s Bernedoodle, Forrest, Franny’s love for animals and the joy they bring to us is as strong as ever.
When out walking, if Franny sees a worm struggling on the sidewalk she finds a stick, picks it up and gently lays it back in the grass.
Franny’s personal life motto is “Enjoy the simple things in life.” With that in mind, she enjoys gardening, walking, home improvements, helping others and being with her family. And given her experiences with the death of Andie Girl and her dear son Nicholas, Franny is sensitive and compassionate to the needs of the animals and families.
Nicole Petrie, Head of Business Development & Growth
Nicole Petrie joined the Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services team in 2021 as the Head of Business Development & Growth. She obtained her BBA from the Schulich School of Business and her MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and brings over 10 years of diverse marketing and business development experience to her role here at MMVHS. Nicole is very excited to combine her lifelong love of animals with her business expertise, and truly feels that she has found her dream job.
As the proud dog mom to a 16 year old Havanese named Pacey, and having experienced the heartbreak of pet loss in the past, Nicole can relate to what MMVHS clients are going through and is passionate about raising awareness for this incredible service. She is honoured to work alongside such a dedicated and compassionate team of fellow animal lovers.
In her free time, Nicole enjoys travelling with her husband, practicing her Spanish skills, doing puzzles and escape rooms, staying active through online barre and pilates classes and spending time with family and friends.
Lauren Palmer, Aftercare Manager
Lauren Palmer joined the MMVHS team in August of 2021. After a lifelong obsession with animals of all shapes and sizes, she graduated from Sheridan College in 2008 with a degree in Animal Care, and has since worked in veterinary clinics, pet boarding facilities, and in animal aftercare, making pet funeral arrangements. In 2015, she graduated from Seneca College with high honors in Social Service Work and completed over 800 hours in volunteer work on a local suicide helpline, which allowed her to expand her career and led to her interest in pet loss and grief support.
She lost her first puppy, Dallas, suddenly to epilepsy on Christmas day of 2010, and holds a strong understanding of the void that is caused when someone loses a beloved pet, regardless of their age. Her overall goal is to help ease the minds and hearts of as many families as possible during the worst possible time, using a compassionate, empathetic and relatable approach.
In her spare time, you certainly will NOT find Lauren cooking in the kitchen (on purpose anyways), but you will find her lifting heavy weights in the gym, buying more house plants to add to her collection, laughing with her family, refinishing thrifted furniture, or hiking somewhere with her two beautiful and handsome cattle dog-rescues, Howie and Ozzy, who always keep her busy and on her toes!
Brittany McKendry, Aftercare Technician
Brittany McKendry has had a love of animals from a young age, and has surrounded herself with animals (especially horses) at every opportunity throughout her life. While her curiosity and unending desire to help others initially led her in a different direction, she has found her passion and a truly rewarding career at Faithful Pet Memorial in a role that combines her love of animals and compassion for people.
Brittany started on her journey in the death care industry in 2016 and, by 2017, she had completed a 6 month internship at Roadhouse & Rose Funeral Home and received her Funeral Pre-Planners license. After graduating from that program, Brittany realized that she wanted to continue her education in funeral services and enrolled in Humber College.
After almost 6 years in funeral services, Brittany decided to transfer her skills from the human world into the pet aftercare industry by joining Faithful Pet Memorial. After losing her beloved Dachshund, Tucker, suddenly, Brittany can deeply relate to pet parents during their time of need.
When she is not busy at work, Brittany enjoys spending time with her family, friends, partner Alex and their rescue dog Sparks. She enjoys hiking with Sparks and horseback riding whenever she is up north in her home town of Owen Sound.