Our exotic companion animal veterinary team is driven by our core values. We hope that all of our clients are able to recognize us in these values and the promises we make to you:
- We provide whole community care by providing resources and services for animals most vets will not, or cannot care for
- We excel because of the passion we feel for these unique animals
- Our compassion is expressed in all that we do
- We promise to never stop learning
- We serve the community, our clients, and each other with respect, professionalism, and gratitude
Alexandra WilsonDVMMedical Director
Alexandra Wilson, DVM, has been working at the Center for 14 years caring for the medical and surgical needs of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and small mammals. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Oberlin College in 1998 and her veterinary degree from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2005. She was named Medical Director here at the Center in 2020.
Dr. Wilson has many interests and projects that she is passionate about. She is a consulting veterinarian for the Wild Bird Fund, NYC’s premiere wildlife rehabilitation and education center, and the Animal Care Centers of NYC. She has worked closely with the ASPCA and local law enforcement on cases involving exotic animal welfare, including testifying in court as an expert witness. Dr. Wilson lectures locally and internationally with World Animal Protection and participates in the training of veterinarians, veterinary students, and veterinary nurses on the care and welfare of exotic pets and wildlife. She is also an adjunct professor of Veterinary Technology at LaGuardia Community College. The NYC environment has also allowed Dr. Wilson to participate in the care of special exotic animals housed both permanently and temporarily at the American Museum of Natural History, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Guggenheim, Brooklyn, and Whitney Art Museums, and Creative Time’s “Fly By Night” in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Dr. Wilson shares her home with two rabbits named Captain Larry and Willow, a tarantula named Amblik, and a hognose snake named Madu.
Jessica GrodioDVM, PhD, DABVP (Avian Practice)Board Certified Avian Veterinarian
Jessica Grodio, DVM, PhD, DABVP (Avian Practice) began work with us in early 2016. She attended prestigious Cornell University where she obtained a BS in Biological Sciences as well as her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Loving research, academia, and avian medicine, Dr. Grodio also earned a PhD from Cornell in Comparative Biomedical Sciences, for which she studied Mycoplasma gallisepticum, a bacterial species that causes disease in finches and has greatly impacted wild bird populations across the country.
After receiving her DVM degree, Dr. Grodio worked with avian and exotic animal patients at Cornell’s exotic pet service. She then decided to pursue ABVP board certification in avian medicine and was accepted to a rigorous two-year residency in avian/exotic medicine and surgery at South Wilton Veterinary Group in Wilton, CT. While studying for her board exams, she worked in the avian and exotic pet service at The Animal Medical Center in NYC and finally found her home with us! Dr. Grodio is not only a board certified avian vet, she is also Fear Free Certified in Avian Practice.
In addition to her experience with exotic pet species, Dr. Grodio volunteered her time helping sick and injured wildlife for eight years at Cornell’s Wildlife Health Center. She has also worked with a variety of zoos and nature centers in the Northeast. Here she is with her beloved cockatiel, Pumpkin!
Board certification is given to veterinarians who have completed additional training in one of the following categories: Avian practice, Exotic Companion Mammal Practice, Reptile and Amphibian practice. They have also fulfilled the stringent requirements mandated by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). The ABVP is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association to provide board certifications in ten species categories.For more information visit: ABVP Specialty.
Dr.Lyle ClearyDVMAssociate Veterinarian
We first met Dr. Lyle Cleary in 2009 when he was an undergraduate student/herptile enthusiast, looking to get experience with our exotic pet specialists. His enthusiasm and drive to learn everything he could about these animals kept him coming back every holiday break and summer vacation, first as a volunteer, and then an employee.
During his veterinary studies at Tufts University, he continued working with us during his breaks from vet school, and as an extern through the University. While at Tufts he worked at the Wildlife hospital there and interned with their prestigious Zoo/Exotics department several days a week. From 2014-2016 Dr. Cleary worked at the Tufts University Wildlife Hospital assuming care of the 4th year student cases. He also spent several months working at the Australian Reptile Park in Somersby Australia, as well as the Madras Crocodile Bank Center for Herpetology in Namil Nadu, India. Upon graduation, he received the Senior Zoological and Companion Exotics Award.
After graduating, Dr. Cleary embarked on a challenging one-year rotating internship at Brooklyn’s Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group. There he quickly became the go-to exotics vet for emergency cases and he was able to hone his clinical and surgical skills. Finally, after almost 10 years of study, research, practice, and advanced training, we are able to welcome Dr. Cleary to the Center as our newest associate! He shares his home with a pair of Argentine Tegus, a Black-Throated Monitor, several Newts, and a one-eyed boxer.
Dr.Caitlin RennaDVMAssociate Veterinarian
Like most of our best team members, Dr. Caitlin Renna has had a passion for animals as long as she can remember. She started volunteering with wildlife at age 11 and continued to work at various animal facilities in her home town on Long Island as a veterinary assistant and a wildlife technician until she ultimately decided on a veterinary career. She graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2014, spending her clinical year at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Some of the highlights that shaped Dr. Renna’s interest in exotics were through externships she participated in such as working on big game species with South Africa World Vets and rotating through the exotics department at the Humane Society in New York City. Soon after graduation, she began working in small animal medicine. But, while dogs and cats are wonderful, it wasn’t long until Dr. Renna realized her true passion was for exotic animal medicine and she determined to devote her professional career to non-traditional companion animals. This drive led her to complete a competitive year-long internship at Long Island Bird and Exotics Veterinary Clinic, where she excelled and remained as an associate until joining the team at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine in early 2019. Dr. Renna adds to our team not only in her deep compassion and critical thinking abilities, but also in her talent for competitive ballroom dancing and yoga!
Dr.Alexandra HalaszDVM, MSAssociate Veterinarian
Dr. Halasz, a native Upper West Sider, first became enchanted with exotic pet medicine as a high school volunteer at CAEM. She fell in love with exotics and spent almost every summer and holiday here through high school, college, graduate school, and veterinary school. After earning her bachelor's degree in Music from Smith College, she went to Auburn University to study avian carotenoid coloration, earning a Masters of Science degree in Biology. She then attended Cornell University for her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine, where she was active in both exotic pet medicine and musical organizations. After graduating, she completed an internship in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine, further focusing on the exotics she loves. She spent the next year working as a small animal emergency veterinarian at a specialty hospital in NYC, and has finally made her way back to CAEM as an associate veterinarian.
Dr. Halasz has had several exotic pets over the years, many adopted from this very hospital! She currently shares her home with a rabbit, a canary, a red eared slider, a crested gecko, a Pomeranian, and a radiologist (of the human kind). When she's not spending time with animals, Dr. Halasz enjoys sewing, playing the cello, and telling her coworkers all about the mechanisms of avian coloration.
Dr.Julian Rivera, DVMAssociate Veterinarian
Dr Julian Rivera (he/him) has been interested in exotic animals and wildlife since before he could walk, and his father fondly remembers defending him from flocks of angry swans when he was five years old. While attending veterinary school at Cornell University he cultivated those passions by participating in externships at the Bronx Zoo, Chicago Zoological Society and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas. Additionally, he collaborated on several wildlife health projects both abroad, in Indonesia and Mexico, and locally, in upstate New York. After he graduated, he completed a rotating internship at the ASPCA Animal Hospital on the Upper East Side. While he had fallen in love with New York City, his commitment to exotics was stronger, and he completed a second internship in Avian and Exotic Medicine and Surgery at Blue Pearl in Tampa, Florida. He brought those newly minted skills to several small animal and exotic practices in lower Manhattan. Through the tight-knit network of Avian and Exotic medicine, however, he connected with the Center, and what he hopes will be his forever home.
Dr. Rivera is particularly interested in care of marsupial pocket pets, infectious disease prevention and control, soft tissue surgery, and small mammal dentistry. He is a member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, is Avian Fear Free Certified and remains committed to reducing stress in all of his patients--both at home and at the hospital. Dr. Rivera practices bilingually in English as well as Spanish. He also advocates for diversity in the veterinary profession, and he has served on several panels on the topic. In his free time, he enjoys running, deconstructing his favorite 80s action movies and spending time with his cat, Loch -- although their interest in birds is decidedly different.
Lorelei D'Avolio (Tibbetts), LVT, VTS (Clinical Practice-Exotic Companion Animal), CVPMPractice Administrator
Lorelei has been with the hospital as the practice manager and nursing team member since it opened in 2004. Originally from Boston, she received her BA in journalism from Boston University. Lorelei’s lifelong love of animals, especially birds, eventually pulled her away from writing into the field of veterinary medicine. After graduating from the Veterinary Technology program at Mercy College in 2001, Lorelei has been working exclusively with birds and exotic pets. In addition to being an outstanding nurse with many years experience, Lorelei’s special interest in exotic animals has allowed her to contribute to the field as an educator. She has been an adjunct teacher of avian and exotic medicine at a local veterinary technology program, plus lectured at several national and international veterinary symposiums. She also has authored text book chapters, journal articles, and edited several professional publications. Lorelei was a founding member and is a past president of the Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Clinical Practice (AVTCP). The AVTCP is the ninth officially recognized veterinary technician specialty (VTS) and is modeled after the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). In January, 2018, Lorelei earned the status of Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM) through the VHMA (Veterinary Hospital Managers Association). She shares her home with a Jenday Conure,a Double Yellow Headed Amazon, and a Green Wing Macaw.
For more information about what is a Veterinary Technician Specialist: AVTCP
For more information about what is a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager: CVPM
Kristine Castillo, LVTTreatment Room Supervisor
Kristine earned her BS in veterinary technology from Mercy College in 2011 and joined our team before she even finished school! We first met her when she elected to undergo a rigorous 6 month externship with us in her final year of college. After getting a taste of how amazing exotic pets were, she knew she was hooked! Her heart belongs to all things ferret- but recently, as often happens, she has been bonding with te large psittacines here… we shall see if her family will grow!
Anita Laperuta, LVTVeterinary Technician
Anita found us when she applied here as an intern from Mercy College, looking for a hospital that specialized in exotics. She completed a semester long program here, after which we decided we could not let her go! She finished school, earned her bachelor’s degree as well as her New York State LVT, and has been working here since. Her extended animal family includes a rabbit, 2 rats, a dog, cat, and newest addition of 2 budgies!
Clara Salas, LVTVeterinary Technician
Clara has been an invaluable part of our medical team since mid-2019. After graduating from Mercy College with a degree in veterinary technology, she passed her credentialing exam and started working in emergency medicine. While this was exciting, it did not fulfill her passion for exotic animal medicine. She now gets to work with her favorite animals, including her beloved Coco the Sun Conure, whom she rescued while working here and immortalized in an adorable tattoo!
Daphne Chang, LVTVeterinary Technician
Daphne found us when she was studying for her veterinary technician license at LaGuardia Community College. After a summer-long internship, she didn't want to leave! Her animal family includes 2 cats, 1 California king snake, 1 Trans-Pecos rat snake and 2 Kenyan sand boas.
Julia Jankowski,LVTVeterinary Technician
Julia grew up in Staten Island, where she started her journey with exotic animals by volunteering at the Staten Island Zoo at age 13. This grew into a job, working as in instructor there while developing her other passion: art. Her artistic prowess earned her a BA from NYC’s prestigious School of Visual Arts with a major in illustration. But, throughout college, she couldn’t shake her desire to work with animals. She worked in obedience and rally showing, developed an insatiable love for ferrets, and finally went back to school to earn a second bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Technology from Mercy College. Julia has finally found her home with us, but of course she still creates amazing art (as you can see!!) One fun Julia fact is that she is an expert pumpkin carver! Find her every year working at the Bronx Zoo for their traditional annual carvers!
Summer C.Veterinary Assistant
As we were looking for someone to help keep the animals and hospital clean, we came across a caring, fun, animal loving student named Summer! She comes to the hospital every day after school to make sure the hospital is clean for both the clients and the pets. She also helps the nursing staff make sure all patients are clean, fed properly, and have fresh water. Summer lives with her family, which includes 3 cats and 2 new rabbits she adopted from us. Her goal is to get into college and study drawing!
Makeda W.Veterinary Assistant
Like many veterinary assistants who have worked with us, Makeda is a veterinary technician student at Mercy College. She is in her second year towards becoming an LVT and enjoying the technician program. Her favorite kinds of animals so far are anything “scaly, creepy, or crawly!” and some day, she hopes to travel to Australia for some trekking to see some venomous snakes in the wild. Meanwhile, she is so excited to be learning about birds here with us, as well as all of the other interesting animals she helps care for. While not studying or working, this self-proclaimed 'Anime-Nerd' loves spending time in her garden, cooking, reading, and hanging out with her 2 gramdmothers AND her great-grandma!
Katherine M.Veterinary Assistant
Originally from Kansas, Katherine moved to the east coast 5 years ago to attend the prestigious Mt. Holyoke College in the lovely Berkshires. Her interests have always been in animals, biology, and ecology and at Mt. Holyoke, she earned a BA in biology. She is spending some time here in NYC working with us and trying to forge which direction she wants to go in with her future. With such diverse interests, she is considering graduate studies in behavioral biology, conservation biology, eco-biology, wildlife and zoo medicine, or academia/research. For now, she is happy working with our non-traditional pets as she feels that exotics are far more interesting than dogs and cats.
Tracy R.Client Service Representative Manager
After studying Human Behavior at Long Island University, Tracy decided to follow one of her passions and attend Culinary School. Our “resident chef” says that working at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine allows her the opportunity to combine both of her passions: the culinary arts and love for animals. Whether preparing a gourmet meal for her family and friends or for a catering job, Tracy always shares some of her famous healthy treats with the rest of the staff!
Victoria B.Client Service Representative & Outreach Coordinator
Victoria is a native New Yorker who has always loved animals. Her parents joke that her first word was 'manatee' since she was always staring at the pictures in a national geographic book before she could even read. She has a degree from Hunter College in Physical and Environmental Geography because she asked a wildlife conservation society staff member what the best degree is to work with animals! She has been a dog mom for 14 years and a guinea pig mom for over 6! She is constantly dog and cat sitting in Queens and can never have enough animals in her life. Her fur babies Scamp and Peeve made her fall in love with guinea pigs and she is so excited to be learning every day about other exotic animals while working at CAEM!