Advisory Board

Dr. Rachel Peeples, Veterinarian, Savannah, GARachelPeeples

Dr. Rachel Peeples is a veterinarian in south Georgia.  She works with small animals and some exotics just outside of Savannah.  She got her first Akita in 1997 and that started her down this lovely albeit sometimes bumpy journey with this wonderful breed.  Starting in 2000 she worked with area rescues as a foster and then helped form Heart of Dixie Akita Rescue.  Dr. Peeples was front and center helping Akita Rescue of WNY with its largest case taking in 26 Akitas whose owner had been brutally murdered and the Akitas had been left alone for days.  The “Lorber” case as it became known brought Dr. Peeples to New York to assist with spaying, neutering, teeth scaling, and general medical workups on the dogs.  Seen in this picture is Faia who Dr. Peeples actually could not leave behind as she was blind so she even adopted her and gave her many happy years before she passed.

Currently she shares her life with four Akitas — Seiya, Inori, Toki, and Aurora – and 1 Labrador – Seren.  Plus the numerous feral, semi-feral, and house cats that come and go (mostly Siamese mixes — she loves her blue-eyed kitties).  Her Akitas compete in conformation and are training in obedience, rally, agility and soon to be carting.  She also does pet therapy activities as well as dog education in general and breed education in specific.


Dr. W. Jean Dodds, Veterinarian, Vaccine Research Scientist, Director HemoPet, Southern CADrDodds

Dr. Jean Dodds is a pioneering vaccine research scientist and practicing integrative veterinarian who founded the first nonprofit national animal blood bank, Hemopet.  Dr. Dodds holds important patents in veterinary clinical pathology, and directs the Hemopet veterinary diagnostic laboratory. She brought to light a need for vaccination reform in veterinary medicine and helped develop titer testing as a means of reducing unnecessary vaccination.

Dr. Dodds is also a well-known international lecturer. She co-founded the Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust,  and works to improve our ability to apply science to veterinary care.  She is on the AHVMA board of directors and serves as its Grant committee chair. Her book with co-author, Diana Laverdure, The Canine Thyroid Epidemic, was published in April 2011 by Dog Wise.

Dr. Dodds is currently conducting novel research and diagnostics in the field of nutrigenomics, and is discovering interesting and important ways we can improve the feeding and care of our animal friends.


Dr. Rebecca Kestle, Veterinarian, Owner Centre Court Veterinary Clinic, Atlanta, GADrKestle

Dr. Rebecca Kestle is a Georgia native who completed her BS in biology at West Georgia University and then moved on to receive her DVM from The University of Georgia in 1985. During her time in vet school, Dr. Kestle developed an interest in Akitas and began to breed and show them.  Over the years Dr. Kestle has gained a tremendous amount of understanding and knowledge of small animal illness and treatment. Additionally, with her experience in breeding Akitas, she has become an expert in reproductive medicine (for all breeds), whelping, and neonatal puppy care.  Synbiotics has recognized Dr. Kestle as an agent for PennHIP certification and frozen semen maintenance.

Dr. Kestle is a founder of the Dogwood Akita Club of Georgia and helped start the Greater Atlanta Labrador Retriever Club. She is also an active member of the Akita Club of America and The Atlanta Kennel Club. Her success as a breeder and exhibitor of Akitas has resulted in over 50 champions. With this background and understanding of the special needs of maintaining the health and stamina of a show dog, many breeders in the south also use Dr. Kestle as their veterinarian of choice.

After practicing in the Atlanta area for almost 20 years, Dr. Kestle purchased Centre Court Veterinary Clinic in 2002.

  • Caring for dogs, cats and the occasional exotic pet since 1985
  • Nationally recognized for semen freezing, artificial insemination and whelping
  • Sought after for speaking engagements pertaining to Repro-Medicine in Dogs
  • Success in Breeding and Showing the Akita Dog Breed since 1985

A typical client comments: “Her ability to assess an animal and immediately understand what is (or is not) going on with an injury or disease is unsurpassed, and her capabilities as a surgeon are fantastic. She is kind and thoughtful, always giving objective and compassionate advice when treating my dogs.”

An accomplished and recognized AKC judge, Dr. Kestle is also a firm supporter of rescue activities and the necessary care for senior Akitas. Dr. Kestle was honored to join the Akita-S.O.S. advisory board saying, “the mission is long overdue and DEFINITELY needed!”


Dr. Sophia Kaluzniacki, Veterinarian, Green Valley, AZsophianarthur

Active in “dogs” for many years, Sophia’s journey began in German Shepherd Dogs in 1957, participating in breed and obedience competition, with the number seven top ranked obedience trial dog in the nation in 1968.  That same year she graduated from veterinary school and acquired her first Akita.

Since that pivotal year, Sophia’s love for Akitas has propelled Akitas of Tamarlane to produce over 150 champions with very limited breedings. Several of Tamarlane Akitas have earned top winning ranking in the nation. The Tamarlane bloodline races through the hearts of many fine Akitas today. Sophia remains devoted to improving and preserving the American Akita, and while still selecting and showing puppies of her breeding to their Champion title, placement in quality loving homes has always and remains her priority.

In the world of dogs, Sophia is a respected multi breed AKC Judge, and has been an honored judge at multiple Akita Club of America National Specialties.  She has served on the board of local shelters, local all breed clubs, as well as serving her national club, the Akita Club of America, as their AKC Delegate, for a number of years. More recently she has added the fun and feisty Chinese Crested to her many hobbies and loves.

Sophia also greatly loves horses. First falling passionately in love with the Arabian, enchanted by their magnificent beauty, she not only showed them for many years, but captured that beauty in her artistic stained glass which is prominently featured at the entry door of her lovely desert home nestled in Green Valley, AZ.

After forty years of participating in halter and other performance classes with her Arabians, not sophiadrivingbeing one to sit idle, she discovered “combined driving.” A competitive event so challenging, its multi day driving events verged on grueling, which Sophia met with determined enthusiasm, excelling to top wins. She now enjoys working with a young spirited gelding Percheron named Arthur, and we are yet to see where that journey will take her.

In the desert town of Green Valley, AZ, Sophia has her full time veterinary practice which she first opened in 1971. Sophia’s clients are devoted and adore their special vet, with personalized small town attention given to each who entrust their companions to Sophia’s practice for veterinary services, grooming, and/or boarding.

Sophia’s knowledge of the Akita, partnered with her ever growing veterinary expertise, are most valued with her position as an advisor to Akita-S.O.S.


Julius Steiner, Attorney, Philadelphia, PAJuliusSteiner

Julius M. Steiner is a well known Philadelphia labor attorney with a unique blend of over 30 years experience as a practicing attorney and CEO.

Julius provides counsel to clients on the entire spectrum of human resources management, employment and labor relations issues. During his legal career, Julius has represented major companies of all sizes throughout the country in the distribution, transportation, building materials, health care, hospitality, and food processing sectors.

Consistently named as one of Pennsylvania’s “Super Lawyers” as listed in both Philadelphia Magazine and Law & Politics Journal, in its “Pennsylvania Super Lawyers” edition, Julius is a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, and is listed in “Who’s Who in American Law”, “Who’s Who in the East”, and the Legal Elite List by SmartCEO Magazine. He also received the highest professional (AV Preeminent) rating from his peers, as reported by Martindale-Hubbell.

Mr. Steiner currently heads Offit Kurman’s Philadelphia Labor and Employment Law Department.  Prior to Offit Kurman, Jules was Chairman and CEO of Gamesa USA, a leader in wind energy with its U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia.  In addition to his tenure at Gamesa, Steiner was a partner with a large Philadelphia based firm where he chaired its Labor Relations and Employment Law Department.  During law school, Steiner was admitted to the University of Louisville Honor Fraternities of Phi Kappa Phi and Omicron Delta Kappa and served on the Law Review.


Marcia Ritchie, LVT, CPDT, VTS-Behavior, Orchard Park, NYMarciaRichie
The Family Companion

Marcia Rafter Ritchie graduated from SUNY Delhi with an AAS in Veterinary Science in 1977.  She worked in private veterinary practices for 20 years where her passion for animal behavior was cultivated by the veterinarians she worked with.

Marcia has been an obedience and conformation dog show competitor since 1979 and is an occasional breeder of Pembroke Welsh Corgis.  She is a volunteer for Mayflower and North Coast Ohio corgi rescue groups and Distinguished Doberman Rescue.

She has been a professional pet obedience instructor in the Buffalo, New York area since 1984.  Marcia was in the first group of 120 instructors to receive national certification through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), of which she is a charter member.  She is a member of the organizing committee of the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians, which recently was granted specialty status by National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America (NAVTA).

Marcia teaches group classes, private instruction, assists veterinarians with behavior modification and does pet selection counseling.  She is a consultant for the Erie County SPCA, a volunteer 4-H leader in the dog program and has been teaching children dog bite prevention since 1978.  Marcia has been a product specialist for Premier Pet Products since 2004.

In addition to her passion for dogs, Marcia is an avid gardener who custom grows heirloom vegetables, herbs, and edible blossoms for area restaurants.


Peggy Krathaus, Accountant, Buffalo, NYPeggyKrathaus

Peggy Krathaus is an accomplished and respected accountant.  She is Vice President of Finance at a large non-profit organization in Erie County.  In addition, she is a Federal investigator for a not-for-profit group as well as an owner of a successful accounting practice (Precision Business Services) that has several not-for-profit organizations as clients.  Her company is recognized under Certified Management Accountants and Peggy offers: Accounting Services, Forensic Accounting, Intermediate Accounting, Managerial Accounting and Office Accounting.  Peggy has been an expert witness in several court cases — sought out for her tremendous knowledge of accounting principles required for not for profit 501(c)(3) organizations by both the Federal and State governments.  Peggy is proud of going the length to ensure the highest integrity and ethics are always used and adhered to by any of her clients.

Peggy has volunteered her services to ARWNY for years and is excited about the new Akita-S.O.S. program.  Peggy is a cat lover and shares her home with several exotic cats.  Peggy has always loved our Akitas and we know at heart, she is an Akita person as well as an extremely capable financial professional.


Alicia Meyer, Real Estate Broker, Graphic Designer, Hillsboro, ORAliciaMeyer

Alicia was introduced to her first Akita in 1980.  In 1982, her parents introduced her to her very own little girl.  Her name was Echol’s Magic Sun Child “Baku.”  Baku and Alicia showed actively for about 3 years in both the breed classes and Jr. Showmanship.  In that period, the team excelled quickly, moving up to the higher ranks of the Jr’s competition and learning more about the breed ring.  Alicia wrote about this success in an article for the 1984 November/December issue of the Akita World pertaining to Jr. Showmanship.  Baku was her world.  In 1991, Baku passed on due to complications of gastric torsion/bloat — a devastating disease that can affect the digestive track of many large breed dogs and senior Akitas.  Due to the sheer shock of loosing her childhood buddy, it took almost three years to share her home with a new friend.  Although Baku was irreplaceable, Alicia finally came to terms with the need for another Akita!  She knew she was bitten by the Akita Bug.  In 1993, she began her search, and that’s when she acquired Jazmine.

Alicia has been very successful with her Akitas and their Outstanding Pedigrees!  The pedigrees include AKC (AM) and CKC (CAN) Champions (CH), Best in Show (BIS), Best in Specialty Show (BISS), Register of Merit (ROM), Canine Good Citizen (CGC), Award of Merits (AOM) and Therapy Dogs (TDI).  Alicia continues to show and breed the highest quality puppies — all raised in the home with her children! She considers it of the highest priority to produce an Akita with a stable temperament.  Also every Sire and Dam of each and every litter is tested for health issues, such as, OFA (hips), current CERF (eyes), and have a normal Thyroid (Without Medication).

But Alicia also found the value of rescue and has worked hand-in-hand with the Akita Club of America rescue as well as ARWNY for many years — freely giving of her talents in an effort to help those in need — especially the seniors which hold a special spot in her heart!


Heather Hauser Steiner, Business Owner/Marketing, Philadelphia, PAHeatherHauserSteiner

Heather is an accomplished professional in the marketing and advertising fields.  After attending Boston University, she went on to start her own successful business and is the recipient of numerous awards for her work.  Heather is on the board of the Young Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art — a dynamic group of professionals that supports Museum initiatives.  The group provides young people (aged 21 to 45) in the Greater Philadelphia area with a forum to participate in a variety of educational and social activities through special access to the Museum’s collections and a consistent mission to enhance art appreciation.

Heather has worked with ARWNY for over 10 years and stood “in the trenches” when puppy mills were closed — assisting in the clearing of often deplorable conditions.  She has always been willing to volunteer with anything needed to further her passion to help Akitas in need — raising puppies, transports, fundraising, assisting at Fun Matches and picnics — whatever it took, she was willing and extremely able.  Now that her own beloved Tasu is a senior, she felt a passion to continue with her focus on the Akita-S.O.S. mission.


Madelyn Goss, Graphic Designer, Veradale, WAMadelynGoss

Madelyn has been involved with dogs and had a love of animals since she can remember taking her first steps as a child.  Maddy and her sister would often bring home strays pleading “Mom–can we keep him?”  Maddy treasures the memories of loyalty, companionship, and love she received from the dogs in her life.  One day, near her home, she witnessed a person drop a black trash bag off an overpass.  Looking closer at the sack, Maddy found an injured puppy which was the start of her rescue career.  From a sack to an icon of rescue, “Brownie” impacted Maddy’s life launching a long and storied career in the rescue of animals.

One of her rescues was a black lab from a dumpster — the poor animal unfortunately died in her arms on the way home.  This turned out to be another life changing event that pointed Maddy in the direction of educating people on responsible ownership.  One of her favorite memories was of “Rocky,” a puppy from an abandoned mother with her puppies, all barely subsisting in a ground den, alone and cold.  Maddy kept Rocky and found proper homes for all the remaining pups.

Maddy’s high school companion was a Pit Bull/Akita mix, a beach buddy who hung out at the beach along with Maddy and her friends.  Research led Maddy into purebred dogs with AKC Akitas.  Her 17 year career as a breeder has focused on her life-long passion to improve the wellness, care, and support of animals worldwide.  Currently, Maddy is involved with graphic design and marketing but according to her, “animal care, treatment, rescue, and wellness will always be my first love.”

Maddy has always helped ARWNY whenever asked and is excited to help with the newest program to assist senior Akitas remain in their loving homes.


Valerie Potratz, CPDT-KA, Dog Trainer/Assistant Kennel Manager, Springville, NYValeriePotratz
The Family Companion

Valerie has been a member of The Family Companion‘s training team since 1998.  Her formal educational background is from Canisius College, where she earned a bachelors degree in psychology with a minor in animal behavior.  A dedication to continuing education in the field of dog training led her in 2007 to undergo the testing to become a certified pet dog trainer.  For more than ten years she has been a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and The American Bullmastiff Association.

Valerie’s personal passion with dogs has focused on traveling across the country competing in obedience and conformation shows as a breeder, owner and handler of her champion Bullmastiffs.  During this time she has earned multiple obedience and conformation titles and even an award at the Westminster dog show, however she is most proud of the work she has done fostering and re-homing Bullmastiffs as a part of the national club’s rescue program.  She has also been instrumental in assisting the ARWNY Akitas kenneled at Eagle Ridge Kennels where she is assistant kennel manager.

Currently, Valerie shares her home with four Bullmastiffs (Dharma, Dory, Pink, and Hippo), one mixed breed named Duncan, and the real leaders, the three cats Shannon, Chelsea, and Whiskey!