About Us

Meet the Owner

Kathy Benner, dog trainer

Kathy Benner, is the owner and founder of The Animals' House. She has a formal education in animal behavior, and 18 years of hands-on experience working in the industry. She has a BS in Biology from California Polytechnic State University and a Certificate in Exotic Animal Training and Management from Moorpark College. 


Kathy spent five years training marine mammals at Sea Life Park in Hawaii, and started her first dog obedience company, Clever Canines, in 1996. She moved to Virginia in 2000, worked as a technician at a busy animal hospital, and then opened the Animals' House in 2001.


Kathy has designed and implemented behavior modification and training programs for dolphins, sea lions, seals, penguins, primates, hyenas, mountain lions, Bengal tigers, parrots, llamas, horses and dogs. She has also worked with clients with various disabilities and has trained therapy dogs. She is a part of four Pet Partners certified therapy animal teams, and a registered AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator. Kathy currently owns a Dogue de Bordeaux, a yellow Labrador retriever, a mixed breed resuce dog, a blue front amazon parrot, and three horses. 

Meet the Staff

Yvette Lanzilotta-Office Manager

Yvette has been working at The Animals’ House since 2010. Prior to joining our team, she owned and ran one of Loudoun’s oldest and most respected pet sitting agencies, Best Kept Pets, from 1995-2010. Best Kept Pets was mentioned twice in “The Washingtonian” as one of DC’s best. Yvette also helps coordinate and facilitate the training and placement of rescue and foster dogs for ACDRA (Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association) through The Animals’ House.

Yvette is owned by two beautiful Australian Cattle Dogs herself, Mojo and Smokey. She has a 65 gallon salt water aquarium and a small bio fresh water aquarium as well.

Kathy Benner, dog trainer

Nicole McManamon-Trainer/Supervisor

Nicole has been working at The Animals’ House since 2009, after attending the University of Mary Washington, where she studied psychology. She began training in 2011 and never looked back! Nicole has helped rescue over 300 dogs from shelters up and down the east coast. She currently owns two of her own rescue dogs, plus the occasional foster.

Aside from training and rescuing, Nicole spends her free time hiking and being a mommy to her two-legged son.

Matt Jessie-Trainer/Supervisor

Matt joined The Animals’ House team in 2010 as a Certified Dog Trainer through Animal Behavior College. He is an avid dog lover who has a specialty in working with reactive dogs. Matt dedicates his life and training to dogs with behavioral issues. His goal: to make sure every dog gets a chance at the life they deserve. Matt has worked with rescue dogs from ACDRA (Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association), and other rescue organizations, helping to rehabilitate and place them in their forever home. Matt has been a volunteer with Lynchburg Humane Society and FOHA (Friends Of Homeless Animals).

Matt is a devoted Brazilian Jiu Jitsu/MMA competitor and shares his home with his wonderful rescue dog, Dani. 

Kathy Benner, dog trainer
Kathy Benner, dog trainer

Amy O’Connor—Trainer

Amy O’Connor, began her experience with The Animals’ House in 2006 while working toward Advanced Agility skills with her American Field Lab, Jack.

Amy is a native of Michigan and holds advanced degrees in (human) Behavioral Psychology and Social Work, and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. In 2013, Amy earned her Certification as a Professional Dog Trainer through Animal Behavior College.  

Amy has a true passion for providing our clients with an unmatched level of excellence in behavior modification, as well as following her passion to increase the canine/human bond by teaching agility classes. It is because of this passion that Amy is currently working towards a specialized Behavior Consultant Certification, which will further refine her abilities and allow her to work closely with each client to develop an effective training plan that is custom created for each unique client-dog situation.

Amy is the Director of Training for the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Facility Dog Program, which is a very influential program at the hospital because of its ability to improve patient experiences through therapy dog interactions and Animal Assisted Therapy. Amy has since established a curriculum within the program that trains Active Duty Military Facility Dog Handlers to improve patient outcomes, including patient safety, as well as to build the handler’s skill set to influence positive experiences for hospital staff and patients alike.

Kathy Benner, dog trainer