Our Team

Dr. Rich Panuska

Owner, Veterinarian

Dr. Panuska grew up in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, where he first began volunteering at the local small-animal clinic. He would remain at that practice for nine years, gaining hands-on experience throughout his high-school years and his undergraduate career at Virginia Tech. Next, Dr. Panuska volunteered with a local emergency clinic and became a Licensed Veterinary Technician, working in both small-animal and emergency clinic settings, before heading to the Caribbean to study animal medicine at Ross University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

   

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Dr. Panuska graduated from veterinary school with his doctoral degree in 2000, then relocated to Ohio for a year to launch his career in a small-animal clinic there. He then moved back home to Virginia, working with a local emergency clinic by night and filling in at several nearby pet clinics during the day. It was during this time that he developed interests in pain management, soft-tissue surgery, and veterinary dentistry in addition to his longtime love of emergency care.

Upon relocating to the Carolinas with his wife, Dr. Panuska served in a relief capacity here at Friendship Animal Hospital from May to December of 2015. He purchased the clinic the following June, and has been tending to the area’s pets and animal owners here ever since.

Outside of the office, Dr. Panuska enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, helping his wife care for their 12 chickens, playing the guitar, and making home-brewed beer. He and his wife share their home with three lovable cats: Ringo, Tucker, and Lucille.

Amber

Assistant, Kennel Assistant

Amber has wanted to work in the healthcare field for as long as she can remember. She’s also had many opportunities throughout life to help animals. For Amber, combining her passion for pet care and her fascination with the world of medicine simply makes sense! She’s proud to serve the area’s pets as a Veterinary Assistant and Kennel Assistant with the Friendship Animal Hospital team.

 

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Originally from Rock Hill, South Carolina, Amber attended York Technical College to earn her Veterinary Assistant’s certification. She graduated with honors in February of 2017, then signed on as a daycare attendant at a pet resort in Charlotte, North Carolina. Amber was thrilled to join the Friendship Animal hospital family in the spring of 2017—her favorite parts of the job are getting to know the clinic’s boarding dogs and interacting with pets and owners alike while assisting in the examination rooms.

Amber’s favorite pastimes outside of work include hiking in the great outdoors and spending quality time with her family. She lives in Clover with her husband, Shane, and their two wonderful children, Payton and Bryson. The family shares their home with a multitude of pets: a Basset Hound/Beagle mix named Bruster; Yoda the Chihuahua/Yorkie mix; a kitten named Mesa who believes that she’s one of the dogs; Chester the ball python; two mice named Lily and Shakes; and a Jack Dempsey fish who goes by Sammy.

Elizabeth

Assistant

Elizabeth came to the practice in November of 2020.  She had previously worked for a dog salon and a doggy daycare and wanted to learn more of the medical side of things so she looked around at a few different hospitals and decided that this one was the best one for her. She grew up in Gastonia NC with her 2 sisters one younger and one older. Her interests include music, drawing, and all things crafty.

   

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She previously worked for a dog salon and a doggy daycare where she adored working with the animals and wanted to know more about the medical side of things with the animals. She had experienced playing with them and grooming them but wanted to do more to help them when they are sick or even when they just need wellness visits done. It has always interested her and just finally decided to make the jump and try it out. In the process, she ended up loving it.

She first started her journey at a doggy daycare which was NoDa bark and board. She then went to Modern Pet Salon and then she found herself at Friendship Animal Hospital. She has always loved working with animals and helping them in any kind of way. What she enjoys most about her job is that it has its challenges and rewards. We learn new things every single day and then learn how to apply it to help the clients we see.

Andrea

Assistant

Andrea grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina with her mom, dad, and three siblings. She recalls receiving her first kitten at the age of 3 and spending time with her Dad caring for several chickens. She regularly rescued strays that she encountered, she always had a special love for animals and knew from a young age that she wanted to work in the veterinary field.

   

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She enjoys her position at Friendship Animal Hospital because every day there is something new to learn, and every patient she works with has a unique personality, it keeps the day interesting! Andrea will be attending school in the fall and hopes to become a veterinary technician. She has two cats, an orange cat who loves water named “Tails” and “Bean”. When she isn’t working she enjoys makeup and is passionate about drawing and entering her work into art shows.

Audrey

Kennel Technician

Audrey grew up in Baltimore, Maryland with her parents, sister, and the constant company of the family pets. She would frequently bring home stray animals she encountered, and her mother was always willing to help return them to full health and find them loving homes. Audrey knew early on that a career spent caring for pets was the perfect path for her!

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Audrey has lived in Charlotte for 27 years. She joined the Friendship Animal Hospital team nearly 15 years ago—she was a client before she was an employee, and volunteered to help in the kennels when the practice moved into its new facility. The rest is history! Audrey has been serving the pets of this area as one of the hospital’s Kennel Technicians ever since.

Away from work, Audrey is an avid traveler and loves to explore the country whenever she gets the chance. She also enjoys bowling several nights a week, working in her yard, and relaxing with her own pets at home. Audrey has two dogs—Lulu, the laid-back elder, and the much more trouble-prone Miss C—as well as a trio of cats named Purrcy, Love Bug, and Toby.

Heather

Receptionist

Heather had a variety of pets while growing up in Charlotte; she cared for everything from dogs and guinea pigs to fish and hermit crabs. She never tired of visiting the zoo and poring over her collection of books about different animal species. Heather always knew that a career spent tending to animals was the perfect fit for her—she decided to dive headfirst into the veterinary world, and hasn’t looked back since!

   

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After her college years, Heather took a position at a local animal hospital to get her foot in the door of the animal-care world. It wasn’t long before she was hooked! Heather helped pets and animal owners at two different pet hospitals for a total of six years, meeting Dr. Panuska at one of them, before joining his team here at Friendship Animal Hospital in September of 2016 as a veterinary receptionist.

Here at the hospital, Heather enjoys building one-on-one relationships with the area’s animal owners, and she never tires of swapping fun pet stories. She’s also fond of placing follow-up calls to check on recovering patients after their time at the clinic is over.

In her spare time, Heather likes kayaking, boating, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and jet-skiing on the lake. She also enjoys hiking, crafting, cheering on her Carolina Panthers, and spending time with her dog. Heather lives in Indian Land, South Carolina with Triton, a comedic Boxer who loves going to local dog parks, visiting the lake, exploring the beach and mountains, and pretending he’s a lapdog even though he weighs more than 60 pounds.

Tracy

Receptionist

Tracy is originally from Syracuse, New York, where pets were a constant in her household growing up. She was especially inspired by her grandfather, who always helped feed wild birds and stray pets. For Tracy, helping to care for pets professionally simply made sense! She’s thrilled to satisfy a lifelong dream of hers by caring for the area’s pet owners and animal companions here at Friendship Animal Hospital.

   

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Tracy has an extensive background in areas such as administrative support, medical record-keeping, customer service, and education—she’s happy to put those skills to good use here at the clinic’s front desk. She joined the hospital family in November of 2018, and loves to meet new pet owners and their adorable companions on a daily basis. Tracy is also fond of the way her job allows her to indulge her interests in science and medicine.

Outside of veterinary care, Tracy is passionate about reading and writing, and has even won awards for her poetry, playwriting, and short stories. She also has a background in theater, and has worked as a professional actress for more than 25 years!

Tracy and her husband have three grown daughters and share their home with two black cats: Gus, whose favorite things are his brush, mashed potatoes, and a variety of catnip mice; and Petunia, a cat of many personalities who likes riding along on her parents’ shoulders while chores are done around the house.