Board Members

Joe Caruso - Chair
Joe Caruso is an acknowledged expert in the field of corporate governance with more than 12 years experience as a member/chair of numerous corporate and non-profit boards. He is currently a Senior Fellow for The Governance Center at The Conference Board and previously served as Executive Vice President and Corporate Secretary of the Guardian Life Insurance Co. Joe was a founding member of CCPT and has provided therapy for more than ten years.

Erick Spronck - Treasurer
Erick is a Licensed Certified Public Accountant in NJ and PA.  He is the owner and manager of ESCA Tax Services providing income tax preparation to the general public and a sister company, Spring Woods Accounting Services, which provides accounting services to small businesses.  Erick has three certified therapy dogs through CCPT and has raised puppies for Canine Companions for Independence.

Kathleen ODonnell - Secretary
Kathleen is currently the Rehabilitation Administrator at the Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute at Morristown Medical Center and has been a pet therapy provider with a number of dogs since 2001.

Joan Baer
Joan Baer is one of the co-founders of Creature Comfort Pet Therapy. She began her business career in IT, working for IBM and Silverline Building Products Corp, but later turned to raising her family and volunteering in many areas, including 13 years on the Board of Gill St. Bernard's School in Gladstone, NJ.  Along with her husband, Sandy, she raised 10 puppies for Canine Companions for Independence (service dogs for people with disabilities other than sight).  In 2002, Joan began doing pet therapy visits with her Golden Retriever, Cooper. A few years later, she began work running a pet therapy program for another organization. Today Joan is certified for pet therapy with her Golden Retriever, Sweet P.  Joan also loves to hike with her dog.

Peter Brody, DVM
Peter received his degree in Veterinary Medicine from Ohio State in 1978 and began practicing  in New Jersey in 1979. In 1997 he formed Murray Hill Veterinary Associates in New Providence, NJ, with two partners and continues to practice there.  Dr. Brody lives in Gillette with his wife and border terrier and has two grown sons.

Julie Appleton
Julie Appleton is a transactional attorney with more than 20 years experience. She has worked as in-house counsel for international Fortune 500 corporations and law firms, and has additional experience working as a management consultant. She is currently Vice President, Corporate Real Estate Counsel at Realogy Holdings Corporation, headquartered in Madison, New Jersey. She was a board member for Bike/Walk Morristown and continues to volunteer for the organization by leading the weekly open dog walk. She has been a CCPT certified pet therapy team with Henry, her Labrador Retriever, since 2018, and is busy training her new puppy, Gabe, so that he, too, will be a pet therapy dog in the near future.
Kara Mergl
Kara Mergl is a dynamic, entrepreneurial-minded non-profit leader. During her career she has trained individuals worldwide on change management strategies, led efforts to increase cost saving in the public sector while improving client outcomes, and provided consultation to policy-makers and Fortune 500 companies. She is also the owner of Kara Mergl Photography, which she launched in 2020 to pursue her pet photography passion during her free time. She has a Masters of Science in Social Policy and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania

Mary Beth Cooney - Executive Director
Mary Beth is a seasoned administrator with more than 25 years of experience in non-profit management, event planning, volunteer facilitation, and fundraising. She has always been interested in holistic healing and is an active volunteer herself for her local Rotary Club. With her skills and experience, Mary Beth is carrying on the excellent work begun by our co-founders, Annie Murphy and Joan Baer, and furthering the growth of Creature Comfort Pet Therapy.  Mary Beth is certified for pet therapy with Coby, her family Shih Tzu.  Her favorite activities include hiking, biking, gardening and walking Coby and his mom, Maggie.