Meet our Staff

We are a full service pet hospital, providing a wide range of medical services including, but not limited to, soft-tissue and oral surgery and preventative dental care. We also offer quality pet boarding. We are located in the heart of Brookhaven (Atlanta). We pride ourselves on the personalized attention that we are able to give to all of our clients. Although the majority of our patients are dogs and cats, we are able to care for small mammals such as ferrets, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs.

Office Hours

Dr. Jay Empel

Dr. Jay Empel grew up in Montgomery, Alabama.  As a child he raised Manchester Terriers and his determination to take care of his puppies inspired him to become a veterinarian.  He obtained his undergraduate degree from The University of Georgia in 1966 and his doctorate degree in veterinary medicine from Auburn University in 1970.  In 1973 he founded Vernon Woods Animal Hospital with Dr. Ray Dunahoo.  Since that time, he has enjoyed watching it grow from a 2 doctor-1 secretary practice to a practice with over 30 people.  He currently serves as medical director of Vernon Woods Animal Hospital, Brookhaven Animal Hospital and North Springs Animal Clinic.  He loves the personal relationships that he has been able to foster with employees, clients and patients.  He has special interests in internal medicine, dermatology, dentistry, general surgery and some orthopedic procedures. 

Dr. Empel has been married to Elise for over 45 years. They have three children (Andrew, Ivy and Ashley)- two of which are also veterinarians.  Andrew joined Vernon Woods as a Veterinarian in June of 2000.  Ivy Empel Frank is a Veterinarian and she lives in Houston, Texas and has been married to Dr. Steven Frank who is a radiation oncologist at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  They have four beautiful girls, Hayley, Maddie, Lyla and Charlee Frank. Ashley Empel graduated nursing school in 2017 and is currently working at Children's Hospital of Atlanta. 

When not working on managing three hospitals, he enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, playing sports, golfing and watching football.

7:30am - 9:00pm
7:30am - 9:00pm
7:30am - 9:00pm
7:30am - 9:00pm
7:30am - 9:00pm
7:30am - 12:30pm
1:00pm - 5:00pm


Brookhaven Animal Hospital is open M-F until 9pm and on Sundays from 1-5.  When our clinics are closed on the weekends, one of our doctors will answer an emergency number until 9pm at night (404) 290-1641.

If after 9pm at night, you may reach one of the following two emergency clinics:

Animal Emergency Center of Sandy Springs
228 Sandy Springs Place NE,
Atlanta GA 30328
(404) 252-7881

Blue Pearl Animal Emergency Clinic in Sandy Springs 
455 Abernathy Road,
Atlanta GA 30328
(404) 459-0903

Dr. Andrew M. Empel

Dr. Empel was born and raised in Atlanta.  He was inspired as a child to become a veterinarian by his father and his experience working at Vernon Woods Animal Hospital. Dr. Empel completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida in 1996 and graduated from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2000, in July of the same year he joined his dad at Vernon Woods Animal Hospital.  Since staring at Vernon Woods Animal Hospital, Dr. Empel and his father have opened North Springs Animal Clinic in 2005 and Brookhaven Animal Hospital in 2010.  Dr. Empel has a special interest in dermatology, soft tissue surgery, and dentistry.  He shares his home with his young son Brayden and their English Cream Retriever, Finley.  Dr. Empel and Brayden enjoy bumming around the house, playing outside and generally just being together.  Dr. Empel also enjoys boating, skiing, traveling, and attending sporting events in his free time. 

Gayatri Dhavan, DVM

Dr. Gayatri Dhavan recently moved to Atlanta from New York City where she worked for a busy small animal general practice.  She received her DVM from University of Pennsylvania in 2013 and finished a 1 year intensive internship at VERG in Brooklyn in 2014.  She also worked for CNN as a journalist for several years before deciding to pursue her passion for veterinary medicine.  Her interests include Internal Medicine, Neurology, Emergency and anything to do with feline medicine!  When she is not working, she enjoys reading, scuba diving and watching movies with her husband Adam, son, Harrison and extremely handsome cat- Oreo. 

Ellyn Sawyer, DVM

Ellyn Sawyer, DVM

Dr. Ellyn Sawyer grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and she completed both her undergraduate and veterinary degrees at North Carolina State University.  Following veterinary school she completed a small animal rotating internship at the University of Georgia.  Her professional interests include internal medicine and soft tissue surgery.

Outside of work Dr. Sawyer enjoys spending time with her husband Bob and daughter Rose, as well as their dogs, Willa and Buttons. 

Dr. Erin Horner

Erin Horner, DVM

Dr. Erin Horner grew up in the Atlanta area and is a graduate of Marist High School.  She graduated in 2004 from the University of Georgia (GO DAWGS!) where she rode for the NCAA Varsity Equestrian Team.  She then continued on at UGA and earned her DVM in 2008.  She has a special interest in animal rescue and geriatric medicine. 

In her free time, Dr. Horner enjoys spending time with her family, including her husband Jon, son Luke and her three fur-kids: Reese, Joey and Clark.

Kate Izlar, DVM

Kate Izlar, DVM

Dr. Izlar grew up in Memphis, Tennessee but is originally from Atlanta!  She graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Animal Sciences in 2011, the same year the Auburn Tigers won the National Championship (War Eagle!).  She then obtained her DVM degree from the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in May 2015.  Her special interests include dermatology, internal medicine, and ultrasonography.  She loves spending time with her husband, David, her two dogs, Doc and Pepper, and her cat, McStuffins.  She enjoys anything involving her family, Auburn football, snow skiing, fly fishing, and fine wine and dining!

Dr. Zak Vrono

Dr. Vrono grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Riverwood High School.  He received his undergraduate degree in Animal Science from the University of Georgia in 2006.  Dr. Vrono graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012.  His professional interests include internal medicine and dermatology.  Dr. Vrono shares his home with his wife, their son, and their dog, Vicki.  In his free time, Dr. Vrono enjoys spending time with friends and family, fly fishing and spending time outdoors.

Practice Manager


Annemarie Jones- Practice Manager

Office Manager

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Terri-Ann Headley - Office Manager

Terri-Ann is from Brooklyn, New York where she obtained her degree in Computer Programming from Borough of Manhattan Community College and another in Health Administration which she obtained while enrolled in Georgia State University -Georgia Perimeter. She has worked in the veterinary field for the last 15years in the client service department with the last 7 years as a client service supervisor and HR assistant. On Terri-Ann’s day off she enjoys visiting open houses up for purchase.

Veterinary Assistant

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Brittany S. - Veterinary Assistant

Brittany is from Miami, FL and graduated from the University of Georgia with her Bachelors in Animal Science/Pre-Vet in 2018. Brittany has a passion for companion animals as well as exotics. She enjoys spending time on the boat with her dog Maui and going deep sea fishing with her dad. 





Kennel Assistant

Tiffanie M.

Veterinary Assistant

Ashley A. - Veterinary Assistant