Meet The Team
Our team is made up of passionate and creative individuals who are highly skilled in many areas. Making a difference in the lives of people and animals is one goal that all staff members share at MJ’s Pet Training Academy, LLC. All employees are trained and certified through the MJ’s program developed by Melissa Viera. Learn more about careers and culture at MJ's here.
Melissa Viera, Proprietor, Trainer & Groomer
A little creativity goes a long way when it comes to pet training!
Melissa Viera opened MJ’s Pet Training Academy in the spring of 2013 to provide people and animals with a positive and friendly place where they could learn and have fun. Helping pets and people, and making a differnce in the pet care industry is what Melissa is most dedicated to. MJ’s provides training, grooming and enrichment to pets all over the Southcoast and surrounding areas.
Growing up, Melissa spent her free time training and showing her dogs, performing demos of tricks and freestyle, raising rabbits, and grooming all of the family dogs. She attended Bristol County Agricultural High School where she studied Small Animal science and was involved in FFA canine showmanship and grooming competitions. After high school, she went on to earn her Diploma in Dog Obedience Instruction and become a Certified Trick Dog Instructor.
Melissa always strives to go above and beyond for those she works with. Along with being the owner of MJ’s she is also the founder of Positive Groomer, and she writes for pet industry magazines along with teaches seminars and workshops.
She hopes to reach and inspire as many pet owners as she can so they too can enjoy the benefits of training and bonding with their pets. To do this, she not only teaches lessons but shares resources whenever she can. Melissa is passionate about training, Positive Grooming, and the pet grooming industry. She aims to keep creating pet care jobs and making a difference within the industry. She also enjoys volunteering with her therapy rabbit, Viktor, and performing tricks dog shows at the local assisted living and nursing homes.
Autumn Dugan, GROOMER
Making every dog feel like they just won best in show comes naturally for Autumn Dugan, groomer at MJ’s and dog show handler. It doesn’t take long for Autumn to become best friends to the dogs she works with. What dog wouldn’t love being fussed over, and pampered like a show dog? Autumn began showing dogs at just 10 years old after watching and becoming completely fascinated by the "Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show," on TV ,which she would later be showing in herself. Her dedication and love for dog shows was clear from the moment she began showing. Currently, she shows many breeds, but specializes in German Shepherds. She has earned over 30 titles and championships since starting and the number continues to grow. As a groomer, Autumn uses her understanding of breed-standards and conformation to groom dogs in a way that shows off their best features. Whether she is showing, training, or grooming, Autumn pays attention to details like any great artist.
Autumn loves all dogs of every breed and mix. Since starting work as a groomer at MJ’s, she has made a lot of great four-legged friends and she hopes to make many more.
Sam Defrias, Groomer
When Sam learned that her grandfather owned a dog grooming business throughout the fifties and sixties, it made her realize that grooming coould be the fulfilling career she was searching for as it was for her grandfather. Sam, is a naturally creative person who enjoys writing, drawing and photography. Her love and connection with animals has allowed her to form bonds with many types of pets throughout her life from reptiles to cats and dogs. Sam began grooming on her own, putting her dog Iggy in many styles to practice. When she began her career at MJ’s, Sam learned that her feeling was right, and grooming was a fast growing passion for her. Grooming is an art to Sam. She enjoys taking time to bring out the personality of each pet through grooming and will gladly incorporate her creative touch at the owner’s request like a mohawk or one of her custom bow ties. Sam grooms both cats and dogs at MJ’s.
“The reason I like grooming at MJ’s is because MJ’s is a company that is really all about the pets. I really liked the whole positive grooming aspect and how serious MJ’s is about making sure the pets are comfortable during their visit,” says Sam. “I truly enjoy going to work every day!”