Zoo veterinarians examined plush dogs, cats, dinosaurs and more at the second annual Stuffed Animal Clinic on May 26 at the
Sacramento Zoo in Sacramento, Calif.
The Greater Sacramento Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) hosted the fundraiser to benefit the Sacramento
Police Canine Association. The mock clinic included multiple stations with bandages, candy medication and a health certificate
For the stuffed animals unfortunate enough to have lost eyes, ears or stuffing, there was a surgery table with two docent
volunteers dressed up in caps and gowns. Each exam cost $3 and stuffed animals were available for adoption for $1. The zoo
raised $600 to assist with the veterinary care of Bodie, a canine officer shot in the line of duty.
Stuffed with love: 5-year-old Maia Wallace poses with her "pets" post checkup. (Photo courtesy of Rachael Wallace)
When Rachael Wallace told her 5-year-old daughter, Maia, they'd be attending the event, she had one question: "Pinky's not
going to get any shots, right?" To Maia's relief her appropriately named pink teddy bear received a healthy diagnosis. "The
veterinarian looked her over, checked her ears and said she was well-loved," Wallace says.
Some of the other cases weren't so simple, says Sathya Chinnadurai, DVM, associate veterinarian at the Sacramento Zoo. While
he was taking the history of one patient, the pint-sized owner said the stuffed lion had jumped off the bed earlier that morning
and broken all four legs. "We were lucky we caught it early," Chinnadurai says. "We applied splints using tongue depressors
and gave the girl instructions on when to take off the bandages."
Other reported stuffed animal ailments included stomachaches and headaches. Chinnadurai says the process was not unlike what
he would go through during an actual veterinary exam. He asked each child questions like, "How long have you had the pet?"
and "Are there any other animals around the house?" One child said his stuffed animal had been sneezing for the past couple
of days, which made more sense when Chinnadurai found out there was a stuffed bunny at home with similar symptoms. The zoo
veterinarian performed a "physical exam" on each patient and administered vaccinations—with empty syringes and colored water
to resemble the vaccine fluid—when necessary. Chinnadurai says the best part was interacting with the children, especially
those interested in veterinary medicine.
Six-year-old Alexandra Salazar wants to be veterinarian when she grows up and had trouble choosing just one stuffed animal
to bring to the clinic. She decided on a pink leopard, Jingga, whom she named after an endangered Sumatra n tiger cub born
at the Sacramento Zoo in March 2010. Alexandra's mom, Linda Williams of Stockton, Calif., says they visit the zoo every year
and the mock clinic was the perfect opportunity for her daughter to interact with zoo veterinarians. "Alexandra's all about
animals so we thought the whole experience was great," Williams says. "My daughter said she learned that it's important to
take care of your animals."
Chinnadurai made certain all attendees left with a better understanding of what goes on in a real veterinary clinic. He talked
them through each exam and explained how to evaluate a patient's eyes, ears and joint movement. "It was nice to talk to the
kids in a non-stressful situation and let them know what we look for in animals—stuffed and non-stuffed," he says.