Stuffed Animal Clinic at Sacramento Zoo raises $600 for police canine association

Stuffed Animal Clinic at Sacramento Zoo raises $600 for police canine association

Mock veterinary exams educate children and cure stuffed animal ailments.
Jul 01, 2012

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 redemption center.

Stuffed with love: 5-year-old Maia Wallace poses with her "pets" post checkup. (Photo courtesy of Rachael Wallace)
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.

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.