Turpentine Creek aiming for new vet clinic

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Izzy has a problem -- she's limping on her front right paw. While this could be caused by several things, in this case the problem is a bone fragment left behind from when she was de-clawed. While declawing of big cats is now illegal in Arkansas, many of the cats at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge had their claws surgically amputated when young before rescue and now suffer the ill effects of that.

"It's probably the most common problem these tigers suffer," says Dr. Anne Brenneke, who has made these visits to Turpentine Creek for four years.

Even when done "properly," declawing is a barbaric practice that involves removing the tiger's toe at the first joint. This surgery leads to spinal arthritis and other difficulties as the big cat ages, due to its having to walk differently than it was meant to.

When done wrong, declawing causes even worse problems.

While Dr. Brenneke has tended to every type of animal in her career -- monkeys, camels, snakes, and parrots, as well as domestic animals and even a possum or two -- she says, as she digs around in the paw of a sedated 400-pound tiger, that Turpentine Creek offers her most exotic patients.

The refuge is in the midst of fund-raising for a new on-site veterinary clinic, a space set up where the visiting vet can tend to the big cats in ways now that require transporting the animals to the other side of Berryville -- more complex surgeries, for example.

"It would certainly make life a lot easier for us and the cats too," says Dr. Brenneke. "For one thing, a lot of the cats hate the trailer, and it would be so much easier if they didn't have to be transported. It would also be easier to keep things sterile, and we could do the X-rays right away on-site. We could sedate the cats using gas rather than injecting, which is safer for both us and the cats. And since the clinic area would include recovery holding pens, the animals could be kept in out of the bad weather while they get over their surgeries."

The new facility will even have a sleeping area so that personnel can stay near the cats if necessary while they are recovering.

Turpentine Creek has currently reached $165,460 of its goal of $305,000 for the veterinary clinic building. To donate to the the new clinic, go to Paypal at http://modo.ly/1pVDNmQ.

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