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Vet hopes animal rescue work in India will inspire others to treat creatures kindly

An Ontario veterinarian is hoping his recent animal rescue work in India, which involved providing care to cats, dogs, a circus elephant, a giant fruit bat and a Rhesus monkey, will inspire others to be kinder to animals here at home.

Dr. Cliff Redford provided care to cats, dogs, an elephant, a bat and a Rhesus monkey

Dr. Cliff Redford, owner of owner of Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Markham, Ont., holds Clementine, a Rhesus monkey. (Supplied)

An Ontario veterinarian is hoping his recent animal rescue work in India, which involved providing care to cats, dogs, a circus elephant, a giant fruit bat and a Rhesus monkey, will inspire others to be kinder to animals here at home.

Dr. Cliff Redford, owner of Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Markham, has just returned from an 11-day trip volunteering in Hyderabad, India. He says the veterinary work he did was paid for by his clinic in Canada, and a way to combine with passion for veterinary work with his love of adventure travel. 

"I kind of want to inspire people to understand veterinarians do, to maybe volunteer their own services for something else, get out and see the world, get away from the resorts, and meet people who speak a different language, and also be kind to animals," Redford said.

"We share this world with them and we need to do what we can to help them out." 

All of his work was filmed and will be packaged as episodes as part of his YouTube channel, Dr. Cliff Worldwide Vet. Episodes will be released every seven to 12 days for next three to four months.

Dogs lie on top of a crate at an animal shelter in India. (Supplied)

In India, Redford worked with local vets, clinics and shelters. He said he found that people in Hyderabad care deeply about stray animals. But dogs, even pets, are generally not allowed in the house, he said.

"Although there are some poverty issues and serious economic and infrastructure issues, they actually treat their stray animals like family, just family that happens to live out on the streets. The neighbours come together and feed them. They have different names for them. The dogs wag their tails when they see them," he said.

"They actually put their funds together and help them find veterinary treatment," he added.

"In India, they revere animals. They have a spiritual connection with them, not only with cows, but monkeys and dogs and elephants. So it was quite an amazing spiritual kind of connection that they have that they taught me."

Challenges in India included a lack of inhalant anesthetic, which required the use of injectable drugs, and not a lot of available hand tools.

Clementine suffered a major laceration to her forehead that slightly damaged her skull, a broken jaw, contusions around her eye, and soft tissue damage to one hand. (Supplied)

One of his patients was Clementine, a Rhesus monkey who had suffered a major laceration to her forehead that slightly damaged her skull, a broken jaw, contusions around her eye, and bad soft tissue damage to her hand. He said the monkey may have been hit by a car or had a fall from a great distance.

He and the staff at an animal shelter stabilized and fixed her broken jaw, cleaned and stitched her forehead wound, and bandaged her paw. Because she had suffered nerve damage to her paw and it was not functional, he had to amputate her arm from the elbow down.

"A bored monkey and a scared monkey is a bad monkey because they will pick," he said.

To prevent her from chewing at the surgical site, he bought a few toddler-sized outfits, with sleeves that could be tied at one end. 

Clementine is doing well and she will eventually be released into the wild, he said. She won't starve because local people will feed her, he added.

A dog rests after receiving medical care in Hyderabad, India. (Supplied)

Three years ago, Redford went to Jamaica, where he performed surgery on an American alligator that had been shot. He has also gone to Greece, where he treated animals burned and injured from wildfires, and to Thunder Bay, Ont., where he helped to rescue about 70 cats. 

Vet services 'desperately needed' in many areas

"Veterinary services are desperately needed in a lot of under-serviced areas around the world," he said. "Any vacation time I get, I do volunteering as a vet."

Redford is an outspoken vet. Last July, for example, he locked himself in a parked car for 30 minutes to demonstrate the risk that summer heat poses to animals. 

His next trip is planned for Cuba in February. After that, he hopes to go up north, possibly to the Northwest Territories or northern Quebec, most likely to a First Nations reserve.

Redford says his choice of destinations depends partly on need for veterinary services, partly on contacts he had made and partly on where he has not gone before. Each trip reminds of "how amazing" it is to be a veterinarian, he says.

"It's very easy to kind of burned out and take this career for granted," he said. "This is the best career that anyone could have."

With files from Jasmin Seputis

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